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Add some color to Visual Studio 2012

Usability studies have shown that both shape and color help to distinguis visual elements in a UI. The upcoming/current beta release of Visual Studio 2011 has removed color from the toolbars and from icons in e.g. the Solution Explorer.

Please make this optional so those of us that want a more accessible and user friendly IDE can have their cake and eat it too.

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Michiel shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

Updated Status: 7/2/2013

Thanks to everyone who voted and commented on this issue. Visual Studio 2013 has increased color and contrast use within the user interface while continuing to focus on giving the content you are creating and editing visual prominence. We’ve utilized the feedback you gave us to help refine our approach to color and contrast within three main areas: 1) we added color to icons and reduced line weights to improve icon scan-ability and to better communicate icon meaning and categorization; 2) we added line work and raised contrast levels to increase visual separation between screen regions; 3) we included a built-in “Blue” theme option at product first launch to better support user choice.

In keeping with these three areas we have made many changes to the Visual Studio 2013 built-in themes. In high utilization and icon intensive areas of the product, such as common toolbar actions and code hierarchy elements, we refined the color and/or line weight of over 1,000 commonly used icons resulting in color being applied to ~80% of standard and debug toolbar icons, ~75% of code hierarchy icons, and 100% of active notifications. In both the Light and Dark themes we increased contrast levels and introduced more border line work to better highlight the edges of content areas such as input fields, tool window borders, active selection states, etc. We also introduced the ability to choose the theme that best meets your preferences and work environment needs as a part of the product first launch experience.

Many of the changes we’ve made are subtle in nature but broad reaching in their application. As Visual Studio 2013 Preview has now shipped, we’re closing this item to give your votes back for you to use on emerging topics. We encourage you to try out the changes we’ve made and then share additional feedback you might have.

Visual Studio UX Team

Hi folks,

Take a look at the VS 2012 Color Theme Editor – it is an option for creating and editing your own Visual Studio themes.


Doug Turnure – Visual Studio PM


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  • Kris Sweeney commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The only reason I use VS2012 is to edit XAML, and this is only because I am unable to purchase a new copy of Expression Blend 4 and in MS wisdom, I could only install my original copy TWICE (once following purchase and the second following a hardware upgrade).

    Yes that is with the 3rd party Icon fix removal of the SHOUTY MENU and 'blue' colour scheme.

    Absolutely everything else I write for windows is written using VS2010 or Notepad++ on a machine running Windows 7 Ultimate!

    I have used every version of VS since 6.0 and I want my friendly, usable Visual Studio with ALL of its easily identifiable icons back!

    If anyone from MS is reading (which i doubt) trying to force people that actually bring value to your OS by writing software for your OS (users purchase an OS to run applications on) to use a visually crippled development environment is bizarre even by MS standards...

    TIFKAM is great for tablets, passable and even an understandable choice to simplify web pages but turning your back on years of user focussed changes to try to strip all colours and definition from your development environment in a homage to a hated OS change is bizarre.

  • Dave Cousineau commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The theme editor does not fix the icons, which of all the horrible UI changes, are easily the worst.

    The problem is not necessarily that VS2012 was made "metro" (which is stupid enough already), but that whoever metro-ized it didn't know what the heck they were doing. "Metro" is ugly and annoying, but it's still relatively usable when implemented properly. This very webpage is metro-ized, but the colors were chosen intelligently and nothing is particularly hard to visually understand.

    In contrast, the VS2012 UI has been utterly destroyed by bad choice of color. The themes editor helps somewhat, but the icons are still ruined. Icons function by shape and color, each of which reinforces the other. You have literally crippled them by taking away their color.

    I want to enjoy using VS2012, and I might have even bought myself a copy by now, but I will not be buying it until I hear that MS has fixed the icons. I can't believe it's been over a YEAR now, and something that should be trivial to correct is still this broken. smh

  • abatishchev commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    >I just find it stupid that people are still whining about the UI and I find it worrying that this is actually the 'biggest suggestion' on here, over all the wonderful other ideas which would help enormously. Makes it seem like people prefer eye-candy over productivity

    ********. UI ergonomics IS about productivity. Especially if you spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week looking into this UI.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @Anon - with all due respect to your position on this, I think you're missing our/the point. This is part of a larger rejection of the direction Microsoft has taken. There's serious work going on in many industries to improve the availability and the security of data. No one I have ever been in contact with said "hey I think the Windows desktop stinks, wouldn’t it be great if they would deprecate 4 decades of hard work and change it into a consumer oriented toy”?

    I work in health care. Our top concerns are security and data integrity. Touch screen operating systems are not on the list. As a matter of fact, the more changes they make the more vulnerable your data becomes due to unknown security issues and the inherent lack of familiarity with the operation of a new OS. The changes they are making to their eco-system are not trivial – nor are they popular.

    The developer community was very actively involved in this recent tools release. We applauded almost everything they were doing until we saw the new interface. This thread represents the development community’s response to the change.

    What you really should be upset about is the company who makes the tools you use every day to earn a living is not listening to you. They asked for feedback and ignored it. Where does this end? How far are they willing to take this and what impact will it have on your ability to provide for yourself?

    It’s up to you, but personally I would pay more attention the lack of concern for the development community who helped build Microsoft.

  • Andrew McDonald commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    "Just remember when XP came out it received just as many complaints as Win7 / Win8 did on the UI, it is like you people have amnesia."

    I don't remember that. Such protests would have made no sense anyway because in both Windows XP & Vista/7 you could switch back to a classic interface style that looked identical to previous versions of Windows. The complaint here was that the old familiar interface style of VS was completely removed.

    "When Win8 was in dev preview, where were the mass protests? When VS changed the UI from the previous one, where was the mass protests?"

    Uh... they were here? You're in one right now. This particular topic was opened just weeks after the Beta build was released. The previous Developer Preview build had the VS2010 interface.

  • Anon commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    It isn't a flamewar it is a sheer frustration that people in this thread are still complaining despite the fact that a 'solution' (although I feel unnecessary) was provided months ago. I mean what more do people want, if you read posts before me, it is nothing but the same criticism you here over and over.

    Surely you can understand why people like me have decided to react. Oh and my SQL Server remark wasn't relating to actual problems on SQL Server but that most (if not all) keywords in T-SQL are in caps.

    I just find it stupid that people are still whining about the UI and I find it worrying that this is actually the 'biggest suggestion' on here, over all the wonderful other ideas which would help enormously. Makes it seem like people prefer eye-candy over productivity

  • Phil Murray commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Because the previous change in VS2010 was a positive one. The basic design was unchanged and the fact that it was written in XAML was transparent.

    Visual Studio 2012 has a lot of positives but for a great many of us the UI is not one of them. If you either like it or don't care then great but for other people it matters. Please take that into consideration before trying to start a flame war.

    By the way I do a great deal of work in SQL Server 05/08 and have no problems there.

  • Jesse McGrew commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Anon, the interface has been a major source of complaints ever since VS 2012 (aka VS 11) was in beta. It was probably the top complaint on the beta and the RC, which is one reason why people are so upset that Microsoft failed to fix it for the release. Perhaps you're the one who has amnesia.

  • Anon commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Just remember when XP came out it received just as many complaints as Win7 / Win8 did on the UI, it is like you people have amnesia. The problem really is sadly the internet pseudo journalists are desperate to whine about something and fanboi's complain because well why bloody not and everyone joins in, if they told you to shoot yourself in the foot you would too.

    When Win8 was in dev preview, where were the mass protests? When VS changed the UI from the previous one, where was the mass protests? Suddenly VS is released and now people are teaming up to stop this great evil the MS created to save mankind. I have heard of 1st world problems but man this is an absolute joke, try doing work on Linux / SQL Server for a month, I guarantee you will no longer be concerned with caps or UI colours or lack of borders -.-.

    I cant believe this is a major suggestion

  • Jesse McGrew commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    No, the blue theme doesn't fix the icons or the lack of borders between UI elements. As for your claim of hypocrisy, first, if you think Win8 is a nice design then you're part of the problem; second, the complaint here is that MS focused too much on (ruining) the interface instead of leaving it alone.

  • Anon commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Complete hypocrisy here, the second MS focus on making the design of something nice (MS Office with Ribbon, XP, Win8 etc) people whine and complain saying MS should be focusing on the content. The second they focus on the content people want a design change.

    So many people upset because Menu headers now are in caps, really? REALLY?

    There was already theme options containing black / white, and judging by most of these comments I doubt people knew how to change it, now there is a blue option similar to VS2010.

    The white UI wasn't nice to look at but it wasn't even on my top 100 things to change, simply because there was an alternative.

    Oh and like others have mentioned over and over UPDATE 2 CONTAINS THE BLUE THEME!! Stop moaning about this now, they already 'fixed' the issue, seriously complaining still about this issue makes you look hugely incompetent

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    VS2012 is hideous, ugly, indescribably bad. And the black icons, and black icons in the new data tools replacement for BIDS.... completely unusable. Every UI team in microsoft should be fired.
    Soon you'll be forcing the #@#$@#$% ribbon on us.

  • drweb86 commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    i really want things in VS and Windows UI became better, because i don't want it to be as comfortable as linux now.

  • drweb86 commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    i very want to notify good things in IDE... but that theme is inspiring me to write messages here instead of using it.

  • drweb86 commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    I hate that thing, that i cannot use Visual Studio out of the box without external patchers for icons and theme editor.

  • Rev. Joseph Hausbrau commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Whose review hinged on these lousy UI decisions?
    As a software professional, don't force me to use cartoon interfaces - that Win8 **** might be nice for the attention challenged, but they don't belong on a tool that has served us well for so long.

    To be honest, I am now exploring other IDEs and technologies - MS has been failing us dearly as of late, you really ought to get the clue and quit alienating your core users.

  • Harrison Moccio commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @David Slinn: "Update 2" to Visual Studio 2012 which came out last week added a third 'Blue' palette option. This is much better now.

  • Dave Slinn commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @Harrison - using the color theme editor, choose the first option, "Blue", to make the coloring resemble VS2010.

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