Scott Hanselman

Visual Studio Programmer Themes Gallery

February 7, '08 Comments [50] Posted in ASP.NET | Microsoft | Programming | Silverlight | Tools | Windows Client
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UPDATE: http://studiostyles.info/ for a great growing community of Visual Studio Styles and Themes. You can create, import and export themes in your browser!

Import and Export Settings Wizard More and more I find myself "skinning and themeing" my Visual Studio development environment in order to stay frosty. It's surprising how changing your theme (fonts, colors, etc.) can re-energize me when I'm having trouble with some problem or motivation.

Here's a gallery of some nice Visual Studio Themes to refresh your look.

Remember to always back up your settings so you can get back to the way things were and have no fear when you're changing your settings. Note also that some of these settings files you'll find out in the wild may (mistakenly) have Keyboard Bindings included. You'll want to selectively import just the fonts and colors that you want and avoid importing over your own custom keyboard settings.

I switched to a darker scheme a while back, as have many others. I also spent a while looking for the perfect font as have others. When you stumble on a 2005 theme that you want ot use in 2008, Tomas has an XSLT to make the transition smoother.


Oren Ellenbogen's Dark Scheme

A lot of the darker schemes like Oren's don't use a True Black, but an "off  black." His theme is very low contrast and uses muted, relaxing colors.

ide_colors_regular


Mike "Blowmage" Moore's Ruby Blue

This is a low-contrast calm schema, but operators and numbers have a little "pop" to them.

image 


Vibrant Borland by Mawi

This one bring backs good memories of writing Borland C++ with OWL and Turbovision, with a little Norton Commander thrown in for fun.

image


CodingHorror

One of the few light-colored themes, Jeff's also uses a custom font to make 0 and O stand out. Note that the white background is more of a paper-colored off-white.

image


Dave Reed's Jedi Scheme

Dave's schema uses a complete black, and a neon blue. A little intense, but much higher contrast.

image


Damien Guard's Humane

This earthy theme includes little details like smart fonts and italics.

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Tomas Restrepo's Themes

Tomas has done a huge amount of work in this space. You can get seven of his themes here. He's even got a tool to port color schemes from Visual Studio to SQL Management Studio.

Desert Nights

This theme uses the greatest range of colors outside of the Vibrant Ink them, and approaches, but doesn't reach, a number of primary colors.

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Garden of Eden

Green, Kermit-green, sea-green, they are all here in this blue-green theme.

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Ragnarok

Initially similar to many dark themes, this one uses complementary colors to provide contrast between identifiers and keywords, string literals and comments.

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Nightingale

A more cheerful dark theme that includes italics for string literals and brighter neons for keywords.

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Moria Alternate

This uses Deja Vu Sans Mono as it's font and uses a lot more neutrals and grays outside of the keyword space.

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Brad Wilson Dark Visual Studio

A muted, low-contrast theme with blues and purples. Even the yellow is relaxed.

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Martin Plante (slimCODE)

Martin likes small text, no ClearType to take advantage of crisp LCD screens. Rather than committing to blue or black he goes for a navy-gray-blue background.

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John Lam's Vibrant Ink Port

John's trying for a straight port of Textmate's famous Vibrant Ink. This is a sharp, bright, neo-classic theme. Note his use of Monaco.

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Rob Conery - Textmate

This is Rob's take on Vibrant Ink, added Consolas as the font, some bolding, and lowers the contrast a smidge.

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Post links your themes in the comments!

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, February 08, 2008 12:20:56 AM UTC
I have been using a theme based on Rob Conory's for a while now and I love it. The one pain point I have is when I am working on code samples for presentations or blogging, I can't do screen caps or even copy and paste into Windows Live Writer because my black background and crazy colors don't really look good in presentations. Do you have this problem with your blog? What I have been doing is just "switching" between two different themse by just importing different settings based on whether or not I am working on a presentation or not. Still, it is kind of annoying.
Friday, February 08, 2008 12:25:53 AM UTC
It is amazing how much useful syntax highlighting you lose when you are not using Resharper.
Friday, February 08, 2008 12:39:54 AM UTC
Here are my current settings, http://www.ragingit.com/temp/vs2008_1.png.

My earlier settings which I use to use http://www.ragingit.com/temp/vs2005.png.

I did go through a pragmata font stage, but back to consolas.

Aaron
Friday, February 08, 2008 12:48:11 AM UTC
I'd still like to see a Poll of developers, light eyed vs. dark eyed and which themes each group seemed to prefer.
Even in Object Pascal and Delphi I never could get used to the dark themes.
Friday, February 08, 2008 12:52:06 AM UTC
I guess I'm in the minority since I prefer the "dark text / light background" schemes (at least in VS2005/8). I do like the dark background schemes, but they really feel out of place with the rest of the UI in Visual Studio.
I'm currently using the CodingHorror scheme, but there is too much red text for my taste.

I'll have to try a few of Tomas Restrepo's themes even though they have a dark background. He has really used the full range of colors which I like. I will also check out his tool to port themes to SQL Mgmt Studio.

Thanks!
Chad
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:05:09 AM UTC
Hey Now Scott,
I like this post. I didn't relize VS could be themed. I"m getting frostier! Also I'd like to request another podcast, I feel greedy for asking but we're used to the weekly release. After seeing the themes I"m definitly trying the Coding Horror theme 1st.
Thx 4 the info,
Catto
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:16:48 AM UTC
I'd like to hear why VB still doesn't have the same coloring options as C#. Under Fonts and Colors, the User Types display items have no effect in VB. I was disappointed to see that this didn't change in VS 2008.

ReSharper brings VB coloring up to par, but ReSharper isn't always an option. (Like at work where it seems to choke on our 3500 file web-site project.)
Matt
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:38:48 AM UTC
I use a custom variant of Nightingale, and that font, Envy VS, is pretty great. I really appreciate the bold->italics mapping, particularly with string literals, comments, etc.
shawn
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:49:42 AM UTC
I posted mine on my site if anyone is interested.

It's a variation of the white on black that I've been working on for a little while...
Friday, February 08, 2008 2:04:44 AM UTC
I think I'll stick with the default theme :-)
Friday, February 08, 2008 2:08:03 AM UTC
These are all so different, but none of them stands out to me as clearly an oracle of a theme. I wonder what would happen if an actual graphic designer took on this challenge?
Peter
Friday, February 08, 2008 2:14:58 AM UTC
Thanks for the inspiration. Amazing how going "dark" can "brighten" the day :-)
Mike
Friday, February 08, 2008 3:22:43 AM UTC
The themes are interesting to look at, but the dark backgrounds do not work for me at all when I'm inside Visual Studio eight hours a day. I don't know how you guys do it. I've tried the dark background, but moving over to read web pages or Word documents did a number on my eyes.
Friday, February 08, 2008 6:15:08 AM UTC
I like literals to "pop" out as a reminder to refactor them to variables (or constants), or otherwise pay special attention to them.
Tony
Friday, February 08, 2008 7:03:18 AM UTC
I love seeing everyone else's different styles. Personally I don't like the monochromatic themes. Now that I'm using LCD screens I find I need the darker background to stop my eyes hurting at the end of the day (must be old age ;).

I've posted my personal take on the dark background Visual Studio and SQL Management Studio themes, with 11pt Consolas font.
Friday, February 08, 2008 8:08:56 AM UTC
I talked about dark settings some days ago. Here is the link:
http://blogema.wordpress.com/2008/02/04/visual-studio-dark-settings/

bye
Friday, February 08, 2008 8:21:23 AM UTC
Great post, Scott! You've become my favourite blogger ever!

I am still using FAR Manager as a file manager, even if it is discontinued. I even thought of trying to port the source to C#. So I'll give a try to the the Borland Turbo Pascal/Norton Commander scheme for a bit :)
Friday, February 08, 2008 8:24:29 AM UTC
Here is my theme preview image
http://vlko.zilina.net/dwn/blog/white-black.png
and theme link
http://vlko.zilina.net/dwn/blog/white-black.vssettings
theme is based on delphi twilight theme
Friday, February 08, 2008 8:38:07 AM UTC
I dedicated this site to the darker side of Visual Studio

http://www.darksideofvisualstudio.net
Friday, February 08, 2008 8:40:30 AM UTC
Now I figured out how to href

http://www.darksideofvisualstudio.net
Friday, February 08, 2008 9:12:53 AM UTC
VibrantInk++ !!!!

:)
Friday, February 08, 2008 10:06:31 AM UTC
Does resharper play nicely with these settings?
Heinrich Breedt
Friday, February 08, 2008 11:24:48 AM UTC
Yeah i am also few of those who do not like black/dark backgrounds. thats why i prefer/like the Coding horror theme.As i work in Delphi still so Borland theme still gives me a good taste as well . I myself using a variant of both in my Borland Developer Studio (Coding horror) and Visual Studio (Borland ) , although seems opposites lols
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:03:19 PM UTC
excellent stuff h-man.
i want to try them all out!
the borland one sure takes me back, maybe i don't wanna try it so much.
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:06:19 PM UTC
My favorite is definitely the one from Rob Connery. It stands out and is so much better than the Visual Studio that we are used to! Never realized until i switched to it.
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:16:48 PM UTC
Thank you for posting these themes! I really like the darker / high contrast themes -- especially Jon Lam's and Rob Conery's -- I have a theme available at ryanlanciaux.com :) Image previews for several .NET languages on the site.
Friday, February 08, 2008 1:22:08 PM UTC
Now, if we could just theme the rest of Visual Studio to match. And no, I don't want to change my entire desktop to match, just VS.
Friday, February 08, 2008 3:01:35 PM UTC
Ever since reading Reg Braithwaite's post about signal-to-noise ratio in languages, I've been drawn to themes that mute the keywords, rather than highlighting them. You can never truly get rid of the accidental complexity inherent in the syntax of your language. But you can at least try to drown it out for the reader by emphasizing what's really important: the objects and how they are interacting.
Friday, February 08, 2008 3:52:56 PM UTC
When I look at the light text on black background for more than five minutes, I feel like my eyes literally pop out.
Alex
Friday, February 08, 2008 4:10:23 PM UTC
Anyone know how to change the background color of the XAML Designer in VS2008? I love the light on dark themes, but I can't get the designer background to be anything but white. I'm sure I'm missing something...
Michael Turbe
Friday, February 08, 2008 4:41:28 PM UTC
As much as I love the dark themes, and they really help out my eyes because plain white is just too harsh, the CodeRush visualization tools become less useful when the default color scheme is changed. One of the big features that becomes useless is structural highlighting... you just can't see it.

Although not a dark theme, the one Jeff Atwood posted seems to work well with the CodeRush visualization features.

Of course, all of the colors can be changed in Studio and CodeRush so that they would work well in a dark themed environment, I just don't have a day to spend on it. :)
Friday, February 08, 2008 5:57:05 PM UTC
I am using codingHorror right now and I love it.

Normally I prefer the dark backgrounds with light font but I found a lot of them went to intense with the 'light' fonts and they were too bright.

I'd also like to throw out a big thanks to the guys that did these cause god only knows I am to 'busy' (read lazy) to this on my own.
Jared Schaab
Friday, February 08, 2008 6:17:37 PM UTC
I really prefer a light background. When Jeff started the "Is your IDE Hot or Not" I posted a theme I called Parchment.

http://idehotornot.ning.com/index.php/index/show?id=2045554

I chose a muted light background and soft pastel colors. I have been using it for years and so far I found it the most confortable. The dark backgrounds tend to feel too harsh for my eyes. Even when I worked at Borland I could never get used to the dark background and never used it.
Robert Kozak
Saturday, February 09, 2008 2:31:08 PM UTC
I'm a little surprised most themes still use fixed fonts.
You would not prefer to read a book in fixed fonts, would you?

// Ryan
Ryan Heath
Saturday, February 09, 2008 5:45:17 PM UTC
I'm currently using my attempted conversion of the Wombat theme from VIM in Visual Studio right now. It works for me, but I'll probably end up changing it in a few weeks anyway :)

Monday, February 11, 2008 1:13:49 AM UTC
I prefer a light text/dark background as well. My GhostRider theme is available at http://followtheheard.blogspot.com/2008/02/visual-studio-settings.html.
Monday, February 11, 2008 5:37:55 AM UTC
Thanks for this post...Oren Ellenbogen's Dark Scheme is excellent!
Pradeep
Monday, February 11, 2008 4:30:39 PM UTC
I have been using a dark theme for years, even in office vba code like MS Access 97. Here is a link to my latest flavor of darkness. It's a bit more vibrant on the screen than the screenshot shows.

http://www.caublestoneink.com/blog/?p=4

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 4:53:11 PM UTC
@Ryan Heath

Actually...i would. I prefer fixed fonts and find them infinitely more readable. Even so, code isn't a book. No matter what the "Coding as Art" people would have you believe. Code which isn't organized and, frankly, symmetrical is harder to read. Symmetric code is really only achieved with a fixed font.

Mark
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 2:53:33 PM UTC
One of the problems I have with the dark backgrounds is the inability to find out my current text cursor position. Windows by default has that thin blinking black line...but obviously on a black background it does not show. Anybody know of a way to change this? Ideally it chould be application specific but at this point I will take a system wide setting...

Thanks.
Jason
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 3:20:03 PM UTC
@Jason

Since the cursor blinks between white and black anyway, you already have this. Only on a black background it appears to be a blinking white line instead of a blinking black line. But it already swaps between the two colors.
Mark
Thursday, February 14, 2008 11:43:35 PM UTC
I generally like the idea of dark themes...
then when at work, the more "dark" you are (you're in VS), the stronger and richer the empire is becoming....the more "ligh" you are, rebellion is taking parts in you ;) e.g. when you're alt-tabing to see all the not-so-important windows (youtube? ;) which tend's to be "white" in general (use black css for testing ;)

more to the topic, it's funny how much useless (graphically too rich, almost with dot with one color and colon with another) themes ppl are making, I know it's fun but there should be at least a bit of science in it...it is not a circus is it?

for me Rob Conery's theme is the winner, if Lord Vader will visit me one day I'll try it...
cowgaR
Friday, February 15, 2008 4:38:35 PM UTC
@Mark

What "Symmetric code" are you talking about?

// Ryan
Ryan Heath
Friday, February 15, 2008 11:05:42 PM UTC
OK someone help.. I am stuck. I downloaded a couple of Oren Ellenbogen's theme, and I dig it... Bit in all my code windows I have a white line around column 88 that goes from top to bottom. I cannot find a setting to change this or get rid of it. It happens in both VS2005, VS2008. I think it is a column guide but there is no setting for that nor can I find one in the registry....
Mickey Keenan
Friday, February 15, 2008 11:10:50 PM UTC
OK scratch that... Never mind.. I just realized reading another comment about ReSharper. I use CodeSmart.. and there is a setting in there for a column indicator. When the background was white, I never noticed the WHITE guide... now that it is black, it stuck out like bad code...
Mickey Keenan
Thursday, February 21, 2008 1:57:30 AM UTC
This is great. I forgot that you could change the theme. Although I do prefer the light backgrounds more than the dark.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008 10:29:19 PM UTC
Hmm, I only shrink the font two points and I'm fine. Although, I was always fond of the old green and amber screens, as well as the Commodore white text on blue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 3:38:33 PM UTC
Anyone know what section I can change the schema compare fonts & colors for database professional? It seems to pick up the text editor changes, but the highlighting of schema changes between source and destination I can't seem to find where I can change these.
AdamM
Friday, March 14, 2008 3:19:41 PM UTC
Yeah, nice examples here. Powerful stuff.
Joe
Thursday, March 27, 2008 1:59:57 AM UTC
Where are the proportional-width font themes? Do you guys all really use fixed-width fonts?
Sam Pearson
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.