Coders' 'lives sucked out' by black-and-white Visual Studio 11

Beta testers feel trapped in 1920s Metro movie madness


Windows software developers have given a thumbs down to the black-and-white Metro-style Visual Studio 2011 and sent Microsoft back to the drawing board - preferably one with coloured pencils.

More than 4,000 Visual Studio users have so-far voted on Microsoft’s UserVoice poll to say the code development suite's black-and-white icons are offensive and they don’t work. The poll, used by Redmond to gather feedback on the beta release, was flagged up by Reg regular Tim Anderson.

The user interface changes have been branded hideous, a monstrosity, dismal and depressing, and respondents have demanded a complete return to colour. Criticisms go beyond purely aesthetic concerns; punters fear they'll have to learn how to use the new version from scratch because it's so dissimilar to past editions.

It’s by far the biggest single request on the survey; the second, on 913 votes, is to remove the blanket use of capital letters in the toolbox titles.

The Visual Studio 2011 beta has dumped colour in toolbox icons and programming language reference tool IntelliSense for black on a light grey background and white on dark grey background.

The Visual Studio fan leading the call for a design U-turn kicked things off with:

Usability studies have shown that both shape and color help to distinguish visual elements in a UI. The upcoming/current beta release of Visual Studio 2011 has removed color from the toolbars and from icons in e.g. the Solution Explorer.

“Please make this optional so those of us that want a more accessible and user friendly IDE can have their cake and eat it too.

Others soon piled in. Michael Barb wrote of the icons while casting his vote: “Not only are they ****** to recognize but they require an extensive learning curve.”

This risks slowing down devs, which hurts productivity and output. Amplifying this point, an anonymous programmer wrote: "Going from 2010 to VS 11 Beta, it just hurts my eyes. Everything looks the same and I have to spend more mental effort organizing where things were on the screen.

"I don't mind a 'dark' or 'light' themed UI, but I'm strongly against the 'black white and gray on gray' scheme you have going right now. Seriously, I feel like I'm stuck in some 1920s film where all the color was sucked out of my life."

Another calling himself just Geoff chipped in that Microsoft is following Apple and Google off a cliff with the “color vampire nonsense” of Mac OS X. “I didn’t expect the VS team to do so as well,” he wrote.

“Color and contrast are good. No reason to go hotdog stand with the color schemes, but at this rate we're all going to be back in monochrome by 2013. Stop the madness!"

Visual Studio user Daniel Smith called for nothing less than a complete reinstatement of colour and no "half-assed roll back" of washed out colour over black and white icons.

“What I want (and I suspect a significant majority of people here want) is nothing less than a complete, pixel for pixel, restoration of the VS 2010 UI, including the useless line reduction changes,” Smith wrote.

Let's see if Microsoft is listening. ®


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