Should All Windows in NetBeans Have Configurable Colors?

In the IDE, a cool feature is that you can change the Font & Color profile to "Norway Today" (shown below) or "City Lights", both of which result in your code editor having a dark background with fonts rendered in different colors to the standard black:

However, as NetBeans user Paul Cinnamond writes in an e-mail I received yesterday: "Put yourself in the shoes of someone that changed the editor background color and then realized they need to change the other window colors in order to make NetBeans usable.  As a user, I would hope there is at least a way to set a default background and foreground color for all windows.  Something similar to the default colors in the editor window."

In the related issue, which is this one:

...the reporter writes: "People who prefer light-on-dark text (to lower eye-strain) cannot customize the IDE to their liking. At a minimum, one should be able to change the background/foreground colors of all main windows in the system."

What do you think, whoever you are, reading this? I believe this issue relates to accessibility, people with low vision or eye strain appear to prefer lower colors throughout their IDE experience. Your feedback here or in the issue is welcome.



my opinion is that it is not essential to turn netbeans from default "light" to dark look. Even if you achive this, you use other programs (web browser, email client, ...) on your desktop and this programs you should turn to dark look as well. moreover when the netbeans IDE change version, your dark look can be damaged by new configuration. Therefore I use the Netbeans IDE and all other Desktop programs in default light colors. Further, I have Linux desktop with Compiz. When you use negative plugin ( you can quickly change the whole desktop from default light colors to dark colors. If you do not use Compiz on X11, you can achieve the same effect with xcalib util ( Windows users can achive negative effect via (

The only "negative" is than you have inverted colors in the dark look (i.e. red is blue, ...). But the positive is that you have quickly changed the color on your whole desktop to dark look, without changing any config file of any application.

Posted by guest on February 28, 2012 at 04:32 AM PST #

Do not change default nebeans colors.

Use this instead:

or xcalib if you don't use compiz

or this on Win7

The only "negative" of this solution is that you have inverted all colors (red is blue, ...). The positive is that you have quickly inverted the whole desktop (not only the one IDE you use just now).

Posted by Honza on February 28, 2012 at 04:39 AM PST #

The other colors are defined in Look And Feel (LAF). Just get a decently looking LAF, put it on class path of NetBeans and and put the option to etc/netbeans.conf to use the other LAF. I actually wonder whether there is decent dark LAF out there.

Posted by David Strkupl on February 28, 2012 at 08:15 AM PST #

Hi David. Exactly, there isn't a decent dark LAF out there. That's why the request is for NetBeans to let the user manage the coloring of the windows, because external solutions aren't sufficient or complete enough or partly working in one operating system but not on another.

Posted by Geertjan on February 28, 2012 at 10:00 AM PST #

This is really something that is needed!!

I tried to have a friend of mine convert to NetBeans, but because of this he couldn't use NetBeans. He needed a dark background to avoid having problems with the eyes!

Posted by guest on February 28, 2012 at 01:01 PM PST #

+1 for global config options

Posted by juha on February 29, 2012 at 12:57 AM PST #

Theming support is really lacking, sure, you can set a LAF but making one (as there is none ATM) is massively more complex than selecting colors in the Program itself - and you won't run into broken rendering issues by just altering colors.

I switched to dark once, saw that everything else stayed bright - shook my head and changed back.

The make-Negative is a quick and dirty hack at best, a non-option for anyone who likes things to look good as color patterns are generally not designed to be inverted.

How bout move everything to JFX and do the styling via CSS ;)

Posted by guest on February 29, 2012 at 03:27 AM PST #

I'd appreciate a comprehensive "dark" theme. Editor window is nice as that's where most time is spent but it would definitely be better if it was more global.

Posted by Dave on February 29, 2012 at 04:10 AM PST #

Yes, this needs to be done!

Posted by guest on February 29, 2012 at 05:10 AM PST #

I use it at work. It's low on the richness scale, but atleast the surrounding windows won't strain your eyes.

Posted by venkat on February 29, 2012 at 06:02 AM PST #


I installed to NetBeans Protobuf plugin:

The colors break my eyes!.

But there is no option to change them. Unfortunately this doesn't appear under Fonts & Colors.

So I guess this would need to be configurable also.

Posted by guest on February 29, 2012 at 06:50 AM PST #

Hi Geertjan,

I disagree with your comment above that there are no decent dark LAF's (Substance, NimROD, etc.) The problem is that the NetBeans platform (and by extension the IDE) do not play well with dark themes, even a dark native GTK theme causes issues. The hacks I wrote about here ( shouldn't be necessary either!

It would be good to have a concerted effort to remove hard-coded colours from everywhere in the platform. Then some good generic UI delegates for the tabs, etc. that respect the colours of the current LAF. And maybe some new monochrome icons (perhaps switchable light and dark sets) that work across different colour schemes.

Just my 2c. :-)

Best wishes, Neil

Posted by Neil C Smith on February 29, 2012 at 10:58 AM PST #

Giving users a choice is always a good thing

Posted by guest on April 02, 2012 at 06:32 PM PDT #

I fully agree with Neil. For me it's hard to read if the background is light. Thus I use the back Slickness GTK-Theme. But unfortunately, there are some problems, especially with red text which is very hard or even not possible (for me) to read, as you can see on the following screenshots:

Posted by guest on July 03, 2012 at 04:43 AM PDT #

There are several studies that all come to the conclusion that a black font on light background is most readable. I agree.

But after five or six hours of coding my eyes simly dont stand the light any longer. Please add native support for color themes as in vs2012 so i can switch quickly.


Posted by guest on July 05, 2012 at 07:48 AM PDT #

One should be able to change the background/foreground colors of all main windows in the system.

Of course!

May be you could add a choice of default themes, one should be "dark", including all windows in the system.

Posted by guest on November 08, 2012 at 05:41 AM PST #

was this resolved? If so are there references?

Posted by guest on December 03, 2012 at 09:49 PM PST #

You might want to look at the Dark Nimbus Theme. It should be in your plugin list if you are running 7.2 or 7.3. You can see a screenshot at

Posted by Matthieu Heimer on February 13, 2013 at 04:51 PM PST #

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Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.


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