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Undo the VS 2012 black/white layout to blue VS 2010 style

posted on Friday, April 25, 2014

Microsoft has been working hard on the latest Visual Studio releases, with more and more features that make life a lot easier for developers.

Unfortunately, if you're like me, you will probably continue to wind up in situations where you have to use older versions of our beloved IDE. In the case of this project, I'm stuck with VS 2012 SP 1 and if there was one thing about VS 2012 I hated and really absolutely hated, it was the black/white layout.... .

BTW if you are interested in the features that were new in 2012, check out this link:
Troy Hunt also  posted an illustrated list of some of the new features that's definitely worth checking out: (if you're not into reading).

But back to the point... See, the lovely people at Microsoft had the best intentions when they decided they wanted to give our good old UI a make-over and give it a Windows 8 look. "Oh, that's nice! You shouldn't have!" but it this case... you really shouldn't have.

This change has been getting a whole lot of hate online and quite frankly I can't disagree...

If you're one of those people who get 8+ hours of sleep at night then it's great, really pretty! If you're one of the real developers out there who barely get through the day without wanting to pass out on your keyboard then this lay-out is flat out annoying. Familiar icons have suddenly changed and the top menu font has been capitalized which is distracting. It's harder to distinguish buttons and the default theme colors make the entire thing incredible tiring for your eyes. On top of that, you only have two choices for the theme: light and dark. Yes, you can interpret that as white text on a black background or black text on a white background. 

It actually anoyed me so much I figured I had too find a solution...

So this is what my VS2012 looks like, the icons are still there (keep reading to learn how to get rid of those) but I've got a VS2010 theme going on and no more capitals in sight!

Now first of all: major credit for this post goes to the people at Computer Beacon for posting the following:

They had the original post about fixing the lay-out. Unfortunately they were not able to provide the custom VS2010 theme they talk about but they did help me fix one that I'm obviously willing to share with you!

So here goes:

The magical extension
The first thing you need is the Visual Studio 2012 Color Theme Editor. This Visual Studio extension was created by Matthew Johnson and it fixes about half of the problem: it gives you color! It comes with seven prebuilt themes AND an editor so you can customize these as you like. The best part? The Blue theme is very similar to the Visual Studio 2010 theme!!!

Get the extension:

The magical theme
So what I did is customize the extensions Blue theme to make it look even more similar to Visual Studio 2010. Using the extensions export options, I exported this for you to import ;)

Download it here:

The magical kill-capitals-in-my-menu fix
You'll need to add a registry key to fix this but it's really simple!

Open regedit and go to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\General, add a DWord here with the name "SuppressUppercaseConversion" and a value of 1. You might want to close Visual Studio for this.

The not-so-clean-fix for the icons
I really loved the original post from Computer Beacon but I chose not to fix the icons using the solution they suggested. As they mention themselves there's no guarantee that changing the icons is all the DLL replacing will do and quite frankly I don't like the idea of manipulating the IDE in this way.

If you do want to give this a shot (at your own risk): see, step 3 & 4.

So, if all went well, you should know be looking at a familiar looking IDE with all new specs!

And then your colleague walks by and tells you that Microsoft caved and fixed the entire theme dispute in Service Pack 2 (among other upgraded issues) where the blue theme is available again by default... . Great, so far for my research.

Anyways, I know you might not be using Visual Studio 2012 anymore or you might still be stuck in an earlier versions. But if you don't like the lay-out or you want to get freaky and give Visual Studio a make-over of your own, then at least now you know how to do it.

PS: some more info on VS 2012 service pack 2:

Could be useful :)

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