Changing the color schemes of your development tools

The tools I use the most as a developer include the command prompt, notepad, Visual Studio, and Total Commander. The trouble is, I don’t really like the default colors they come with. However, some of them can be customized with different color schemes. Some very popular color schemes are Solarized and OneHalf, both having a light and a dark version. In this article, I will show how to enable Solarized for them.

Command Prompt

You can change the command prompt colors from its properties and somebody designed a tool that can do that automatically. It’s called colortool, it’s open-source and is available on GitHub. The tool allows you to change the color scheme of either the current window, the default one, or both.

To change the color scheme to Solarized (dark) you have to do the following:

  • download the tool and upzip it on a local folder
  • execute the following command to change both the default and current command prompt color scheme:

  • Open the properties window of the command prompt and press OK. This is necessary for the settings to be enabled.

After you enable the scheme, this is how the window will look.

You can read more about this here: How to Customize Your Command Prompt’s Color Scheme With Microsoft’s ColorTool.


You cannot really change Notepad’s color scheme but you can replace it with a better alternative, such as Notepad++. Notepad++ is a free editor with lots of features including syntax highlighting for a variety of programming languages, auto-completion, multiple documents, and lots of GUI customizations including the posibility to change the colors.

To do so, you have to go to Settings > Style Configurator and select a theme. There is a list of predefined themes, including Solarized, and you can add more.

After you do that the color scheme will be changed accordingly.

You can associate any file extensions you want with Notepad++ from Settings > Preferences.

However, you can also replace Notepad entirely with Notepad++. You can add a registry key that will have the effect that Notepad++ is started whenever Notepad should shart. To do so you must:

  • Open the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths. If the key does not exist, create it.
  • Create a subkey named notepad.exe (unless it already exists).
  • Set the value of the (default) name to the path of the Notepad++ executable, such as C:\Program Files (x86)\Notepad++\notepad++.exe.

You can read more about this here: Replace Notepad With Notepad++ or Any Other Text Editor of Your Choice.

Visual Studio

Visual Studio comes with three color schemes, light, dark and blue. However, you can create your own and a Visual Studio extension called Color Themes for Visual Studio provides more and the ability to import others. It’s availabe for Visual Studio 2015 and 2017 and can be downloaded and installed from the Visual Studio Marketplace.

Once installed, you can select any of the available themes or import more.

Changing the theme will change the color scheme for all the visual elements of the environment.

If you are doing C++ development, the Solarized theme does not work well. The default colors can make large parts of the code unreadable.

You could perhaps prefer the light solarized theme, or actually edit the culprit colors in the dark scheme. Or use an entirely different scheme that works properly across different programming languages.

1 Reply to “Changing the color schemes of your development tools”

  1. Salut Marius, cred ca ar merita un articol despre unde si cand trebuiesc aruncate exceptiile cand lucrezi cu diferite clase, am observat ca foarte multa lume are lacune in privinta asta (inclusiv eu, recunosc), pe net sunt informatii doar generice, foarte putine lucruri concrete.

    Sa iti dau un exemplu concret.

    Am o functie “verify_database” intr-o clasa Database care apeleaza functia “verify_file” din clasa File care apeleaza la randul ei functia “decrypt_file” din clasa Crypto.
    Unde e corect sa arunc exceptiile, fiecare clasa trebuie sa-si arunce exceptia ei? Unde e corect sa le prind?

    Mersi anticipat

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