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Give us back colors in VS!

I am using VS 11 Beta for a few days. If it can help things getting better, I just add my voice to the long list of complaint about the VS 11 no color, now famous, issue!

VS 11 Beta comes with really cool new features,  and is much faster and responsive than the slow VS 2010 (so slow that I am still mainly using VS 2008). But on the new grey mono-chrome design, I estimate they are completely wrong.

The intention underlying this design move is that VS11 appearance should be simpler, less daunting, and distract less the user by letting him focuses his attention on its content. In VS11 Beta, icons are black and grey, making it harder than ever to see at a glance, which ones are enabled and which ones are disabled. The whole point of icons has, and will ever be, to rely on the human eyes ability to distinguish quickly between colors, to locate efficiently a particular icon in the middle of several other ones. For example, at a glance, I cannot rely anymore on the fact that C# file are green-like and folders are yellow like in my solution explorer. Not only now I have to think, but it makes me feel like I am in jail! No joke here, I seriously think such UI will have consequence on my mood.

What the screenshot above makes also obvious is that now, panels titles are drawn with an upper case style, with no more side icons! The panels titles are surrounded with :::::::::::::: patterns, instead of the nice shaded header that used to let me now instantly which panel had focus, and how panels are partitioned. In my opinion all this is completely foolish, and this raise questions on how decisions are taken in the DevDiv? I can’t believe that most VS developers are enthusiast and think that this design shift is an improvement. The management must have been convinced by a small team of highly recognized and convincing designers, which attest their result on scientist studies.


I really hope that the VS management team will listen to the tsunami of user complaints. But admitting in the middle of an effort that we got lost and need to revert back, is not something humans are good at, especially if a lot of people are looking at what you do. Tons of scientific studies prove that!

This wouldn’t be the first time that the VS management is doing it wrong and persist in an obviously wrong choice. They based the VS2010 UI on WPF while VS2008 was based on GDI+ and Windows Form. Hence, VS2010 has been used as a showcase for WPF. But the fact is that GDI+ and Windows Form can do 100% of what WPF can do, faster, much faster actually. Just compare the VS2010 code graph (based on WPF) and the NDepend dependency graph (based on GDI+). Under the hood, both implementations use the same graph layout library MSAgl. But, and this is a fact, the NDepend graph layout is between one and two orders of magnitude faster than the VS2010 ones. And is it really less nice?

The real advantage of WPF is that (in theory) it takes much less development effort to achieve the same degree of perfectness. But apart the smooth zoom in and out into the code editor window, this advantage doesn’t shine in VS2010. And still, the first thing that the user notices is the slowness of VS2010 compared to the good old VS2008!

And notice the irony, that VS11 doesn’t have anymore any eyes-candy, while WPF is especially designed to provide eyes-candy!


There are certainly ways to improve the VS 11 appearance to make it both less distracting for the user, and still appealing with a few colors carefully chosen . Interestingly enough, in the forums, I found this pleasant attempt:

The same way I am still using VS2008 and skipped the VS2010 release because of its slowness, I might be well skip this VS11 release despite of all the new cool features I’d like to have! Sooner or later, I am confident that common sense will win. Some management heads will roll, and we will see back some colorful icons and decent panel titles and boundaries in VS! Better sooner!

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  • Lukasz Niedzielski

    Agreed. Give us flexible theming support and color debate is over.

  • Patrick Smacchia

    Assuming I am permanently using both R# and NDepend VS extensions in VS2008, VS2010 doesn’t bring me nothing but slowness.

  • Artem

    Still using VS2008 Hmm…

  • Bill Kempf

    Where’s my bike shed!

    Seriously, we’re going to get this upset over color?

  • thomas

    Thanks for the post. For me i have decided to not upgrade to 11. Metro, WPF, .NET 4.5 who runs not on XP .. to much stuff for kiddies. I am earning my money with .NET and need 100% bulletproof technologies. Therefore i stay with .NET 4 and winforms and devexpress.

  • Doug

    I think this falls in the “Who moved my cheese” category.  I’ve got about 15 hours on VS11 now and I have the funny feeling that VS 11 isn’t really any faster than 10, they just changed the colors to slow me down so that it feels faster.

  • http://twitter.com/MartinRandall Martin Randall


  • Anonymous

    These changes have always confirmed what I’ve always suspected. The “usability studies” they supposedly rely on to make these decisions are a load of crap. It’s one guy that was like “Oh cool, Metro! Let’s do that in VS.” and nobody stepped up to stop him.

  • Patrick Smacchia

    http://visualstudio.uservoice.com/forums/121579-visual-studio/suggestions/2623017-add-some-color-to-visual-studio-11-beta?page=2 look at this comment:

    thenonhacker commented  ·  March 03, 2012  ·  Flag as inappropriateI’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback at http://visualstudio.uservoice.com/forums/121579-visual-studio/suggestions/2623659-go-all-in-with-a-zune-style-metro-ui-see-my-makeoThe Goal of REVAMP V5 is to make the IDE more alive and less depressing. In REVAMP V5, we address some of the feedback on V4, and at the same time, add more color where they make sense.BEFORE REVAMP: http://i.imgur.com/HXSDk.pngVIEW SCREENSHOT REVAMP V5: http://i.imgur.com/EWH1R.pngHere are my Version 5 VS 11 Changes:1. Panel Titles, Selected Tabs, Selected Items, and the Status Bar now have a background color.2. Metro-Version of Toolbar Handles.3. Improved the appearance of Tab Items at the bottom, and docked panel text at the sides.4. Added a Zune-inspired watermark at the top of the window.BEFORE REVAMP: http://i.imgur.com/HXSDk.pngVIEW SCREENSHOT REVAMP V5: http://i.imgur.com/EWH1R.png

  • Andrew Jones

    Can anyone give a link for the color theme in the last screenshot I’d like to learn more.

  • anon

    You do realize that MSDN subscription VS license is only valid for the latest version?

  • http://twitter.com/koenwillemse Koen Willemse

    I agree and I hope they will be adding some color back. It’s a bit depressing and at several places I notices myself really having to look very carefull because the gray just made things very unclear. I do like the screenshot that you found on the forum.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leriksen71 Lynn Eriksen

    Yes. I agree color the glyphs if they are going to be used. Also, it should be easier to style the text editor so I’m not stuck with reverse text because I choose the dark theme.

  • Gustavo

    While they attempt to clean the UI is something good, the grayish pattern didn’t work on the Solution Explorer panel, that is for sure. I hope they manage to fix it.
    It isn’t such a trouble in the toolbar or in the other panels, however.

    I can’t just agree with about Vs2010 been slow…
    I use it since release and never had a problem with its performance. Sometines I think it is really faster. For example, the “Add Reference” windows is quite faster in Vs2010.

  • Roger Knapp

    I hate to say it but I completely agree, it seems the VS team’s designer should have been fired even before 2010 was crammed down our throat.  If it were me I’d fire the whole lot of them and revert to 2008 for a complete restart.  Who’s dumb idea was it to port over to WPF anyway?

  • http://twitter.com/CarstKoenig Carsten König

    well I don’t know – I find files by hitting Ctrl-T (R#er) and entering the type (or just C(amel)C(ase)) – same thing works with the solution search in VS11 (ok not if you are into F# :( ) so I don’t mind the solution-explorers icons all to much (at the same time the dig into file->type->member is quit nice) – what I cannot stand is the overall grayishnes – it IS depressing – and I just cannot understand why there isn’t a VS10-mode – come on even Windows can fallback to almost Win3.1 days with the *right* settings…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know, I kind of like the new look.  I agree with Jack that Visual Studio has gotten way too cluttered and busy.  Not a big fan of the uppercase, but I suspect that’ll change based on the feedback.

  • http://twitter.com/dpratt71 Daniel Pratt

    I guess I really need to take VS 11 for a spin so I can
    experience this change in a more visceral fashion. Taking away practically all
    color seems crazy to me, but I’m open to the idea at this point.

    In fact, I’m not convinced that the colorized version of the
    UI up there is altogether better. For one thing, the color icons have a lower
    contrast. For another thing, yes I am accustomed to finding C# code files based
    on icon color, but besides adjusting to the change, I’m not sure it will be any
    harder to distinguish based on icon “shape”.

    One way in which the colorized version is unambiguously
    better (IMO) is in the treatment of the tool window and tab captions. The
    colorized version is more aesthetically pleasing to me, as well as being
    marginally easier to read, I think.

    Also, I use both VS 2008 and VS 2010 on a regular basis on
    the same machine. My perception is that VS 2010 is the better performer. My semi-educated
    guess is that the capable graphics hardware on this machine is what allows VS
    2010 to perform better.

  • http://twitter.com/webtwoohno Jack

    After spending some time away from VS (mostly Rails work) I have returned to find VS much too busy, too much going on at any one time. It is information overload, and the color scheme used is terrible. 

    Change is not always comfortable, but the monochromatic icons are for the most part better. The diagram I would agree is worse with every box being blue, that needs to be looked at again.

  • http://profiles.google.com/petar.repac Petar Repac

    I’m thinking that there is something deeper wrong here. 
    Why should we as developers be limited to what MS give us in therms of UI?MS should give us an easy way to customize UI icons and pane titles  etc. much as we can choose  fonts and colors. If that was the case there would not be this much negative reaction on new UI.