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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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  • Harrison Moccio commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @Sam I do have the latest build of VS. If you are referring to the "light" theme included in Visual Studio, this is just a huge mass of grey which looks nothing like VS2008/2010.

  • Harrison Moccio commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Please implement a third default theme which emulates the color palette of previous Visual Studio releases: VS2010 is an excellent start.

  • elderbenassi commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Almost 20 years ago I started developing software. I had a 286 PC with a Hercules display adapter and a monochrome white-phosphorous 12-inch monitor, running Borland Turbo C IDE under DOS.
    Five years later I got a new PC with a VGA full (read 256) colors on Borland IDE. I was absolute surprised how beautiful and productive the same Borland was under a color display.
    Today I feel the same as I went back 20 years, sitting in front of that miserable Hercules display, when I start VS 2012.
    One thing that the VS team might not realize is that regular (not Microsoft ones) software developers usually doesn't have much time to waste on "fine tune" or "create your own hundred-thousend-icon IDE theme from scratch". They usually need to work hard on profitable things to earn some money and pay the bills...

  • Ali M commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Dear Visual Studio Team,

    One question always goes in my mind any time I look at the VS 2012 UI:

    I use VS12 every day and I really comprehend how you could make such decision for the icons. I am really concern for the future of the product.

    Concerned developer …

  • Gustavo Ganna commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    @Anonymous ... Well maybe the UI is the first major issue ... some devs don't want to invest time trying to decrypt what means such bicolored icons.
    I personally start to check the product capabilities "only if" the GUI is in some fashion ... usable ... if not (like this case) I simple close the **** out and return to a well know & productive enviroment ... almost there is no such feel of increasing stress by trying to adopt and work with those products designed by marketers.

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Are you ******* kidding me? There are major issues, and the top problem people vote up is that there isn't enough ******* color?

  • brian commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Please you are still not listening:

    a) Its not enough!
    b) VS should come out of the box with a usable and workable interface

    Why can't you take the feedback on-board? The tools group are becoming as bad as the Windows group at turning what should be a winning product into a lame duck with such amazing gusto and arrogance.

    The comment from Anonymous April 24, 2013 2:20 p.m about says it all for a lot of us developers

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    As a longtime developer all I can say is wow. I've invested 25 years in learning and promoting the use of your products and managed to build a career for myself. Why? Because you had a successful business image and Exec's were comfortable with me using your products. I followed your design cues and produced applications that solved business problems i.e. we put some serious money on the table with good custom software. It looks good and it works even better.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - there's real work to do out here. Giving serious development tools a modern or metro interface treatment is not necessary. It's a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. We need elegant development tools that are aligned with how we work today and are not being mocked by the entire user community as consumer oriented toys. Whatever your goals were with the desktop - it hasn't exactly been a hit.

    VS2012 needs the VS2010 skin and icons. The Windows desktop needs Aero, the Start Button and the Start Menu. Why? Because we need a consistent development platform to innovate and move technology forward. Out here in the real world it takes time and by extension money to change things. You're not helping us at all by giving the development tools a consumer interface treatment. Stability is everything. I see it. My customers see it. Why don't you?

  • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    It's the most minging UI I've ever had the misfortune to have to use, but with some of the third party hacks coming online it's possible to make it usable.

    Visual Studio Icon Patcher is a good start but misses all the Class View and C++ Project icons. Just release an official patch to reinstate the VS2010 coloured icons and all will be calm again in the land of the Windows developers.

  • Axel Grude commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    add userChrome.css, like a xulrunner app. support gradients and background-image / list-style image overlay and border-radius, then I will style it back to something usable.

  • angieK commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Typical Microsoft; some team needed to justify its existence so they cook up some bogus research data to show how this new UI will be great for developers and everybody will love it. In reality, it's just **** being shoved down customers' throats and since the people who sign corporate purchasing agreements can't tell the difference between a C++ project and the Matrix screensaver, people who have to do real work get screwed.

  • brian commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The art of not listening is going to be Microsoft's downfall. The sooner they start listening and correct the serious usability problems in Windows 8 and VS 2012 the better.

    You have let the new boys and girls on the block try their new look and ideas - its been a failure now go back and keep your real users and customers happy!

  • Ben Bowen commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    The Color Theme Editor doesn't begin to address the usability issues introduced by this version of Visual Studio. Give the option to restore the window borders, return to the familiar and usable icons that we all loved in VS2010. This new version is almost unsable, even after applying the third party hacks to return some of the look and feel of VS 2010.

  • exalting commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    >Just give me a real UI or bring back VS200X!
    No. ZOG decided all must become imbeciles, and that's why all will work in square-clustered monochrome indistinguishable ui.

  • UI Sucks commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

    Fµckìnġ UI, NiceVS and "Color Theme Editor" can go to the same **** as all other fµckėd-up toolbars crâp. Just give me a real UI or bring back VS200X!

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