News & Tips

Blog archive

Change Where You Work with Visual Studio Themes

Howdy readers, Lafe here. About once a month, my partner in crime, Rich Seeley, has been doing technical takeovers of this blog. Here's his latest post, looking at some of the themes available for Visual Studio.

Everybody wants a nice work environment. One that is suited to their tastes and temperament and helps them feel positive about their job.

For developers working with Visual Studio, you can change your work environment, or at least, the Integrated Development Environment, with themes.

The basic idea is you may not be happy looking at what Microsoft delivers out of the box.

"If you're unhappy with the stark white-on-black of the editor window, you can select a new theme from File | Preferences | Color Theme...for example,...Light (Visual Studio) theme," explained Peter Vogel, in a Visual Studio Magazine article, A First Look at Visual Studio Code.

If you are new to Visual Studio or have not messed around with themes, Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) explains it as: "Themes consist of several supporting files, including style sheets for page appearance, control skins to decorate server controls, and any other supporting images or files that make up the theme."

Another Microsoft site, which also has tips on working with themes, explains it in a little more straightforward manner: Themes allow "users to customize the color palette used for menus, toolbars, tabs, title bars, and other environment colors."

Basically, it lets you customize what you see in the IDE.


Helpful Themes

Not all themes are decorative. Some are about accessibility. For developers with visual impairments, the Visual Studio Code site Accessibility page notes: "Visual Studio Code has many features to help make the editor accessible to all users. Zoom and High Contrast colors improve editor visibility, keyboard-only navigation allows use without a mouse and the editor has been optimized for screen readers."

There are instructions on that page for activating a "High Contrast color theme," that would be helpful for the visually impaired.


From Jedi to Humane

There are a wide range of themes out on the Web. If you look here, you'll find a "Dark Theme," a "Jedi Theme," and even a light Earth tone "Humane Theme."

If you prefer a video demonstration of setting colors etc., you can find many on YouTube including How To Import Custom Themes Into Visual Studio, which shows off a Facebook Theme that uses the color scheme of the popular social media site. It also offers a warning that trying to mix and match multiple themes may result in errors. So you may run into trouble trying to combine the Jedi Theme with the Humane Theme.

The Visual Studio Programmer Themes Gallery shows off 12 themes. On that page blog author, Scott Hanselman, tells readers why he thinks themes make a difference: "More and more I find myself skinning and theming 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."


More Than One Way to Skin Visual Studio

The reference to skinning refers to another way you can make your Visual Studio environment more colorful and helpful.

As this MSDN post, Customizing Skins, explains: "A skin is a graphic that surrounds the rectangular form, the viewport, of an application in the Device Emulator or Visual Studio Designer. When you use a skin during application development, you can better visualize how your application looks on a real device. You can use the same skins in Visual Studio designers and the Device Emulator." If you need tips on skinning you can find it there.


2017 Themes – Are We There Yet?

Most of the themes and tips for using them refer to Visual Studio 2015 or even earlier versions. There seems to be a reason for that and it may put at least a temporary crimp in your attempt to prettify Visual Studio 2017 if you’ve started working with it.

There's a discussion about the Visual Studio 2017 Color Theme Editor on a Stack Overflow community site that indicates developers are having trouble transferring their favorite Visual Studio 2015 themes to the newly released version.

One member asked: "I used Visual Studio 2015 Color Theme Editor and now I would like to use this extension for Visual Studio 2017. On the other hand, according to The Visual Studio Blog, it has not been updated yet. So, I am wondering if it is possible to use this extension for Visual Studio 2017 by modifying the previous one until the new Color Theme Editor is released."

The answer from several other community members was a definite maybe. One said that the there is a hacked version that lets you use the 2015 themes in the 2017 version. But this is one of those "use at your own risk" deals.

Another writes of problems: "The colors in the VS15 themes [do] not exactly match VS17. For example, binary operators are all black in all non-standard themes of the Theme Editor."

Sooner or later (some developers say "much later") this will all be sorted out, so that everybody can have the theme they want.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Lafe Low on 04/18/2017 at 12:04 PM


Subscribe


Upcoming Events