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Ask HN: Do you program in black or white?
16 points by Jakob on Jan 18, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments
I just switched from Eclipse to TextMate a month ago. With that change I also wanted to try out coloured text on black background.

Interestingly it’s a huge improvement for me. I seem to be much more focussed. It’s also really pleasing to look at code now.

Did you have similar experiences? In which colours do you program?

I started out with dark backgrounds because of vim + Linux. The default terminal was black. Now I use the dark background w/ color text for all my editors/IDEs.

I tried switching to the white background for a week, but it really hurt my eyes. I had to switch back after a few days.

Same experience here. I start having difficulty coding when the background is too bright, or even when the text is too bright on a black background (I had the text be a light gray for nearly a year, and I never really realized it wasn't white. Then when I looked at white on black code, it looked very bright and unpleasant to read.)

Really? I never had that problem. I started out using Notepad++'s default coloring (black on white). Then I switched to Vim and used a dark background. Switching between dark and light background has never been a problem for me.

Could you elaborate more on your situation? Did you always use a dark background? What are the conditions around where you code?

Light grey on black for me is still too hard to see. I prefer pure black and white. On the Windows Command Prompt, I set the default color to 0F instead of the default.

My concern is not so much with a dark/light scheme, but with color contrast.

Currently, I use Vim with a dark colorscheme ('desert') and I love it. My friend, Aaron, also uses a dark colorscheme.

However, my other friend, Brian C., has an affinity for light backgrounds. Whenever I show him code on any dark colorscheme, his first response is to make it white. Then again, that is his normal setup; that is what he always deals with.

I coded at first a few years ago with the normal Eclipse-type scheme, but then when I switched to Linux+Vim and later Linux+Emacs I've always used a black background with light gray text. I'm probably just not used to coding on light backgrounds, since I haven't done it in a long while - if I did it for a few hours, I'd probably adjust. I just haven't really had the need to do so.

Besides the "easy on the eyes" feel of a dark background, I also love (in Textmate) using a tinge of transparency (opacity at 96%). It's really handy when you're trying to reference things in other windows and aren't sure if you formatted it exactly right. I think with a white background that would really look bad and easily distract.

I used to think that green on black was the way to go because of that whole "ow, bright light, pain, my eyes!" thing, but it turns out that you can avoid the pain of bright screens and extend your battery life by just turning down the screen brightnesss. I keep mine as low as it goes while still having the backlight on. Though, in a well-lit room, it is possible to read black text on white with the backlight off as well, thus hyper-extending battery life.

I use light background. I feel like I have to. Any time I switch from light text to dark text it takes time for my eyes to adjust. So when I'm looking up documentation etc everything need to be the same. Even the bar at the top bothers me. SO I use the black on white.

I've been using dark/black backgrounds for literally years. The question that most interests me now is warm vs cool colors for syntax highlighting. Without realizing it, I had been using primarily warm tones for a long time. Then, I installed MacVim and started using the default dark bg theme, which uses cool tones... I kinda like it!

Interesting point. So perhaps the implicit suggestions is to randomise your backgrounds and colour schemes to improve productivity. Maybe if you told others that it was part of an experiment and the results were 'being monitored' it might work for a while. Otherwise I don't think so.

I cant stand light backgrounds, i prefer dark ones(but not black). This is the vim colorscheme im using:


I like it a lot!

There's a great VibrantInk port for vim around too.

I recently switched from a black & white scheme to a colored scheme. As of now I'm enjoying a black-greyish background with some nifty colors.

IMO, colored code makes the process much more fun. I'm not sure if it makes me more productive though, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Small screenshot: http://photos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v2102/219/106/34...

what editor is this?

Looks like Komodo Edit.

I don't like white or black backgrounds, though I prefer white to black in a typical windowed environment. If my editor has the full screen it doesn't matter, but I don't like menus and other windows being a lot brighter than the editor. It's either distracting, or it's a jarring readjustment every time I have to change windows.

If it weren't for syntax highlighting, I'd prefer slight color variations, with not much preference towards dark-on-light or light-on-dark. If I have a lighter background I usually prefer the text to be black. If I have a darker background I usually prefer the text to be slightly colored. In web terms, an example would be "99DD99" text on "303030" background, or "99DD99" background with black text.

I've got to put a vote in for white backgrounds. I find dark background terribly hard to read, especially with colored text. White backgrounds have a higher contrast with the text. I also turn the brightness down on my monitors, so I don't feel it's too blinding.

I also can't stand it if the syntax highlighting is too colorful. I like some coloring for reserved words, type names, comments, and string literals. Other than that black on white.

What I find more important that color schemes is having a nice font. If you're on Windows, and not using Consolas, you're missing out big time. Consolas is actually designed to look good with sub-pixel rendering. If you can't use Consolas, Bitstream Vera Sans Mono is a nice second.

I didn't realize it for quite some time, but what I actually use is:

  - dark means "brain: use vim keys" (:colo darkblue)
  - light means use arrow/CUA keys, a la most "normal" applications.
(ps, please add <ul>/<ol> formatting)

I actually program with a navy blue background in some languages and a white background in others. With ruby, python I have a blue background in vim and with xhtml, css, and javascript I use a white background.

I strongly prefer light on dark, but hated pretty much every emacs theme I found. A couple days ago, I ported a friend's "IR Black" vim theme to emacs. I'm still not entirely happy with it, but:


EDIT: Upon further investigation, I believe this color theme originated from http://blog.infinitered.com/entries/show/6 .

Strange - I've been using black (lately w syntax coloring) text/white background since I was first able to (early '80s - VT100 days) after using white on black for most of the 70's.

I like a white background. The color schemes for black backgrounds always seem to be off for one color or another.

#222 for background, something like #eee for common text, and light pale colors for vars/stings/etc. I found that #fff text on #000 bg hurts even more than plain black-on-white.

Also, overhighlighting kills my ability to focus - I use at max. 4 colors

i had a vt510 connected to an openbsd machine in my bedroom about 10 years ago and did most of my unix work with it. since it can't display colors, i setup mutt, vim, tin, epic, etc. to only use bold/underline/reverse attributes for highlighting instead of different colors.

10 years later and i'm now using openbsd on a laptop and typing in an xterm instead of a vt510, but i still only use bold/underline/reverse in all of those terminal apps. however, i did switch from grey text on a black background on the vt510 to black text on a white background in xterm, but that's probably just because it's the default on openbsd.

Terminal I go dark - Textmate I go light.

Maybe I should switch to dark - it is a bit nicer on the eyes I think.

Edit: Switched over Textmate to a dark theme, and I am glad for the reminder. I don't know why on this new machine I didn't have it set that way!

I started using the Railscast TextMate theme a few months ago and have been quite satisfied - it's got a dark grey-ish brown background. http://railscasts.com/about

I use black or syntax coloring on gray or ivory background. My eyes are old and the contrast with colors on black is too low for me to read easily. I prefer the off white background because pure white is too bright.

It depends on the language I am programming in.

Java - white (Eclipse)

Python - Black (gedit)

Lisp - White (emacs)

Ruby - White (TextEdit)

C/C++ - Black (gedit)

I have noticed that certain text editors have dark themes I like, whereas other dark themes just hurt my eyes. I have no true preference, only what I am used to.

I use the ZenBurn colors. http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000682.html

Very easy to read. And not boring.

Black background, light-coloured text, not too much Angry Fruit Salad, very small fonts to fit as much as possible on the screen.

Easier on the eyes, plus it happens to be what I'm used to.

Black Background, White Text.

If I SSH into a remote machine, I'm still in my normal environment. Another reason I use VIM as well. If I need to get fancy, I can SCP my .vimrc in as well.

I use Visual Studio with the Vibrant Ink color scheme from TextMate, and I've had the same experience. I find it surprisingly pleasant.

Dark on light, always. Specifically, I use #0d2a3a as my background; a nice dark blue I find a bit more pleasing than just black.

On Eclipse and Xcode it's black text (or colored for keywords) on white background. I haven't programmed on a black background since the early 90s on the Apple II.

I remember making the switch, at first I was shocked. By now, I'm completely used to it.

http://fairsoftware.net : where geeks are their own boss

Black background, green text. I've never managed to move past the televideo terminal!

I prefer black on grey for editor windows and gray on black for terminal windows.

Been using Cobalt theme in Textmate (dark blue) for years myself.

:colorscheme desert

I program in shades of gray.

green on black

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