Jelly Beans

Created a custom theme for source code in my Visual Studio IDE

10 September 2010 | 17:23 | Galina Slavova

Half a year ago I worked with a development team where almost every one of my colleagues was using a custom theme for Microsoft Visual Studio, downloaded from Studio Styles. In the beginning I was rather resistant to this “new” hype on the look-and-feel for source code and decided to ignore it. What those themes looked like most of the time was a rich colour palette taken right from the flowery pattern of an Aloha shirt and put on very dark, almost black backgrounds. Almost every guy was using a different palette on his machine - utterly distracting for the mind to gather up and concentrate on writing code.

I thought so.

But a couple of months later I suddenly saw my very boyfriend using a custom dark theme… The contagion had reached home!

I guess that it is important from whom you are willing to feed on new ideas… To give it a try I imported into my IDE a “good looking” theme by the name of “Sex Panther” (don't figure the namegiving, but the colours were good) and tried to work with it. Almost unconsciously I started to change the colors for some C# keywords and slowly, but surely new complimentary colors started to take over in all other useful editors: ASP .NET, HTML, CSS, XML, XAML, Transact SQL.

I ended up with a complete new theme with a name that was urging to be pronounced: “Jelly Beans” ! I haven't shared my theme on the website. Yet. But I'm very responsive if someone asks me. :-)

So, here is a sample of jelly colours I chose to decorate the syntax of the C# language:

They are fun, aren't they? They seem to blend together... Except for the deep red colour. Why would I put it in this group?

Ok, here is another knitting of it. Hugely zoomed out it looks like a diagram of a heart beat. The heart beat of a program.

For the ones who are wondering what programming language could possibly use such long words in English, the answer is: XAML. XAML is an XML based descriptive language used as code-infront in Microsoft Silverlight, WPF and Workflow 4. Yes, I know. It is verbose as the radio.


Anyway, long story short: I very easily saw for myself the good reasons to use dark theming with vivid colours.

  • It is relaxed for the eyes after long hours of writing and reading code
  • Just by standing a couple of meters form someone’s code screen, I can see the particular writing style of this person
  • It became more of a body language - an expression of a person's taste
  • I can put special mnemonics in each keyword colour

While styling “Jelly Beans” an idea occurred to me! As my tolerance for hard-coded strings in code is close to nothing I chose for an “outsider” color which doesn't exactly fit into this theme palette. Crimson red.

If you feel like commenting, asking or sharing with me, please send an email. I'll be happy!

  • Studio Styles
  • IDE
  • themes
  • Visual Studio