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Nowadays, almost everybody is using a dark color scheme in their code editor - dark background with light text. Even most web based editors (e.g on Github) feature dark color schemes.

I honestly don't see the benefits. The human eye is much better at reading dark text on a bright background. Also, black on white color schemes work much better when you're in a brightly lit environment.

I'm currently sitting in an office with the sun shining through the window. I can read the text in my editor (gVim with dark text on white background) just fine, but on the linux console it's much harder. Editing text in console vim is almost impossible for me.

The whole thing seems a bit like a strange hype to me, started by the default settings in certain IDEs/editors. But maybe I'm just weird.. ;)

Anyway, so why is everybody using these?

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closed as off-topic by gnat, Blrfl, thorsten müller, maple_shaft Feb 24 at 12:06

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I found it incredibly strange at first too, but as others have posted as answers, it reduces eye strain when sitting at the monitor for extended periods. I wouldn't be without a dark scheme now. –  jmo21 Feb 24 at 11:35
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Besides being primarily opinion based (which I think can be edited out), I chose to put this on hold because text based editors and features of them transcend the realm of software development and software developers and are not even mostly an exclusive concern of software developers. –  maple_shaft Feb 24 at 12:06
    
might be suitable for ux.stackexchange.com (you can flag to request migration) –  jk. Feb 24 at 12:37
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At least with web sites that use white text on black backgrounds, I get after-images only minutes after reading. I just can't do it. (Whereas I'm fine with black text on white background). –  Chelonian Feb 24 at 14:36
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The current trend isn't so much light on dark or dark on light rather then a trend of going towards lower contrast color schemes. Just look at programmers, it also has a low-contrast color scheme with no real white and no real black. –  Pieter B Feb 24 at 15:10

5 Answers 5

I feel it greatly eases the stress on my eyes after long hours of coding. 99% white screen on a bright monitor is asking for a headache.

I also find this very funny, as in web design class in college we were told "NEVER DO THAT" to a webpage ... yet most developers using computers for a long time use it.

Are we designing websites to not be used for long periods of time?

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Are your primarily coding at night or in day time? That has an effect on the whole bright screen problem. Bright screens are not a problem in daytime. –  CMCDragonkai Dec 8 at 6:27

I firmly believe that it's more good for the eyes. When I sit in front of a monitor for 12 hours constant stream of light(white screen) is really tiring while the dark color is not so intense.

Let me describe more of my setup. At home I use dual screen setup with dark themes and a lamp because I find my sensitive eyes work best when background is lit. Meanwhile at work I am in a bright place all day long so only dark theme is enough.

I have tried different themes and setups because of sensitive eyes and this information may be personal.

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I think its mostly a personal preference, very few people do extensive studies on their editor colorscheme.

Over the last decades I found people justifying it with one or more of the following reasons (among which some were used for black on white too)

  • They come from DOS or similar times, and it was like that always.
  • When they started coding, there was a sense of "coolness" to use dark background.
  • They often code in late hours, with the room rather dark. It reduces the contrast a little bit, and the eyes feel better.
  • They say it feels like that it reduces strain on the eyes for their experience.
  • It was the default for their editor (e.g. vim) or terminal, and they just got used to it.
  • They feel like their eyes are more sensitive to colors, presumably due to not being used so much (e.g. rhodopsin etc. being available in larger quantities).
  • It allows them to use much lighter pastel colors in their colorschemes that would be much harder to read on white background.
  • Semitransparent windows (or fake transparency with a background image) are claimed to look nicer with dark background.

That said, my personal reason is that I feel my eyes less strained in dark environments, and I also like the color scheme more. I have also set photoshop to dark menu base and find that working in as few light as possible makes my perception of colors there better. And of course it makes me feel sometimes a bit like in the good old 80s, especially when I set my terminal color to that nice glowing green on black...

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It depends also to developer working attitude. I spent a lot of my time in a room with a bad light condition and, in particular at late time, on dark room so, a white window is really noxious.

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I honestly don't see the benefits. The human eye is much better at reading dark text on a bright background. Also, black on white color schemes work much better when you're in a brightly lit environment.

While the human eye is better at reading dark text on light background, that configuration is also more stressful on the eye. When you are looking into a monitor for hours every day, this causes stress for the eyes (especially in poorly-lit conditions).

In my case, I adapt the theme on the rest of my environment:

  • at home in the evening, I keep my room light off, use dark backgrounds and reduce my monitor's contrast in the evening.

  • at work, I use dark backgrounds in the morning (relaxing on the eyes), and light backgrounds after lunch (on sunny days, I can see the sun through the window, looking over my monitor).

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