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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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    MichielMichiel 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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      • CZBCZB commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        @Rick C. Hodgin:
        Please take a look at this http://vsip.codeplex.com/
        It works like a charm but there are still uncovered areas, like the most used Toolbars and some of the lesser used Toolbox icons.

        Would be awesome if the community could get together to fix the biggest flaw in VS2012 together, since MS is intent on degrading our productivity.

      • Rick C. HodginRick C. Hodgin commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        There is a manual workaround for this. Using the information on this page (http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/3087/Reading-and-Using-Resources-in-an-Executable-file) we can go through every EXE and DLL that came with visual studio 2012, Enumerate all of the resources within, find all the things which are icons used by Visual Studio 2012, group all of them which look identically into a category, compare that with what we see on screen, then go through each of those instances and replace them across the board.

        I'm half tempted to write an application to do this.

      • ITMAGEITMAGE commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Icons still suck and apparently Microsoft has no plans of addressing this, they wrote:

        "We currently have no plans to offer the old-style icons for Visual Studio 2012."
        "We believe this design consistency is important, and we expect the icon styles to become familiar and comfortable over time."

        So go here and tell them what you really think:


      • leiweileiwei commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I do not like the icons.please change back to the icons of VS2010. the new icons in VS2012 are very ugly.

      • Martin KirkMartin Kirk commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Icons look like 1986 Macintosh icons...

        for gods sake - i have a monitor with 1.06 billion colors... USE THEM !

      • RobertRobert commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I've revisited here to eat some humble pie. I was a stroing early critic of the UI update to VS2012.

        However, I've been using VS2012 for a while now, the icons are no longer an issue, once familiarised with them they work perfectly well.

        The overall look is fresh and light and now I'm over the "shock of the new" I really like it.

        The theme editor was essential as the original themes were far too dark or too light. But we have the editor now and the blue theme is perfect.

        SQL Management Studio suddenly seems heavy and old-fashioned.

        Well done Microsoft for the excellent new UI.

      • Jens MelgaardJens Melgaard commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        We are all afraid of change??... The new move with Metro and what Microsoft has wrapped down on us with Office 2012, VS 2012, Windows 8 is bold to say the least...

        Personally, I Love it... I have already gotten use to VS2012 (Dark theme, custom theme for editor colors) as well as Office 2012, the later I don't use much... Maybe this is because I have loved Webapps and how they have developed the past few years and that I feel that these new releases from Microsoft is moving closer to that in design...

        I can also see my self become a big fan of Metro on Windows 8 if it gets the right tweaks... Haven't used my desktop for anything that a pretty background for years anyways... And I have gotten use to launch apps either though "Quick Launch" or search... (**** I used Launcy on XP o.O)... So the start menu is already more or less obsolete for me... (more or less, because... well search is down there ain't it)...

        I can't speak on behalf of Usability studies... But I do feel that color must be misplaced, color blindness is after all more common than we think... In any case, references would be great when you put such an argument forth...

        But that is all just my personal opinion after all...

      • Brent JenkinsBrent Jenkins commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        This only changes the chrome colours, but what about the borders between different elements on the screen (e.g. tabs)?

        I've had to go back to VS2010 for now as VS2012 is unusable for me - this is a shame as I loved some of the new features. After using VS2012 for some time, the screen simply becomes a blur.

        In my opinion, Microsoft's idea of taking all of its mature products and applying the same bland, uninspiring design from an unproven (and I would say currently mediocre) operating system - Windows Phone 7/8 - is sheer madness.

        Hopefully Microsoft will come to its senses before the damage goes too far.

      • Pedro CardosoPedro Cardoso commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        The new Visual Studio look is fine if we are developing inside a phone or a tablet but we don't develop programs using our fingers!

      • brianbrian commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Nearly 12,000 votes and 1000 comments and still they are not listening!
        I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that there must be a special local offer on for frontal lobotomy, and Microsoft is offering it to their engineers as a perk (only way they could get to work on metro I guess).

        Why else would anyone want to release such a poor quality user interface. Especially after the great 2008 and 2010 products but guess anyone who things Metro on the desktop is a good idea is not all there anyway.

      • Don FehrDon Fehr commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        One size does not fit all. When is Microsoft in general and the Visual Studio team in particular going to get it.

        Not every app is a Metro app! Visual Studio is not a Metro app!

      • Don FehrDon Fehr commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        The VS 2012 Color Theme Editor won't install with VS 2012 express. I guess you have to pay to get choices.

      • CD JorgensenCD Jorgensen commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Wow, this thing is an eyesore. I had to go download a 3rd-party theme just so i could stand to look at it all day long. Too bad I can't change the icons. It's not just that they're different...I can get used to that. It's that they are colorless blobs on my screen that take careful scrutiny to decipher. Even when I know what an icon means, I still have to peer at it to determine which one it is. This is NOT better.

        And I had to laugh out loud when i saw the application icon. That horrible purple and white block looks like something I would make in MSPaint, and I am very much not a graphics artist. What happened to the graphics team that developed those cool-looking blended-color three-dimensional icons? Are they perchance on strike?

      • Paul Van WierenPaul Van Wieren commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        By the way, it's my opinion that a product with the quality of Visual Studio shouldn't need extra downloads or "hacks" to make it usable. If it's not right out of the box, the barrier to adoption just gets too high. I spend enough time debugging code; I don't want to debug Visual Studio.

      • Paul Van WierenPaul Van Wieren commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I agree. I'm fairly new to C#/.NET and have been delighted by VS2010. I thought 2012 would be even better but the design is very poor. I'm sticking with 2010.

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