Scott Hanselman

Your Colorful Visual Studio 2012 with the Color Theme Editor (VS2010 colors, too)

September 08, 2012 Comment on this post [59] Posted in Tools | VS2012
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The stock Visual Studio 2012 gray color scheme is growing on me. Sue me. When you're writing code you usually focus on the code so I'm more concerned with the colors of the code than the chrome.

Here's my default, which is the VS2012 defaults with larger fonts.

VS2012 with the default color scheme

Here is Visual Studio 2012 again, except this time I've used Matthew Johnson's Visual Studio 2012 Color Theme Editor and applied the Blue theme:

VS2012 with VS2010 colors

Here it is again with the ALL CAPS registry setting turned off:

REG_DWORD value: 1

Now you're pretty much back to the VS2010 look and feel. I've zoomed in here to make it clear.

Visual Studio 2012 with the ALL CAPS menu removed and the VS2010 colors restored

Go nuts! You can make and share custom themes yourself! With this add-in you can customize a lot more than the default installation allows:

A wide range of color options

Have fun! Go get Matthew Johnson's Visual Studio 2012 Color Theme Editor now.

UPDATE: I personally would not go this far, but you can also patch the icons if you feel strongly about it.

About Scott

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

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September 08, 2012 3:16
Great find! I'm especially interested in turning down the bright white test on the dark theme - I really thought I'd like the dark theme until Brad Wilson pointed out the high contrast and now I can't stand it.
September 08, 2012 3:21
Can't believe the number of people who whined about the all caps. SMH (oh, wait that was all caps too. crap)
September 08, 2012 5:04
I understand the point about opening visual studio to work but opening it shouldn't make me not want to work. I want to feel good about programming, not feel like I'm being shouted at while watching Schindler's List
September 08, 2012 7:38
Nice. Now how do I turn back on the old Team Explorer? The new one is really bad.
September 08, 2012 7:58
For the Delphi IDE you can use this
September 08, 2012 8:49
Oh thank heavens! I have been missing this in VS2012 as I'm a big fan of the same tool in 2010. Autumn + Humane Studio is what I NEED.

September 08, 2012 9:55
Nice post! That ALL CAPS reg thing is the first thing I run after I've installed VS2012, lets me focus on the code :)
September 08, 2012 11:43
Why wasn't it directly done in VS and not as an add-on. this add-on doesn't work in express edition!
It is a though a great news even if rounded corners are still missing as all those rectangle areas are less fine visually.
I also hope that sets of icons ( beit the old ones or new ones but that wold be meaningfull) will be able to substitute the current set that is absolutely confusing as they all look like each other and are quite meaningless.

Sorry thus to be only half positive but this add-on only solves half of the mess caused by the new ugly ( should I say Modern ???) design.
September 08, 2012 17:27
Now we just need some integration with

Incidentally... turning off all caps? Why not hide them altogether?
September 08, 2012 18:45
I can't help but feel that the lack of round corners somehow relates to the Apple patents because going to rectangles certainly does not improve readability. And since MS is doing this everywhere,I can't help but be suspicious.
September 08, 2012 19:10
@Matt Oswald ... who spake thus: "Why not hide them altogether?"

Why not remove all vowels from all Menu items, since one can effectively recogize words from consonants alone (worked in many Semitic family languages) ? :)

Fl Dt Vw Dbg Tm SQL Tls Tst Nlyz Wndw Hlp

best, Bill
September 08, 2012 19:52
I know it's a little thing ,but thank you. The all uppercase was driving me crazy. IT FELT LIKE VS WAS YELLING AT ME! ;)
September 08, 2012 21:10
September 08, 2012 23:40
While on the topic of making the UI a bit less silly - is there any way to get rid of preview-opening source files when selecting them in the Solution Explorer. While supposedly a "feature", not everyone likes their files to be pulled in and opened all the time without choice.

I don't suppose there's a secret registry key for disabling the god-awful main menu spacing between items? While it makes the ALL CAPS style a bit less cluttered, it hurts the soul as much as bad kerning in Title Case menu mode.

(I tried making this comment as positive as possible according to the hanselminutes advice, this is as good as it gets :D)
September 09, 2012 0:14
@Lars: The feature is called the Preview Tab. With that knowledge you can use the Quick Access feature (the search box up by the standard minimize, maximize, close buttons in the window chrome) and search for Preview. It will result in a single result that says "Environment -> Tabs and Windows", clicking on that will open the Tools->Options dialog to the proper page. On that page there is a section entitled Preview Tab. In that group are options like 'Allow new files to be opened in the preview tab', disabling that will disable the preview tab entirely. Alternatively, there are 'sub settings' that allow you to disable it in, say, just the solution explorer.
September 09, 2012 1:23
Ah. I've mentally ignored that search box since it used to crash as soon as you looked in its direction back in the first previews.
September 09, 2012 8:47
So people in the VS team had the oversight of putting a backdoor to suppress the uppercase of the top menu. My question is why didn't they put this setting under Tools -> Options instead of hiding it and NEVER mentioning its existence (after ALL the outcry) until someone found it by digging into this!? Lots of people complained about the caps during the beta period, they still insisted on putting the caps. I have yet to see ONE COMMENT where someone said they love the upper caps. I know a lot of people do not like change but I expect that there are others who would, but this never materialized. Yet you hear someone from the team say that they did a lot of research and case studies and found that upper caps are preferable. Who are they asking?

When there are two opposing polars to visual function, make it a setting and let people change it the way they like.

BTW, the free "VSCommands for VS 2012" add-on has a setting for this plus other useful settings.
September 09, 2012 23:17
At last! Could not resign to use VS2012 until a decent theme plugin comes out. I even quoted one of your older posts on the VS2010 plugin page!
September 10, 2012 12:53
Nice, I seem to be getting used to the colours now. I have noticed the VS Express for Windows 8 is a dark theme which I really like.
September 10, 2012 14:42
Thank you Scott. I almost got used to the new colour scheme, but this just made my year!
September 10, 2012 16:46
I think they are attempting to make the VS IDE look kind of like a Metro app, probably because VS Next will be Metro and they want to start getting us used to it, but it doesn't work to mix metaphors.

I would bet money that the graphic design teams at MS did not review this before it shipped, and that a group of programmers said "hey let's try to get this to look more Metro-ish".

Programmers should not design UIs.
September 11, 2012 1:17
Kurt Koller,

I don't see anyone hating change here. People hate it when the products they HAVE to use for 8 hours a day are unuseable and make their eyes hurt.
September 11, 2012 4:26
Because Microsoft has decided that the way to be successful is to emulate Apple. But they took this to mean controlling you in every way and giving you no choices...

I really don't understand what's gotten into Microsoft's head lately.
September 11, 2012 16:50
Any boy know how to customize the background color of the TFS Source File History Window?

Would like to change the window background color of the top part of the window from white to something else. Because the ComboBox in that location is now completely hidden, as it is also white.

This is the default behavior of the "Blue" theme.
September 11, 2012 17:14
In VS2012's defense, it is a lot faster and smoother than 2010, at least on Windows 8. But the monotone color scheme is horrendous, what happened to contrast as a design philosophy?
September 11, 2012 21:47
I played with VS2012 and didn't really mind the all caps menu. But what bothered me was everything being the same color. I'd try to focus on the code window, but since the dividing line was so soft the other areas would merge in and my eyes couldn't focus on the code.
September 11, 2012 23:38
Sadly, this is probably the one largest reason my co-workers will finally move over to VS 2012. Nice forethought making all the chrome elements as flexible as you have.

September 12, 2012 1:23
Looks like Windows XP themes? Isn't XP from 1990s?
September 12, 2012 16:29
visual studio 2012 doesn't worked well when I use dark mode themes in win8 (even).
September 12, 2012 18:34
People who defend the new color schemes in VS2012 always say stuff like, "It's much faster now," as if somehow "blue" is slower than "gray".
September 13, 2012 2:19
The registry setting is great for changing the ALL CAPS menu back to normal "non-yelling" mode. But it only works on the menu, all the TFS work items views all the TABS are still all caps, has anyone found a registry setting that can be used to return that back to normal? Its really sucks to have your issue tracking software to be always yelling at you.
September 13, 2012 4:59
I haven't spoken to anyone who thinks that the shouty menus is a good idea.

Why are Microsoft persisting with leaving them on by default, despite the universal opposition? It's just making Microsoft look like it's run by total idiots!

Scott - what position would you need to have within the dev division, where you could have the most influence over direction? You've always got a balanced and practical view of things, a great attention for detail, and you're universally respected by your readers. You've got my vote already :-)
September 13, 2012 23:27
Not sure if there is a theme/style option for the items in Solution Explorer. Has anyone found a theme which replaces the default black/white icons? :P
September 13, 2012 23:59
Nazar - see the icons hack at the bottom of the post.
September 20, 2012 0:08
The registry trick works for VS Express for Windows Desktop too, you just have to create the DWORD value in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\WDExpress\11.0\General
September 20, 2012 6:08
$6K+ and i've got go mess with registry to 'fix' it. I'd rather be writing code frankly.

C'mon scott, how could you let that Evil UI Genius do this to our Visual Studio?

Spent 6K and i'll use VS2010 as long as i can, and hopefully by that time, Microsoft will stop panicking over Apple and Google and start innovating again rather than devolving when it comes to UI. Who knows, hell might just freeze over and i'll get my wish.
September 21, 2012 22:22
To Un-Complex this problem is to un-install vs12 and install vs10 :D
September 26, 2012 3:11
Microsoft tolly disconnect real world and user. Back to Visual Studio 2010, they use browser to display local help until SP1 release.
This time they claim monochrom icon make user focus on coding.
Inside MS, there is no different opinion or voice for such childish and naive thoughts. You can imagine the company culture. Every one want to kiss the boss ass to hold the position.
October 11, 2012 23:46
I can hardly believe that Microsoft is following Google and using all charcoal-gray icons. They are such a productivity loss for me. But the stupidest thing I've read is where Brian Harry responded to a comment on his blog and said that MS is making all of their apps look uniform/modern, and that Visual Studio needs to be included. Consumer users aren't going to see Visual Studio so they don't care. Developers have screamed that they don't care if Visual Studio looks like every other MS app. Visual Studio is a *tool* to create the apps; it doesn't have to *look* like the apps. This is such a bull-headed move by MS.
October 16, 2012 17:03
In addition to "Bogdan Costea":
The registry hack for Web Express: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VWDExpress\11.0\General
October 22, 2012 15:51

Now if you can fix the find dialog... I dunno man, I'll, like, have your babies or something!!
October 26, 2012 22:41
Hey, you are a life saver - the pure white/greyness was really starting to depress me, man. You know what they say: "geniuses pick blue" right? :)
November 15, 2012 1:21
Nice work...

There is one tweak that I would really appreciate and that is to make all the editor font styles BOLD in one go. Rather than individually set each one.

November 16, 2012 2:20
This tool helps a little but VS2012 is still a massive step backwards from VS2010. I cant use it for long before I feel uncomfortable. It's a terrible UI design. I'm going to have to stick with VS2010 for now.
November 30, 2012 15:33
I haven't seen anyone (but Scott) comment on that last little update line -- there is now a way to change the VS2012 icons as well. That is SO significant! When I first opened up VS2012 after changing the icons back to VS2010, it was absolutely incredible how much easier it was to find what I needed to click rather than searching ... searching ... searching ...

To expand and bring as much closure as is currently possible (not 100%, but it's close):
  • change the color theme to blue or something you're fairly happy with,
  • run the icon patcher at to get solution explorer back to a usable state
  • install the NiceVS extension from the Visual Studio Gallery
Don't fret about patching the icons. The patcher allows you to make backups and replace them if something goes wrong. While this combo doesn't replace every grey annoyance in the IDE, it gets you 85% or so there.

Only Microsoft can give us that last mile. Any thoughts on making your customers happy, MS?
December 04, 2012 22:08
Thanks for the summary, Michael Sawczyn!
December 19, 2012 11:54
Any more themes to this extension out there?
i'd like to use the "Blue with Dark Editor" (which doesnt exist yet)...
January 11, 2013 0:28
How to get back to the VS2010 icons.

I literally have to hover mouse on the toolbar icons to read the tooltip. The icons themselves are way too different than the old ones.

January 24, 2013 14:20
I can't believe there's so much friction about the new icon set.

If the icons are such a determining factor to finding the right file, then it seems to me that you need to organise and name your files better.
January 31, 2013 1:08

I prefer Blue with Dark Editor too. But haven't find a easy to create it :) Anyone can help?

February 20, 2013 16:53
I know the Express Editions are free and that I'm grateful as a non-pro developer to have the use of them, BUT - the color schemes/icons are horrendous.
Not just on aesthetic grounds either - the icons are a means of data visualisation which should allow me to perceive the detailed structure of my application at a glance ie; I shouldn't have to read the text (sorry, Adrian but I DO organise and name my files fairly well, in my opinion).
Usability of the current schemes/icons are a seriously retrograde step compared to vs2010 - whoever green-lit this should be shown the door...
February 22, 2013 23:31
Anything like this popping up for 2012?

( )
March 08, 2013 23:44
I wish I could build a dark theme with a light tool window
August 14, 2013 18:58
VS 2010 looked very nice but this looks like old windows 3.1 graphics

Any way to get the whole appearance looking a bit less flat and 2D? I really can't understand the people at microsoft, wanting the very latest releases to look ugly and flat in comparison to previous ones.

Kind of like watching episodes of Family Guy in reverse order - the animation gets more crap as time goes on.

August 16, 2013 9:15
I guess everyone knows how to install this extension except me :-(

I'm new to VS 2012 and don't know to add this!
September 07, 2013 2:06
The new interface is terrible so I guess being able to change the look can be a plus.
How do I get the old icons back, these new ones are dog crap.
Well really it is just dressing

It would be great if the intellisense worked correctly since that is actually important
September 11, 2013 20:12
"If the icons are such a determining factor to finding the right file, then it seems to me that you need to organise and name your files better."

Oh lord. A folder looks like a folder EVERYWHERE else (Win Explorer, file dialogs, etc etc) and then is reversed, black, and looks like some kind of rectangle with a key on top of it (well, that's the best I can do anyway) in VS. So we're not just talking undoing years of burned-in targets to look for, but they are still the same EVERYWHERE ELSE which just screws with your mind all the more.

THAT does not help with target acquisition no matter how you've organized anything!

My solution is the icon patcher and using parts of VS (Source Control Explorer esp) as little as possible until the IP works for those too (TFS Power Tools being great for doing TFS stuff from Win Exp for instance).
October 31, 2013 18:56
I am trying to change Text color in Source Control Explorer and so far no luck. Problem is when you select Workspace source control explorer highlights project/solution available in that workspace but they are hard to notice e.g. in dark theme the difference in text label is Gray and White, it is hard to see the difference. Any idea how to change this White to some other color.
November 14, 2013 22:12
I've got the same problem as Kishan. I like the default themes but I'm trying to customize them into something other than white background but can't find the option. Just cause I have the same name doesn't mean I can actually work it :/

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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.