back to article Hated Visual Studio 11 beta in HIGH-ENERGY colour blast

Microsoft is breaking out the paints and giving the next Visual Studio a dash of colour after its drab John Major-inspired beta was branded hideous, monstrous and depressing by thousands of coders. VS11: Radiating blue energy The company said it has "increased the 'energy' level of the Visual Studio 11 themes" in the Visual …


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  1. James 93

    I still dont think it looks as good as 2010....

    1. Cave Dweller

      It may grow on you

      I never liked the looks of Windows Vista, but it eventually grew on me (albeit in Windows 7). I wanted to hate the ribbon UI, but after a few months I'd learned where everything was (and that you can collapse the ribbon).

      VS 2010 does everything I want, so I don't see a compelling reason to upgrade yet. If C++ to have the same degree of freakishly good intellisense that C# enjoys I'd be interested, but I respect that's a very tall order.

      <troll> Heh, I don't need C++ intellisense, I'm just that damn good at it. </troll>

      1. Mostly_Harmless Silver badge

        Re: It may grow on you

        so does athlete's foot, but that doesn't mean I want it

      2. Vin King
        Thumb Up

        Re: It may grow on you

        C++ intellisense isn't that impossible. QTCreator does a fantastic job of it, and is a free IDE besides. It's sort of magical.

    2. qwarty



    3. Paulus Net

      So you think VS 2010 looks good?

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Darn, so I cannot use my Hercules graphics card after all

  3. Alister

    "a lot of actionable feedback"

    that's "actionable" as in "we've taken the comments on board, and will address them", not "actionable" as in "we could sue you for this"?

  4. stucs201

    But will they be the right colours

    These days it seems the chances of a program correctly using the user's colour preferences from the system's settings is approximately zero :(

  5. Turtle

    Oddly enough...

    This is interesting to me, because, as a Steinberg Nuendo & Cubase owner, I have noticed the exact same syndrome: those idiots are determined to remove every bit of color from the interface and make it a dull gray, and that would be a gray as uniform as possible. For some reason they think the app will be more usable if *nothing* stands out - including controls, buttons, and widgets.

    Evidently there are stupid people at both Microsoft and Steinberg who think that the Steam Client is the ideal model for a productivity app, and that by dulling down the interface (new term there, notice!) the app will become so popular that they will end up as rich as Gabe Newell, (without, they certainly assume, having to be as grossly and life-threateningly obese).

    Then again, isn't the new Win8 logo also a uniform dark gray?

    Well, I don't use Visual Studio,and I am not going to migrate to Win8 from my current XP, but I am looking into ditching the Steinberg apps and migrating to StudioOne, and Digital Performer 8. Those do not seem to be intended for people who are either colorblind, or who wish that they were colorblind.

    PS I notice that the folder tree in the VS screencap has no lines connecing the folders in the let-hand navigation pane - just like the new, inferior Windows Explorer! Looks just like Dolphin. What are they trying to prove, I wonder...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Turtle

        Re: Oddly enough...

        "'To paraphrase your post, 'I don't use the program we're talking about but I do feel like attacking two entirely unrelated programs and gratuitously mention that I'm still using an eleven-year old operating system because I like mouthing off on the internet'".

        Let me make it a bit clearer for you because you really need it, not having been able to grasp the point, which was plainly stated in my original post: the roundly-condemned monochrome design "philosophy" currently espoused by the designers of the VS GUI is the same as that espoused by the stupid people who design the UI for the Steinberg apps. Most people would agree that this make the mention of the Steinberg apps in this context entirely appropriate, but, sadly, the surfeit of stupidity with which you are burdened makes it impossible for you to see this.

        But we were glad to read your response, though. It made us remember life's less fortunate.


    2. Chris 3

      Re: Oddly enough...

      Add Apple in too. No idea why. iTunes has gone monochrome, the icons in Finder have suffered the same fate. Annoying.

      1. Duncan Idaho

        Re: Oddly enough...

        iTunes was never pretty, but I agree that somehow it went from bad to worse and a lot of things have been following.

    3. Dale Richards

      Re: Oddly enough...

      Nuendo & Cubase - I'm with you on that. I'm assuming Steinberg are sucking all the colour out of their software to make it look more like Pro Tools, which has been drab grey for as long as I can remember.

    4. James Delaney

      Re: Oddly enough...

      Don't forget iTunes. That's been getting duller with each release.

    5. NomNomNom

      Re: Oddly enough...

      It's a side effect of the global economic crisis. Even software companies are having to cut back and yes that means user interfaces will tend to have less color too. When every pixel is a premium it just isn't viable to use bright colors. They walk the talk but can they talk the walk? the answer is invariably 'perhaps'

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not using Nuendo / Cubase myself but I am a passionate sound designer; I can't help wonder if the decision by Steinberg is more driven by Ableton than that what drove Microsoft.

      Because you see; sometimes having a dull flat gray screen actually works out quite well. Ableton Live (Suite 8) (link) is an DAW which existed for 10 years now and as you can notice by the logo and screenshots on that page: its interface is completely grey. And before anyone wonders about the "colorful blocks"; that isn't the program itself, those merely represent your audio data.

      By default Ableton Live only uses grey for its interface combined with yellow to indicate selected options (system options, instrument options as well as channel on/off), red to indicate a record mode and blue to indicate an individual selected track and the main "individual" volume. And finally orange to indicate a "special" option; if a track has been set to "monitoring" (it continues to pick up audio input, no need to arm it) then the indicator will be orange. Orange is also used in the interface of some instruments (for example to be able and define a waveform in their Operator synthesizer) as well as volume and balance controls (dials).

      But that's it! All audio channels have the same dull grey color, the only one which is shown to be light grey is the selected track. All instruments and effects sit in a grey box which apart from a yellow selection bar is completely grey; even the icons representing folders and different type of objects (presets, instrument/effect object, 'grouped' object).

      The main issue here should be obvious: what works for some doesn't have to work for others.

      Within the context of Live I actually enjoy such an interface because it helps me focus on what matters to me. If I'm recording audio then I don't care about good looks or such; all I care for is that as much CPU power as possible is used to process my recording as good as possible and in the mean time having some good indicators to see what is going on.

      That is what Ableton gives me; the program itself is flat grey and my data is colored so I can always immediately see whats going on.

      Needless to say but as much as I enjoy this design in Ableton (IMO its a key feature) I hate it in Visual Studio. In VS it just doesn't add up for me; different programs, different uses.

      1. Turtle

        @ShelLuser Re: @Turtle


        I don't use Ableton and have never tried it. It does not seem to be suitable for what I do. But it is an odd coincidence that you bring it up, because, while I can't say anything about the color-scheme, the first time I saw Ableton screencaps I noticed its "flat look" i.e. no "faux-3D" widgets or graphic representation of hardware and so forth.

        It seems to me that after Ableton's release, Steinberg began to shift their GUI philosophy to the same flat, 2D look. And I noticed this almost immediately after Steinberg's releases following Ableton's debut. Personally, I don't like it at all. In Cubase and Nuendo, having elements with a 3D look to them helps the eye to make sense out of what is necessarily a very busy environment. I don't know how "busy" the Ableton environment gets, but you seem to find it no problem. But it seems to me that Steinberg's "importation' of the 2D monochrome look into their apps is a big, big mistake.

        Thanks for the comments, which give some new insight into the problem.

    7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      ob HHGTTG quote

      "When you press this black button on a black background a black sign lights up black to tell you that you pressed it"

      Must have been built by a species whose eyes responded to different wavelengths - or they jsut didn't have any imagination.

    8. Skydreamer

      Re: Oddly enough...

      Does this remind anybody of the black spaceship in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe"?

      Maybe there are some Douglas Adams fan there?

  6. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    So while they were performing their usual routine (Windows Start Bar, VS colouring, etc.):

    1) Break something deliberately obvious and stupid for no reason

    2) Wait for everyone to shout.

    3) Change back to what it was already "based on customer feedback"

    in order to make you think they are actually doing something, what have they actually stripped out of the program or incorporated that people were too blinkered by the "it's grey" setting to find?

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      I must try that New Coke everyone's talking about.

  7. xyz Silver badge

    Oh no not again

    They bring out new versions of VS faster than you can buy the bloody things.

    I gave up buying the damn thing at 10 and now use the free web dev studio download, the free MVC download and the free C# download, so at least I'm not having to fork out all the time for something that has the lifespan of a mayfly.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Oh no not again

      Once every 1-2 years, what a break-neck development speed.

      I'm still on 2008 because I don't feel compelled to buy every new version.

      1. xyz Silver badge

        Re: Oh no not again

        The trouble with every new version is that there seems to be a super cool, groovy, "must have" new way of doing things (usually to do with data) which causes all developers to go off on a "must keep up" jerk-off-a-thon and by the time you've beaten the buggers back into submission, washed down the walls and got the projects back on track, a new version crawls out the woodwork.

        And don't get me started on TFS, I've got 5 developers here having a continuous group wank for the past 4 months trying to get the thing automated up to its jacksi because it'll aid development (i.e look good on their CVs)....... They'll be needing those CVs very shortly..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh no not again

          You should have probably just fired them for using TFS. It was your first clue.

  8. Ian Ferguson

    This year's fashion!

    1. Grey is in

    2. Grey on grey is HOT


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This year's fashion!

      4. ???

      5. PROFIT!

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: This year's fashion!


  9. Irongut

    Improving but still some way to go

    This version looks better but it's still not right and why is the menu shouting at me now?

    Adding 4 blue pixels to a grey icon doesn't really make it coloured but it's better than nothing.

    I still miss the gradients, etc that denoted different areas of the main window, VS11 seems to blur together into a faceless grey mass. I'd rather have them back than the extra line of code gained by removing them (the other two lines come from removing a toolbar).

    I do like the idea of the coloured status bar.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Improving but still some way to go

      Ah man why did a clip of the knights who say Ni talking about a shrubbery spring into my head as I read your comment?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Improving but still some way to go

      The problem is that Microsoft have produced a brain-dead ultra-depressing UI so now they are adding in a "little bit" of colour and the fanbois claim that this is a "great step forward".

      I'm sorry but this is just a tiny bit of lipstick on a great fat pig.

      And don't get me started on the CAPS....

  10. StooMonster

    OS X

    Wish Apple would put the colour back in OS X too, it's all very grey these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward 15

      Re: OS X

      And the rainbow back in their logo. I liked that one better.

  11. Glyn 2


    So from largely grey to largely white with over-the-top splashes of colour

    And all caps for menus WTF?

    And as one of the colourblind people in the audience, making some of your dark grey buttons dark blue doesn't exactly distinguish them ( I know they're those colours as I enlarged the picture and checked out the hex codes)

    And the chrome icons??? please replacing easily distinguishable-at-a-glance icons with a small grey rectangle with a tiny icon next to it?


    If this is metrofication, metro is going to be hideously difficult to use

  12. Christian Berger

    Hmm, back when I developed for Windows

    The operating system came with all the GUI stuff coded in. Which made GUIs more or less consistent, particularly when it came to things like colour.

    Windows is hardware independent, you can never be sure if the hardware the user has can even display "red" or "green". If it's CGA it most likely cannot. So people just made buttons and other controls, leaving the OS to deal with colours.

  13. JOKM

    As fickle is fashion

    Graphical design these days has less to do with the user and more to do with the trends and bullsh*t associated with the fashion industry, much like when you hear the words 'neon pink is the new black'. in the end it all comes back to the beginning which is why my money is on green text on black backgrounds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As fickle is fashion

      And a lot more work would probably get done if the deskbound lusers were still on Amstrad PCWs.

  14. kend1

    Use skins

    Don't like how it looks? then stop bitching and change it. Too lazy? then download a popular design done by someone else. There is no need to force upon the users how it should look.

    1. Glyn 2

      Re: Use skins

      Have they said that it'll be skinable?

      The themes pack for 2010 doesn't let you skin it...just kinda make it greener :-S

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Use skins

      Skins either honour the end-user's preferences or they are an insult to them. In the former case, they are superfluous. In the latter case, they are Evil.

    3. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Use skins

      Well from the scotopic sensitivity front, I don't find that skins really help. What I want is the ability to:

      a) honor my system settings wherever it makes sense (e.g. basic window settings, bars, buttons, backgrounds, etc.)

      2) allow me to override all these individually to present information in the manner it makes the most sense to me (not to some wet-behind-the-ears marketing wank fresh out of the Joe's Garage School of Design, Inc.)

      Microsoft needs to realize that the tool is supposed to serve the user, not the other way around.

  15. Phoenix50

    Oh for god's sake.

    They made some changes to the interface, people didn't like them, so they responded and addressed some of the criticisms.

    Would you rather they just told everyone to fuck off and not bothered to address any critisims at all?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      ...well it "works" for Adobe

    2. Glyn 2

      The general criticism was too bland and icons indistinguishable without study. They've responded by changing the colour of the bland and putting spots of (not high contrast) colour about the place randomly, so pretty much they have told everyone to fuck off, this time in white

    3. amanfromarse

      If you tolerate this, your Sharepoint will be next

      The decisions they are making fly in the face of good UI design and they can't justify it.

      It's not like I can't drag my eyes to the code window from the toolbars in VS2010 because they're so damn-fucking-distractingly beautiful.

      And they are taking the piss with their whack-a-mole ALL_CAPS stunts.

      Sadly, if they did the same with Sharepoint Designer I think you would just accept it.

  16. CraigW

    good but

    does it still completely fuck VS 2010 and VS 2008 if installed on the same machine?

  17. GavinC

    Better... But

    Thank god they have brought back colour to the UI - it's already looking orders of magnitude better than before, just with a few coloured icons.


    UI Design 101 - Lower case letters are easier to read, and colour makes interfaces easier to navigate. Obviously the Microsoft designers missed the first day of UI class...

    1. Antidisestablishmentarianist

      Re: Better... But

      They flip-flopped in both directions with the ALL CAPS thing in several areas of the Beta/RC. Nicely inconsistent :rolleyes:

      But the ALL CAPS menu really is a shocker. Just so bloody wrong!

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Better... But

      I've seen no evidence in the last ten years that any of Microsoft's designers even know that there are classes to miss.

      UI design ought to be treated as a branch of engineering, informed by psychology and experimental testing, with the objective of making the interface so easy to use that no documentation is necessary. As practised by Microsoft, however, each new product is treated as a work of art, to be crafted by a lone genius and then "explained" to the howling rabble (I mean, er, the customers) afterwards.

  18. Christophano

    For shame...

    I've just realised I'm almost as guilty of this as microsoft et al.

    The latest application I'm due to deploy has a ui heavily influenced by microsoft expression blend.

    Well, it's proven popular with the users who've been involved in testing, so it stays.

  19. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A cunning and subtle plan

    They have distracted all the news stories and reviewers with the crap colours and then announced a fix with nice colours - there have been no stories about whether the compiler is any good.

    Or how much of C++11 it implements or why it still manages so little of C99 ?

    ...and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation's Galaxy-wide success is founded - their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.


    1. Bronek Kozicki
      Thumb Up

      Re: C99

      You will find your answer here

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Ilsa Loving

    Legitimate reason for grey interface

    Apple takes a lot of cues from the content creation industry, and you can see a lot of similarities between the Mac UI and say, Adobe. The reason things tend to be monochrome is because content creators want to focus on the content, not on the UI. Having a colourful UI just makes for distraction. For people who manipulate photography or illustrations, the additional colour can actually throw them off. (Dunno why, but this is what they've told me).

    I'm also a firm believer in the judicious use of colour in UI. If it doesn't serve a purpose beyond making things pretty, then it shouldn't be there. Maybe that's why I prefer to use command line for most things. :P

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legitimate reason for grey interface

      I can see your point.

      However, if you are a big mouse user (I tend to use shortcut keys, but I do use toolbars as well), then by and large you are not primarily focused on the content, you are actively using the UI of the IDE.

      It's all a question of balance. Microsoft have gone over the top with the monochrome icons. There just really isn't enough visual information in the graphics to make it quick to find what you are looking for in VS 11.

      There is a reason that we have colour vision.... :D

  22. durbster

    Colour is good. It's one of the most powerful tools an interface designer has at their disposal.

    However, I'm only posting to praise the author of the subtitle:

    "I can C clearly now the grey has gone"


  23. Luke McCarthy

    pfft, IDEs

    Text editor + shell just keeps on truckin'

  24. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    Turtle &ShelLuser

    Steinberg Remix anyone?

    What is that all about then? eh eh.

    I do a bit of gui design - you probably use one on one of your softsynths or possibly even daw.

    I like Ableton - it works for Ableton - the idea is to pack as much info into the real estate as you can.

    Having gradations and 3d stuff takes up space. So you can get more in the space. I think that is the plan.

    I also like Cubase too. It works for Cubase. If you are thinking of jumping to Studio One - don't hesitate it is an absolutely superb program, not least the uncomplicated but not drab GUI. You probably know that it was programmed by the couple of guys that originally did the first Cubase. Many things are carried over in the design - it is extremely fast to work with. It is one of the half dozen or so daws I own. I love it to pieces though use it less than my others as It is my latest flame and I am more familiar with the others in depth.

    As to IDEs. I think customisation is the most important factor. I used to set my UltraEdit with a black background and really go to town with the all the colours of the rainbow assigned to key words.

    It even used to get stares from ladies on the tube - they could not take their pretty little eyes off it - highly recommended if you're a sad lonely ol' git like me ;-)

    One thing I have learned in GUI design is that people perceive light-level extremely differently. The white light of a background burns my eyes. It actually causes more eye damage than a dark background - you wouldn't stare at the sun would you ;-) However, with IDEs as in DAWs, most people use a white background because that is what they are given (cue Jam song). I knew of no other 'coder' at uni that used a black background - and certainly none that highlighted their key words to their own logic.

    There must be others that use a black or at least dare I say it - grey - background to code. No wonder coders tend to wear glasses - shades is what they really need.

    And don't start me off on the fact that you can NOT change the white background in explorer in win7 - sheer f***ing madness. You can do it with hacks but it is complex. You have to use the classic theme which defeats the whole gui enhancements in win7.........

  25. Azzy

    Stunning improvement

    The problem is that it took a near unanimous uproar to make them fix these things. This is what the beta should have looked like, with further polish on the RC.

    The beta was truly horrifying - what I don't understand is how that got released as a beta. I understand how lots of companies make software products with a crap interface - nobody there uses the software; there are bound to be some problems. But Microsoft makes software. The place is full of programmers. So the one thing they should have no trouble getting right is a software development studio - and yet the greyscale VS made it out the door. Didn't anyone in-house use it? Didn't they complain? One must assume that they did - and were ignored, until it got sent to customers and they reacted with profanity and disbelief.

    And... why is there still CAPS LOCK menus? The voice of the people was pretty clear with regards to that. Nobody likes text written in all caps. It's attention-getting in a forceful, unpleasant way, especially in whatever font they use for the menus. And there's no reason to draw attention to the menu bar - in fact it goes directly against their original justification for the grey-scale look (to not draw attention away from the content). Is this a bad omen of things to come? Does MS plan to use CAPS LOCK IN THEIR USER INTERFACES now? I sure hope not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Stunning improvement

      Agreed, it just makes you feel that they clearly don't have a focused vision on what it is they are trying to achieve.

      I go with the "monochrome is fashionable" line. I don't think usability is even one of their primary goals.

      Otherwise, it would pick up the style and colour scheme from Windows settings.

  26. pear

    Using the dark scheme, is great for my eyes having less light blaring at them. Genuinely happy with 2011. Sure the buttons are a bit dry but it's good for a long day of use.

  27. Sarev

    Missing the point again...

    So, when the complaint is that the lack of colour (especially in icons) makes it harder to navigate, MS in its infinite wisdom adds a splash of _the same_ colour for the _same little design_ to a load of icons, this improving navigability not at all.

  28. Fred W


    All this pissing and moaning about COLOR? Last time I was concerned about "color" in a "user experience" was selecting which roll of paper tape to mount on the punch: Black paper if the result would be used a few times and tossed out. Blue mylar for boot loader, assembler, linker, ... that would be used for the forseeable future.

  29. mangobrain
    Thumb Up

    Dark IDE backgrounds FTW!

    I agree with your points about dark backgrounds in IDEs. I spend most of my time looking at Vim in a green-on-black terminal emulator with the default colour scheme and "set bg=dark". gVim gets its colour scheme set to the slightly more subtle "desert", and last (also least) comes gedit with "oblivion". Colour is good, but if I'm going to be looking at something for an extended period of time, bright backgrounds are right out!

    GNOME 3 apps generally do a very good job of being visually consistent with each other, but GTK3's defaults also suffer from being very monochrome. I can handle grey-on-grey title bars and scroll bars, but icons on buttons & in menus always get re-enabled on my machines. Icons aren't always completely obvious, but when I first used GNOME 3 I noticed I had a hard time taking anything in when looking at a menu, because I kept habitually scanning down the left-hand side and drawing a complete blank.

    1. mangobrain


      Stupid Interwebs. Parent post was supposed to be in reply to Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance.

  30. Sirius Lee

    Beware long job titles

    "Director of user experience for Microsoft Developer Tools Division"

    I wonder if Monty (or any of his team) actually use the product. To be fair, Monty only appears to be responsible for user experience - good or bad is not specified.

  31. Jolyon Ralph

    Save icon

    Isn't it time to ditch the 3.5" disk icon? Not that I can think of a better replacement.. But seriously, it's 2012

    1. mangobrain

      Re: Save icon

      The default GNOME 3 icon theme uses a filing cabinet, which has obvious advantages in that it is a logical extension of the whole file/folder metaphor (as in, saving = putting a file into the cabinet), and it's completely agnostic to the actual storage medium. I've also seen icons with hard drives, although those tend only to be found in installers - fewer people are likely to know what a hard drive looks like than a filing cabinet, and you may not be saving to one at the time.

    2. Azzy

      Re: Save icon

      Backwards compatibility with deployed wetware.

      Everyone, even people who don't know which drive to plug the mouse into, know what the disk icon means, even if they don't know what it's a picture of. Since it's difficult to update the brains of > 1 billion humans, many of whom are stupid, it's difficult to change "core" pictographs like that without creating herds of confused people, many of whom will need to be told many times what the new picture is. The current generation will grow up never knowing what that icon represents, other than "save this file"... And I don't really see much of a problem with that.

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