Skip to content

Theme articles

Humane theme for TextMate and Xcode  

My Humane theme for Visual Studio is getting a fair bit of traffic today courtesy of Scott Hanselman. Given I have been messing with Mac development lately I thought it was worth porting to TextMate and Xcode 3.

Panic Sans coding font

My Envy Code R programming font isn’t great on the Mac yet so I have configured these to use the excellent but overlooked Panic Sans in 12 point which unlike Monaco is available in bold, italic and bold italic variants. (I love my comments to be italics)

To install this font you must:

  1. Download Panic Software’s Coda application
  2. Navigate to the Coda application and choose Show Package Contents
  3. Navigate to the Contents/Resources folder
  4. Double click on the Panic Sans.dfont and press Install Font
  5. Panic Sans is now available to other applications too


Screenshot of the Humane Theme and Panic Sans 12 point inside TextMate

Download Humane theme for TextMate (5 KB)

Launching the downloaded .tmTheme file will cause it to copy to ~/Library/Application Support/TextMate/Themes
Select Humane from the Preferences > Fonts & Colors pane in the drop-down list box

Xcode 3

Screenshot of the Humane Theme and Panic Sans 12 point inside Xcode 3

Download Humane theme for Xcode (4 KB)

  1. Copy to ~/Library/Application Support/Xcode/Color Themes
  2. Select Humane from the Preferences > Fonts & Colors pane in the drop-down list box

Porting themes

Until somebody comes up with an IDE-independent theme format or cool converter we’ll have to do it by hand. The easiest way I have found is:

  1. Install Hex Color Picker on the Mac to allow entering hex into the standard color picker
  2. Open the Visual Studio theme .vssettings file in a text editor
  3. Open up the Fonts & Colors preferences pane up in your Mac IDE
  4. Go through each one and choose the nearest match in the .vssettings
  5. Transcribe each color by reading the VS colour pairs backward, e.g. 00631409 becomes #091463


Colour schemes for Visual Studio  

The default syntax colour/color scheme in Visual Studio seems to be stuck in the 16-colour era so once you’ve found your perfect font you are going to need a great theme to go with it.

Here is the theme I’m currently using at home (currently on a 42″ 1900×1200 LCD TV until I can find space for my monitor) that a couple of people have asked for.

To to take full advantage of this theme you will need to download:

  • Envy Code R for the syntax font with the italics hack
  • PalmOS for the output window’s tiny text

Alternatively you could remap it to your coding font of choice (but you won’t get italics because of limitations within the Visual Studio IDE).

Screen shot of Envy Code R PR7 with HumaneStudio theme.

If this scheme doesn’t appeal to you then why not try:


Visual Styles and themes in Windows XP  

What are Visual Styles?

One of the less-touted features of Windows XP is it’s ability to theme the user interface. Not to be confused with Windows 98 Plus pack’s themes, this support includes ‘Visual Styles’ which allows the actual appearance of the windows, buttons and various controls to take on a whole new look providing the application has been marked as being compatible with themes using a manifest (most recent applications have).

Quick history (optional read)

This concept is not a new idea having been seen in everything from Amiga OS (MUI) to Linux (Gnome and KDE) but it’s a good addition. WindowBlinds has been letting users do this for years on everything from Windows 98 to XP/2003 and Kaleidoscope before that on the original Mac OS (Apple also had some lovely themes in MacOS 8 Copland but pulled them before release). Max OS X users get similar functionality with ShapeShifter and some wonderful themes.

How do I use them?

You can choose which Visual Style to use from the Display Properties dialog, on the Appearance tab under the option “Windows and Buttons” however Windows XP ships with just two looks shown here. The first is “Windows XP Style” which is known as Luna, the other is “Windows Classic Style” which isn’t actually a VisualStyle…

Dialog showing Windows XP Luna theme Dialog showing Windows Classic theme

Microsoft decided during development that Windows XP would only allow you to choose themes that had been digitally signed by themselves. To date they have only shipped one other theme “Media Center Style” (known as Royale) that is actually part of Windows Media Center Edition but works happily in XP/2003 and provides a slightly glossier look than Luna:

Dialog showing Royale theme Dialog showing Watercolor theme

So how do I get unsigned Visual Styles working?

Help is at hand with a number of tools to let you use unsigned themes. Free and simple to use is UXTheme which modifies Windows itself to remove this restriction leaving you to just dump the various theme directories and their contents into C:\WINDOWS\Resources\Themes.

If you’d rather not fiddle with Windows you could also check out TGTSoft’s StyleXP or StarDock‘s WindowBlinds which come with their own user interface. WindowBlind’s can also theme many applications and areas that Microsoft’s built-in support can not handle.

Where do I get more VisualStyles?

There are a number of sites providing Visual Styles but my favourites are ThemeXP.Org and Neowin.Net the latter hosting my favourite theme, Watercolor 4.3. The look is based on beta releases of Windows XP (code-named Whistler).

Why Microsoft decided not to ship it in the box I can’t understand, it’s elegant and good on the eyes… It’s my theme on all my non-server Windows boxes.