I’m writing this article at night to a dim background light. Aside from a soft noise of a heating unit it’s quite in the room. Everyone has gone to sleep hours ago.
The saying is that the night belongs to the poets and madmen, and while I’m not sure how exactly that is true, I do know that it’s a time that is uniquely suited for focusing the mind as there are few distractions. It’s the time for getting stuff done. And there are a lot of neat tools to help doing just that. Getting any development work or writing done in low light environments requires well designed dark software. You can’t just stare at a white monitor for long while sitting in a dark room. It’s like looking at a bright light bulb.
Dark software is not just about saving my eyes though. It adds to that sensation of aloneness and focus when working at night. When I look at my code in sublime editor, I’m sometimes reminded of a city night scape. Skyscrapers dotted with colored lights that look peaceful on the outside, but in which you know something important is probably happening on the inside. So there there is a calming effect compared to pure white backgrounds, which have a more activating effect. Also, I’m pretty sure there is a measurable effect on every monitor between a light and a dark program.
So here is a list of dark software that I use, or have really enjoyed using in the past.
The industry standard for game development. You can tell that the theme has been designed for late night workers. Or at least that is how I’ve enjoyed using 3dsmaxini the past. I still remember nights of cramming some last minute modelling work for school, while listening to some audiobook or another. Modelling often doesn’t require that much focus.
The open source, free, minimalistic competitor of 3dsmax. Blender has few things in common with Max, apart from being a 3d modelling suite. The way you control it is so different, since everything is accessed by shortcuts on the keyboard. An obvious similarity is the nice dark theme. Blender’s theme is slightly lighter then Max, but it’s also a bit more… well, bland. I would have liked to see more color accents here and there. On the upside, the menu styles are better integrated within the theme.
There’s been a lot to like about this theme, even back when audition was still Cool Edit Pro, before Adobe took it over. Nowadays some things look better while other things look… different. But overall it’s a nice dark theme.
Just like seems to be the case with 3dmodelling suites, many audio editing software feature the dark themes. Fruityloops has been around for ages, and even back in the day it had a nice dark theme. I’ve not used it for a long time, but things seem to have even more.
The last version of Aftereffects I worked with a lot was 6.5. That was before the new dark theme. Shame, cause the new one is much nicer on the eyes.
Most software that we use for text editing has a bright theme, and when you think of how they are used, it’s usually for office hours type of work. Writing, making tables, sending e-mails. That sort of stuff. Q10 was designed solely for the purpose of distraction free writing of novels. It doesn’t try to give you as many tools as possible. It tries to get you in to a state of flow by removing all unnecessary distractions.
I really like q10 theme. At default, it’s got the darkest theme out of all of these mentioned here. Stark black background. Glowing orange characters. And it also comes with this awesome typewriter click that plays with each key you strike.
Ah sublime. This most excellent text editor comes with a couple of good themes. But it’s the standard Monokai theme that I find to be the best one of all. The vibrant colors have a perfect balance between the brightness and saturation. And tags are strikingly vivid and saturated.
If there’s one program that has a lot of custom themes it’s Winamp. But Winamp has had a beautiful dark theme bundled with it by default from version 5 and higher. Bento is quite dark with lots of contrast.
Sometimes a bit bright for my taste, especially the header. But overall a decent dark theme as far as musicplayers go. There’s none of the costomisibility there that winamp has. Also, doesn’t the layout kind of look as if it were made by a web designer, rathern then a software designer? There is lots of white-space, tabs in the navigation, TINY fonts, plenty round borders and popup banners ( if you have the free version ). Really, it’s just missing the mandatory dropshadows. Oh, no wait, it has those too. Hmmm.
For us Sigma SD14 owners, the Sigma Photo Pro image editing software is often the weapon of choice. It does a decent job at visually presenting the available features. The theme drops the ball when it switches to the images overview. Adobes lightroom does a much better job at staying consistent. As far the featureset goes, lightroom is lightyears beyond SPP.