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I see a lot of programmers (and, generally, tech people) using the old "Classic theme" in Windows instead of Aero (or Luna in Windows XP) for reasons like "it is faster" or "I don't want eye-candy".

However, most non-programmer users will have the default theme enabled, so these programmers will work (and, possibly, design and debug its application) in a non-standard environment (unless they are targeting Windows Server).

For example, a programmer that never uses Aero, may not even know that hovering a button gives it a "halo" effect.

So, should programmers try to have their workstation configuration as closest as possible to the real world, or should they rely on something/someone else (test team, UI design team, etc.) for this "real world integration"? And what if the programmer is working as a one-man-team (being designer, coder and tester)?

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Down voting without explaining the reason is not useful at all for this site and this community. –  Lorenzo Sep 3 '10 at 15:42
@Lorenzo. The answer is, "Set up test environment and fix until it looks well there". Is it not?? –  Pavel Shved Sep 3 '10 at 15:49
I think you're nearly there. Pretty much make your third paragraph the question. Rather than focusing just on Windows themes, ask about the general concept of whether development environment customization negatively impacts product quality. "A programmer should use the default environment?" is probably a pretty good question. I mean, I think the answer it "no," but it's still worthy of discussion. –  Fishtoaster Sep 3 '10 at 16:11
I think it's a valid question to discuss. It doesn't seem there is a unique exact answer to this. Fishtoaster says the answer is no, while Lorenzo says yes, but without being obessive; somebody else will probably say yes, or no, but with some exceptions. –  kiamlaluno Sep 5 '10 at 1:04
Be too obvious is a criteria to down vote? A lot of things here is too obvious, at least to me. Other things are not too obvious to me but they are too obvious to other users. A question "too obvious" that generate a lot of discussion. –  bigown Sep 14 '10 at 1:33

5 Answers 5

As a developer, it doesn't matter which one you use on your own time. If you are making a application with a GUI, especially one that uses custom components, you should test your application in both just to make sure that it looks acceptable.

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My question is more subtle: a programmer that don't uses the default theme will not be acknowledged at it, and might not consider a lot of important things when developing for the rest of the world, that uses the default eye-candy theme. This could be generalized to other things, not only to theme. For example, default web browser, default DPI and so on... –  Lorenzo Sep 3 '10 at 15:44
The same thing applies to all of those. It doesn't matter what you as a developer use as long as you and/or your testing team covers the environments that your software supports. If your software doesn't work in a particular browser or resolution (or you aren't sure), either don't include it in the list of supported browsers or resolutions or state that your system hasn't been tested under those conditions. –  Thomas Owens Sep 3 '10 at 15:53
I agree, but there's one caveat: I spent half of my working life in a small company being the designer, the coder, and the tester of my software (one man projects, even of medium size)... so I know that a programmer can't always rely on test team. –  Lorenzo Sep 3 '10 at 15:59
+1 Unless targeting a closed environment, any UI should be tested with multiple themes active: Classic Windows, Windows XP [including Luna, Silver, Olive, Zune (Black)], and Aero (with different colours, and with/without transparency). –  Bevan Oct 2 '10 at 0:26

Personally when working in an environment if there is a default, controlled environment that developers primary testing machine at minimum should be setup the same way. There might be reasons that a developer would want to hold off on Aero due to limited resources on their machine or something similar.

However, if the developer is using a non-standard configuration it is important to note that they MUST have a test environment setup for them to validate based on the "standard" environment.

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Responding to the title, rather than to the question: no, never.

Default environments are the ones most prone to security flaws and attacks.

But back to the question, it's as Thomas said: for personal use, how you configure your computer it's your taste. For testing and debugging, try it on both and every other different setting you can find.

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I agree with this position. I don't think it is particularly helpful to develop in a different "type" of environment. You are just asking to introduce an environmental bug. Each project should be worked on in the context of a vanilla environment for both dev and test that matches the default user environment on which you will go to beta/production. –  Anonymous Type Nov 18 '10 at 21:40
@anonymous: what? you seem to express the opposite position! :P what's really weirder is that I agree with you that regardless of being default or not, both dev and test envs should be the same. :D –  Cawas Nov 18 '10 at 23:09
Ok I re-read my comment and can see how it was confusing/misleading. However I was trying to agree with you. And yes I agree that dev + test should be the same. –  Anonymous Type Nov 19 '10 at 0:56

I'm not going to generalize and say "A programmer should do this". But, I'm a win32 programmer and I use Linux for my Main OS, I've got 3 VM's, and soon will have 4 .

  1. WinXP-Dev (has Delphi 7, no themes)
  2. WinXP-Test (has themes)
  3. Win7-Dev (has Delphi 2009 *)

For Windows, what I think is most important is that you leave the security settings at normal power user level, especially if you have your own PC. I use runas /env /user:administrator cmd to execute stuff like I'm sudo'ing with linux.

*the one really annoying thing about this setup is that Aero doesn't seem to work with VirtualBox, I've heard there is a way to make it work, but I'm not going to let that dictate where I code.

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Very good point about using Power User to develop rather than administrator. Have an extra account available if you need to elevate devenv.exe –  Anonymous Type Nov 18 '10 at 21:38

It could also be argued that using a nonstandard theme would make sure that the applications he writes respect transitions between themes properly, and depending on developers using "standard" configurations can hurt portability. Ultimately, I think that it's good to be aware that power user configurations look and behave differently from most other machines, but the greater productivity people get by configuring their own tools is more valuable than catching bugs or aesthetic issues by accident.

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