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While the basic scenarios are white on black and black on white, most programmers find more varied syntax highlighting useful.

What advantages do you find from a general setup? (E.g. "a dark background allows...")

What specific tweaks do you find most helpful? (E.g. "slightly off-white works to...", or "highlighting quote marks and escapes, like \n, differently shows...")

One answer per person, please; list multiple points as part of your one response, if needed.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, MichaelT, GlenH7, Kilian Foth, thorsten müller Sep 30 '13 at 12:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Related: What colour scheme do you use in your IDE? – Roger Pate Sep 25 '10 at 3:00

Either way though, I personally find that a white screen with dark text is too bright and hard on the eyes for long coding sessions. The black is much less intrusive on my eyes.

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Hmm, I looked for [color] and they don't share any tags (didn't search for "IDE"), but thanks for pointing it out regardless. I have more emphasis on reasons and specific tweaks than the other, though. – Roger Pate Sep 25 '10 at 2:26
Please, consider to add a comment on question post to appoint some problem. – bigown Sep 25 '10 at 2:48

Lately, I've been getting rid of blue and purple in favor of brown and orange. I find less eyestrain with them, at least for me. I've always toned down the contrast. For quite a while, I used to set all the white backgrounds to a very pale yellow. Now, I'm also focusing using more warmer colors and fewer of the cool colors. In general, I find little difference between dark on light or vice versa... contrast and general color temperature seems to be more important than which way around.

Even if you don't use the tool, the theories behind f.lux are interesting.

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Hadn't heard of f.lux before, but I installed it just now. – Roger Pate Sep 25 '10 at 5:35
Me neither, but I'm going to try it out for a few days. ^^ – gablin Sep 25 '10 at 9:06
Same for me, just downloaded and installed f.lux -- the 24 hour preview is pretty neat – tcrosley Sep 25 '10 at 23:03
I had to uninstall f.lux because it was making me nauseous every evening when it decided that the sun has set and suddenly changed the color temperature...I felt like I was passing out during that few seconds. – Marek Nov 8 '10 at 15:22

I find highlighting escape sequences useful.

In particular for Python, raw strings have different escaping:

vim screenshot using xoria256

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I think it totally depends upon your eyes; what's good to one person can be unreadable to the next.

I like white background with dark letters. I also tend to turn down screen brightness to keep the glare down. And I've used f.lux in the past (mentioned by Jim Leonardo) and that helps a lot.

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I find white text on black background most pleasing for my eyes as it feels less straining than black text on white background. And any colour on black is usually not a problem unless you're choosing very dark colours. Then again, a bright yellow on white background is absolutely unreadable.

When it comes to colours for syntax highlighting, I think pretty much any colour combination will do as long it distinctly separates things such as keywords, variables, comments, etc. (Even better, keywords could be set in bold to further separate them.)

But, I find it very important to have a very distinct colouring on comments to allow me to quickly separate comments and code. I want to be able to ignore comments when reading code, and ignore code when reading comments.

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Is it surprising that yellow on white isn't readable? :) – Roger Pate Sep 25 '10 at 9:11
@Roger Pate: No. What is surprising that some people still use it on websites and lecture slides... – gablin Sep 25 '10 at 10:10

Dark text (#1d1d1d) on light background (#f5f5f5) all the way.

  • High contrast, while not too bright
  • Allows to turn the screen luminosity way down in a low light environment
  • Readable even on glossy screens with lots of ambient light
  • The text somehow just stands out better, it's easier to maintain visual context when scrolling
  • More readable at small font sizes
  • Makes color adjusting programs pleasant to use rather than annoying
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