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Best Color Scheme For Coding, Easiest On the Eyes?

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the that-looks-good-on-you dept.

Programming 763

Marzubus writes "I tend to do a lot of code editing in vim and sometimes get the 'burning eyes' or headaches. I have been trying to find a background / foreground combination for my terminal sessions which is easiest on the eyes but cannot seem to find any real data on this subject. Does anyone know of a study / data on this topic?"

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Probably not colors (5, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042323)

I doubt that the colors will make half as much difference as the quality of your monitor, unless you've been using chartreuse on magenta or something. Not that I know a great deal about the technical details, but I have observed that many cheaper CRTs or LCDs seem to make my eyes hurt sooner than a more expensive one. Apple's monitors are excellent for this, BTW, but they do price them terribly high. These days I'd expect you can get something equivalent for less, though it won't be a $129 model. Also, in 2004 the same question was discussed at length here [] , probably at least some of that is still relevant.

Re:Probably not colors (5, Informative)

nikomen (774068) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042439)

I concur. A while ago I purchased a couple cheap LCDs. I noticed that the LCDs at my university were easier on my eyes than my home LCDs. I sold my LCDs to my parents who I knew wouldn't be on the computer for any long lengths of time. I bought a couple HP LCDs that were recommended to me and they make a world of difference. This isn't an ad for HP, just simply stating that cheaper LCDs probably cause some kind of eye strain compared to a little more pricey (yet not horribly expensive) LCDs.

Re:Probably not colors (5, Informative)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042703)

Great point, I have two LCDs at home, one is a six year old Envision monitor and then other is a three year old Samsung. The Samsung monitor looks worlds better and is much easier to look at for extended periods of time. It's one of those things I can't lay my finger on but it's definitely there.

Re:Probably not colors (4, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042727)

Also, environmental factors. For example, I've been in various cubes over the years and the ones where there was a light fixture visible from my chair as I looked at my monitor caused fatigue faster than when the fixture was not visible (this includes when the fixture was behind me....basically visible in any direction from a sitting position at my desk). Also, for a while, they allowed us to dim the fixtures (turn off/remove one bulb) which helped too (not completely dark, but more cavelike).

Other things you can do is to make sure the brightness and contrast are appropriate. Most people keep them too high (myself included).

And of course, frequent "look away" breaks. I had an old NEC 21" CRT (heavy beast) that actually had a built in timer that you could set that would remind / force you to look away (the screen would go black except for the message). Easy enough to implement in software if you are so inclined.

There's some good articles here: []
They are mostly focused on designing web pages, but the information is just as relevant for any computer image that someone will be starting at for any length of time.

And of course, a different Slashdot question on the same subject: []


Re:Probably not colors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042835)

I wouldn't say that cheaper is automatically worse.

The manufacturing process is most likely almost identical. What they cut down on for the cheapos is quality control.

This means in practical terms that buying cheap is more of a crap shoot that buying expensive. You might get excellent quality, or you may get a piece
of crap.

I've experienced this personally. I bought four cheap 15 inch LG LCDs back a few years ago and the variation in quality was quite noticeable. I still use the best one as a second for my laptop. One I have in storage, in case I want to tinker with it, make a picture frame or something. The others I have given away.

Re:Probably not colors (1)

onecheapgeek (964280) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042517)

Either that or he could try blinking every now and then...

Re:Probably not colors (4, Informative)

Bandman (86149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042555)

With CRTs, refresh rate was a big deal, so that might have been part of it.

If your monitor's refresh rate was equal to the ambiant lighting's refresh rate, you could almost guarantee a headache

Re:Probably not colors (4, Funny)

intx13 (808988) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042895)

If your monitor's refresh rate was equal to the ambiant lighting's refresh rate, you could almost guarantee a headache

Maybe you should stop programming in raves! Turn off the strobe lights - my light bulbs don't refresh!

Re:Probably not colors (2, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042923)

There's a guy at work that still has his set to 60Hz; I can't look at it for more than 5 seconds but he swears he can't see any flicker.

Re:Probably not colors (1)

My-Kung-Fu-Is-Best (898773) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042627)

That's a good point. The quality of the monitor can make a big difference. I would try to adjust the refresh rate of the monitor. The 'more expensive' monitors will have better options to adjust the physical properties of the monitor (refresh rate, contrast, brightness, etc) than the less expensive ones. I had a friend that would always change the rate from 60Hz (default) to 85Hz because the 60Hz setting gave him a headache. You can also try to turn down the brightness a bit. That being said, I've always use white text on a black background. I think it would work better if I use a different shade of white instead of Bright White, but I haven't really experimented. I think the studies point to black text on white as the best. I also found this article had a few good hints (some I already mentioned above). [] My 2 cents...

Make the investment (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042825)

Agreed, anyone that makes their money in front a monitor should be investing at least 400 dollars on a reasonably high quality model. Apple is junk for the money, you can get the same specs for less than half the price. What the extra 100 or 200 bucks buy you is better power circuitry, cathode ray tubes/LEDs and electronics. Any one of those things will makes a noticeable improvement in long term usage and durability. Cheap cathode ray tubes or their ballasts are what makes the monitor stop working a lot of the time. There is a reason my at the time almost 2000 dollar 21" SGI/Trinitron monitor lasted 10 years and I have not had a single LCD last more than 4. Of course I paid less than 600 dollars for my current center monitor, high end [] but not top of the line from Samsung about 6 months ago. Looks like it is only about 400 bucks now. Well worth the investment a had a cheap 500:1, 100 ms monitor that was unusable for anything besides web surfing and it is now on my left side running my Linux media server and displaying my 100's of RSS feeds.

Color Scheme Sampler (5, Informative)

slifox (605302) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042337)

I've looked into this topic a few times in the past...

Last time, I found a page that shows samples of hundreds of VIM color schemes: []

I don't use VIM (I use JOE), but the color schemes are easy to convert manually

Whats nice is that you can scan through a _lot_ of schemes very quickly, and easily pick out the ones that work very well.

Re:Color Scheme Sampler (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042571)

I read a study once that said that yellow text on a blue background was easiest on the eyes, and I've been using this for text-only frames in PowerPoints ever since. I used to get the occasional complaint that slides were unreadable, but I haven't since. I've noticed also that when looking at these slides for a while I don't get quite as much of the after-image effect as I do with white-on-black. Give it a try.

link from (1)

Carbon Unit 549 (325547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042591)

Re:link from (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042843)

thank you.

Re:Color Scheme Sampler (1)

ipoverscsi (523760) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042609)

Personally, I am a big fan of torte for VIM.

When using a text editor for coding, I find dark backgrounds with medium brightness text to be the best. I've already got overhead fluorescent lights shining down on me all day, I don't need to be blinded by giant panels of glowing white, too.

Re:Color Scheme Sampler (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042673)

Agreed. When working for any real length of time, I always go Green on Black (since long before "The Matrix" came out).

Old-school and much easier on the eyes.

Re:Color Scheme Sampler (4, Interesting)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042897)

Agreed. When working for any real length of time, I always go Green on Black (since long before "The Matrix" came out).

Old-school and much easier on the eyes.

If it works for you, great. But keep in mind, that color combination arose out of economic concerns, not usability ones. Using a green phosphor layer was the cheapest way to build a functional CRT display in the first few generations of computing, and probably still would be if economies of scale hadn't made RGB tricolor just as affordable.

Re:Color Scheme Sampler (1)

grogglefroth (461680) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042841)

>I don't use VIM (I use JOE)

At least! I found the only other JOE user out there.

hugs and ^k^x

Re:Color Scheme Sampler (4, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042845)

you can scan through a _lot_ of schemes very quickly, and easily pick out the ones that look pretty

Fixed that for you.

For future reference, aesthetics (particularly in the short term) != usability.

Zenburn (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042367)

Zenburn is a low-contrast colour scheme for low-light conditions. It is popular color scheme among programmers because it is very easy on the eyes.

Legend says it was used by the ancients when they developed teh internets and our realm.

* []
* []
* []
* [] n-the-zone/
* []

Re:Zenburn (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042447)

I'm using zenburn myself, it's the absolute best. You want to use it with more than 16 colors though. There is now a high contrast mode as well, if you have a brighter workplace, or want to work on a laptop in sunlight.

Re:Zenburn (2, Interesting)

edalytical (671270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042505)

This topic was discussed recently here on /. I find it pretty interesting. After spending a significant amount of time reading the comments and clicking links I decided Zenburn really was the best.

I set up Xcode with the theme and I find it reduces eye strain. Now if I could only figure out how to get it to work with Aquamacs.

Re:Zenburn (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042735)

here here for zenburn! it has to be my favorite color scheme

Here is an answer... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042369)

It is I, 1100101, and this was asked three months ago with a good discussion. I guess slashdot operates in quarterly cycles. :)

Here is the previous discussion: []

As to not karma-whore, here was my response as a doc... []

Green on Black (2, Insightful)

russlar (1122455) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042373)

I use green text on a black background, and it seems to help. A lot of it has to do with the quality and type of your monitor.

Re:Green on Black (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042417)

I am in this camp as well, but I think my preference comes from years of working with 5250 sessions on an iSeries and 3270 on a mainframe. There is something to be said for what others came up with before. Sometimes the simplest solution is to look to the past.

Re:Green on Black - Yes (2, Interesting)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042459)

I'm with the parent. Black background. I use Lime Green, with Lime Green for the cursor, and Yellow for selection. It's high contrast, easy on the eyes, and it makes it look like you're programming The Matrix. =)

Re:Green on Black (2, Funny)

okvol (549849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042615)

Using green on black also helps to warp your brain to where you will think like old-style programmers. I've used several: Blue on light blue (C64 style), gold on black, purple on a pale blue, and more. You want some contrast, but not too much. And, chose colors that fit your personality. I remember someone who loved the "hot dog stand" colors in Windows 3.1!

Re:Green on Black (1)

Angstroem (692547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042617)

Green on black is great; however, my xterms all run grey on black since I don't want to be confused with all these executables on my color xterm :)

Whatever you do, just don't fall for anything-on-white. No idea who came up with the idea that actively highlighting the non-information would be best -- for a reflexive media like paper (which happens so be somewhat white-ish by nature anyway) I can see the benefits, but for actively illuminated media it's just plain stupid.

As any eye doctor and optrician will tell you.

For some strange reason, however, this knowledge seems to be actively rejected by company's ergonomy advisors who still like to enforce upright sitting at 90 angles in front of an all-white screen.

Search slashdot! (1)

mowall (865642) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042397)

This was discussed just a couple of months ago... []

Read the other posts! (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042655)

Previous discussions were cited in this very discussion thread a few minutes ago!

Re:Read the other posts! (1)

mowall (865642) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042917)

Yes, I see them now. Mine was the 3rd or 4th post, before the others, but it's been pushed down as it was a top-level reply. Oh well! :)

Black on Black (5, Funny)

jhouserizer (616566) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042399)

A black foreground on a black background has always given me the least eye pain.

Pink on Green (4, Funny)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042411)

Pink text on green background.

This combination is so vibrant that it burns the code into your brain, allowing you to better visualize your program.

That, or give you a seizure.

Re:Pink on Green (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042509)

Pink text on green background.

Let me guess, you taught HTML for dummies courses using Hotdog and Netscape Navigator Gold in the mid to late 90s.

Re:Pink on Green (4, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042913)

Don't forget that he was a huge fan of flashing text to grab attention. And since you wanted people to see your whole page, it was all flashing.


tty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042421)

I use -bg lightyellow1 with default foreground. That makes the X-term window look pretty close to the paper roll on an ASR-33. The default foreground is close to a ribbon that's a week or so old, the optimal.

been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042427)


Helpful Site (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042431)

I've found helpful ideas here while playing around.

Black background, white or cyan text (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042437)

This comes up all the time.

Personally I find the above best. I can cope with green or yellow text, but find white best, followed by cyan. This whole idea of the modern WYSIWYG desktop trying to emulate paper and thus having a white background is just stupid. Paper is a reflective medium. Screens emit and therefore looking at a white screen is going to give you the office worker's equivalent of snow blindness. Print preview should have a white background, and it should be an easy thing to switch it on for typing up a text document (for true WYSIWYG) but we really shouldn't be using it all day.

Re:Black background, white or cyan text (1)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042685)

There was a study into dyslexia a few years ago which noted that sufferers read more accurately with a pure blue background and bright yellow text. The study also confirmed black on white or white on black as the worst configuration.

Re:Black background, white or cyan text (2, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042785)

Actually I have friends and family with dyslexia. Each person responds differently. They are actually procedures now to work out which colours work best for each person. The result is a perscription for glasses with coloured tinting. I know one person who learnt to read in her teens using these, and has now been a primary school teacher for some years (and a very good one at that). For whatever reason she struggles less with dyslexia now and no longer requires the glasses.

Take a look here. Some nifty javascript if you hover your mouse over the background colours at the top of the page. []

Re:Black background, white or cyan text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042931)

Having a black background with white text is the stupid option, it causes lots of eye problems.

You are probably using Firefox or IE and that and the web defaults to Black on White background as that is easiest to read.

Good luck (2, Insightful)

FluffyWithTeeth (890188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042449)

We seem to get this article every few months, and there's never any scientific data to look at.

So, uh, enjoy your 400 posts of anecdotal evidence and personal opinion. Personally I reccomend pastel text on an ash grey background.

Re:Good luck (1)

kazdoran (1201653) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042819)

So, uh, enjoy your 400 posts of anecdotal evidence and personal opinion.

Can it even be scientifically measured? All you can get is someone's subjective response to all color and contrast combinations, which varies from person to person.

Sure, you can always build something statistically over the data you collect, but it's always going to have different results over different subjects, IMHO.

Gentoo (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042455)

The default vi colors on a fresh Gentoo install are absolutely beautiful, easy to read, and in my experience helps with eye strain too.

Re:Gentoo (2, Funny)

mowall (865642) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042581)

The default vi colors on a fresh Gentoo install are absolutely beautiful

Could you check what they are and post them please? I'd like to try it but don't have that kind of time.

TextMate Cobalt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042467)

With Consolas.

Grey and Black (1)

AkaKaryuu (1062882) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042469)

I've always liked black text with a medium shade of gray for the background. Not too light, not too dark. White hurts me. :(

Cory heart theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042471)

Try wearing some sun glasses with a protective UV film.


As long as you can see it, it's fine (1)

Bandman (86149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042473)

I'm an admin rather than a programmer, but when I write code, I'm usually pretty easy going with my color schemes, as long as the background is black and I can read the comments.

vim by default leaves the comments in shell scripts as a dark, dark blue, which makes it almost impossible to see. A little lighter is fine.

Black Background, DarkGrey Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042499)

I actually use the standard scheme of highlighting that comes with vim, except for the darkblue comment
which i find really difficult to read on a black background. So i finally found out how to change it to Darkgrey which i find works well. I think the syntax is something like: :highlight Comment cternfg=DarkGrey

Also a black background i general is a good idear because the contrast in general will be better.

Maybe it's contrast? (1)

kazdoran (1201653) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042507)

Although I couldn't find any links atm (a little busy, sorry), I believe there are a few studies that point out contrast as an important factor on the usability of text-based applications.

I for one, don't have any trouble with the default colors on vi, but, you could probably try black text on a yellow (not too bright, of course) background.

It's a smooth contrast and it may actually help you focus better on the text you're reading. Also, make sure your vision is ok, you may be forcing your eyes to focus too much and may be in need of lenses.

Captain Obvious (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042515)

Green text on black background.

This has been 30 seconds with Captain Obvious. Thank you, and happy hunting!

Back in the day... (1)

jskline (301574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042527)

when I used to do a predominant part of my day coding, I used to set the editor to full screen, and use not a full bright white background, but a gray background and then use the color syntax highlighting on that. When your in a room with typical 6500 degree-kelvin florescent lighting, combined with the peak white background (paper page simulated) on the monitor, they do tend to make your eyes really have to focus much too hard.

What also helps the eye strain is if you are still using a CRT monitor, get the refresh rate on it higher than 72 hz. vertical rate. That alone is a major cause of eye strain and headaches. This is due to your eyes and brain being able to see the screens inter-scanning and blanking. I ran mine at 75hz until I got bigger screen then I could go to 90hz. Now I have flat panel screens but don't do much coding anymore, so I'm not sure what issues lie here except that I have no problems with my laptop screen and I'm on it all day long.

Old School (1)

why-is-it (318134) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042533)

Maybe it's because I'm getting old, but I prefer the old-school look of green text on a black background.

saveonweb (1)

saveonweb (939227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042543)

I use black text on white background and keep the brightness of screen at a comfortable level. Also, setting the refresh rate of the screen higher (if you use CRT monitor) also gives less stress to the eyes.

Hot Dog Stand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042547)

Red, Black, and Yellow.

Obvious solution... (1)

lju (944654) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042551)

I'm surprised I haven't seen any comments yet with something like "use emacs instead, it has better default colors."

Text dark, background bright. (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042553)

This combination is the most relaxing for the eye. Also, illuminate the area around and behind the monitor.

Why ? Depth-of-focus. Brightness will make the pupils contract, which increases the depth of focus and decreases the amount of regulating that the eye needs to do.

Maybe you need to have your vision checked, too. Having a quarter of a diopter too much or too little is hardly noticable, but wil give you headaches in the long run.

up you refresh rate, remove Florescent lights (1)

lrohrer (147725) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042561)

1) The simplest solution is to up your refresh rate on your CRT. If its a LCD maybe changing the brightness will help. No doubt most Slashdot readers have already done this.

2) The background lighting in the room can NOT be overlooked. Any florescent light in the room will cause problems, remove them and environmentally dispose of them. Send them to Al gore and company. Anyways the vibration frequency does affect humans.

3) Have something else to focus the eyes on and actively look away from the terminal.

If your using Ubuntu (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042565)

Try the high contrast theme with your screen brightness adjusted to a comfortable level. Works for me!

I am not sure but. (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042567)

I will bet that the default black on white is about the worst you can use. I have heard that too high of a contrast is really bad for your eyes.

Match your environment (2, Insightful)

edelholz (1098395) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042573)

One thing you have to remember is that you're not just seeing your screen, but also the things around it (in case you don't own a 30" TFT...). So, personally I have found whatever theme resembles the colors and brightness levels of the area of my desktop (the table, the wall behind it, the amount of light etc.) works best for me, i.e. causes the least strain on my eyes. Which, as a consequence, also means that I'll at least adjust the brightness of my screen with changing daylight hours.
So, this being /., go for a darkish theme matching the missing daylight in your basement.

high contrast (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042575) []

There's a page on eyestrain caused from the computer. white background and black foreground seems to be their recommendation. Though they go over all causes of eye pain.

Amber on black. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042579)

Vi is set up that way on here, Visual Studio is, Eclipse is.

Old school, perhaps, but I can't freakin read black on white for very long.

IMO, font choices have a bigger impact though. I'm a big fan of ProFont.

Dark Green on Yellow/beige (3, Interesting)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042583)

A fir bit of informal research has been done by chessplayers on this subject. After decades of experimenting, the choice of chessboard color seems to have settled on dark green on yellow or beige.

This makes sense when one considers that the eye sees colors best in the middle of the spectrum where yellow and green are; and sees worst at the ends where they fade into infrared and ultraviolet.

old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042593)

This was covered about 2 months ago on /.

Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042597)

You're sure it's the colors and not something else about the editor?

Bias lighting? (4, Informative)

Guanine (883175) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042621)

The few scientific studies [] I've found on readability indicate that there is no color scheme that significantly enhances readability -- I would think readability would only be part of the issue regarding the eye strain problem.

So, what about making your own bias light for your monitor [] ? That will _definitely_ reduce eye strain.

Zenburn (4, Informative)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042623)

I love Zenburn [] . I use it on all my machines now and at work.

But there is one thing you should do in your .vimrc prior to setting :colorscheme zenburn, and that is forcing the use of 256 colors:

:set t_Co=256

Also I found that the search highlighting wasn't visible enough for my taste, so I tuned it. After :colorscheme zenburn I have:

:hi search ctermbg=223 ctermfg=238
:hi incsearch ctermbg=216 ctermfg=242

And if you like to have a little more contrast, then insert the following before your :colorscheme zenburn:

:let g:zenburn_high_Contrast = 1

which together makes for this:

:set t_Co=256
:let g:zenburn_high_Contrast = 1
:colorscheme zenburn
:hi search ctermbg=223 ctermfg=238
:hi incsearch ctermbg=216 ctermfg=242

Re:Zenburn (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042873)

My favorite for VIM is :colorscheme elflord (especially for LCDs)

And in the console, 14pt font. fullscreen. light gray on black. It is amazing.

Re:Zenburn (1)

bioglaze (767105) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042921)

I found Zenburn several months ago and I absolutely love it. It works fine in GNU Emacs, but I had to install emacs-goodies-el package to get it working.

Re:Zenburn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042937)

An AC above said the same thing! Now you'll be mod'ed "Redundant".

That's what you get for ignoring us! Bwahahahaha!

moderate contrast and sparing color (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042643)

First, good monitor. If the CRT is old, the caps are breaking down and dot pitch starts to suck.

Next, for the text editors you use all day, select a moderate contrast. Not bright text on black, and not dark text on white. The background should be no lighter than #CCCCCC or darker than #333333. Save the high contrast for brief sessions, like email or web.

Lastly, every built-in color syntax highlighting theme I've seen makes the source code look like a carnival midway, if not the Vegas strip. Lose half the colors or more. I personally like to distinguish between code, comments and constant literals. All the code looks the same; after using a language for more than a couple weeks, you shouldn't need the editor to highlight keywords or function names or braces any differently. I do highlight comment keywords like TODO and REVIEW and BUGBUG but they are far less than 1% of the text.

Red... (1)

TheSubAtomic (1305939) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042649)

I've read somewhere that the color red is less physically straining on your eyes, so I would think that red on a black background might be best for you. Or possibly even red on a grey background, there would be less contrast, easier on your eyes and whatnot...

Consolas (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042651)

I don't have a great opinion on colors but I do like my fonts. Specifically the monospaced font Consolas. It's a Microsoft font that requires ClearType to be turned on, so chances are if you're using Vim you can't use it, but it just looks great. I've found it very easy on the eyes. []

Problem solved long ago (1)

The Mad Duke (222354) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042653)

This was workred out long ago. You want dim room light so that your pupils can relax and open up. The human eye is most sensitive to green light, so use a dim green on a black background and you eye muscles will have an easy time of it. Look at old computer terminals - all green screens.
- The Mad Duke

Re:Problem solved long ago (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042801)

You want dim room light so that your pupils can relax and open up.

... which will give you horrible depth of focus and force the eye to constantly re-focus.

Why is that a good thing ?

Re:Problem solved long ago (2, Insightful)

DrDitto (962751) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042933)

Old terminal screens were green because of the technology. Not because they were concerned about eye strain back in the 60s.

Glasses (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042667)

If you're getting headaches it's very likely that you have some kind of sight problem anyway. I used to work on all sorts of shitty screens until a year ago (30 years in the industry). I started getting eye strain and headaches as you describe.

It turns out that I (like many other people who don't realise it) am slightly long sighted. It's enough to make staring at something for a length of time uncomfortable and not enough to be noticed day to day while out and about.

Get your eyes checked first and foremost. Getting corrective glasses early can save a lot of need for them later.

Secondly, get a good screen. LCD or CRT but spend the dollars to get a good one. A good video card also makes a difference if you have an analog screen - the cheap-ass components in the output stages on cheap-ass cards to degenerate the signal.

When you've done all that you can play with colour schemes. My preference is for simple white text on black background. A few bright colours (orange, red, yellow, blue) to highlight certain things and I'm set to code for days without strain.

Re:Glasses - agreed (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042817)

Yes that's my thought, too.

I'm not a doctor, but I do recognise the symptoms of eye-strain and general stress as they affected me. Basically, either you're overdoing it or there are other environmental factors such as reflections that I'd say are the cause.

Ain't none of us getting any younger - but we can help to slow down the degradation. See an eye-doctor, take a look at where you do your work and take a break every 20 minutes or so.

Color scheme, LCD quality, OS (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042695)

I know a lot of you will try to mod me down for my fourth point, but the fact is, code is text and there's more factors into play when display text vs a simple JPEG:

- If you don't already use a good LCD display, buy one. Your eyes will thank you soon enough.

- Use a color scheme that you think is easy on the eyes. You'll get a lot of suggestions about this from other replies since it was your question to begin with, so I'll pass on this one.

- Use a font that is easy to read and makes it easy to distinguish all punctuation symbols. I know there's not a lot of choice in monospaced fonts, but who wants to read code in copperplate anyway?

- Use an OS that displays text with proper anti-aliasing. Since I switched to Mac, I no longer have headaches from looking at code all day long. Microsoft's anti-aliasing makes the text too sharp, and Mac OS X makes the text softer and easier to read.

Now, I already know that I'm going to get "text on Mac OS X looks blurry, not soft" replies, but here's the thing: pick up a printed book. Does the text look more like something displayed by Mac OS X or by Windows?

No matter which font you use on Windows, it looks like a "computer font" because the letters are hammered into the sub-pixels. It doesn't look right and that makes it harder to read.

Black on ligth grey (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042705)

For what it's worth, here's my personal preferences:
- a LCD is much better.
- I found that black on light grey is the most pleasant combination for me.

colorscheme evening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042739)

colorscheme evening

Color schemes of years past.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042763)

When I was young and Had an Atari ST, my mother was in school and she worked as a technical writer. So she was constantly using WordPerfect and other word processors. She also had a degree in interior design and has a great nack for colors.

She came up with one that worked great, and I still use it to this day. Takes about a day to get use to if your not using it all the time.

Medium blue background with Dark Blue text. I know, its strange, but once you get use to it, you can scan the entire page quickly, and your reading speed will increase.

However today, I've gone to a light grey/blue tint background (121234, or 232334) with White or Light Grey base text with color syntax. Works well for me.

Also, Refresh rate is much more important than colors (unless your in the 15% of people who have color deficiencies, oddly, not many geeks have this issue) You see, your eyes see at about 61-70hz (some people higher, some slower, but thats about the average) So you'll need to change your refresh rate to ABOVE what you see. (85hz is always a good choice) That change, regardless of color will assist in viewing your screen for hours at a time and improve your eyes, as well as preventing you from going blind eariler, or having damaged eyes.

And.. MOST important, Stay away from CRTS! They can become blurry with age, and you wont notice it at first. But it WILL damage your eyes and will take YEARS to recover. (I finally got rid of my blurred CRT about 4 years ago, and my eyes are slowly getting back to normal, Id say im about 75% of my original clarity, and its coming back every day)

Also, as I write this, Im seeing a comment above me named "Text dark, background bright" and hes right. That works as well.

what i like is (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042775)

White text with colored syntax highlighting on a black background, black = #000000 meaning all those pixels that are black are turned off, this not only seems easier on my eyes it is not radiating unnecessary light in most of the screen...

various (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042827)

If you fluorescent lights over you, consider wearing a trucker's cap or the like. Put a few inches between you and the monitor. Change the OS background to a dark color like black. Put an anti-glare screen on your monitor. Look away from your monitor once in a while - if you forget to do this, a program like xwrits can help (yes, xwrits, not xwrist).

Pansies! (0, Redundant)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042833)

Green on black, 80 columns.

Now get off my lawn!

Visual Studio Color Schemes (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042839)

Here's a blog with Visual Studio color schemes:,category,VS%2BColor%2BScheme.aspx

Problem with Monitor ? (1)

devilsandy (556014) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042851)

At my new job, the computer had a KDS 17" Flat CRT monitor. Within couple of days I noticed my eyes would hurt by the end of the day and sometime water too. After observing I saw the image displayed on the monitor would shake by small amounts continuously, once I replaced it with a NEC LCD the problem was gone. I noticed similar thing with my mini-itx connected to my LCD HDTV ( using VGA port). Try a different monitor AND/OR a different CPU.

NASA did this decades ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042869)

And it's the default color scheme found on a popular computer back in its day. I'll give you some clues. The fans are rabid but nothing as bad as apple's, the name pops up every now and then, or there's talk of the new OS coming out (and it isn't BeOS), even though most people want it to die, particularly apple weenies it would seem. You haven't been able to buy one for a number of years.

It had great games, was used to produce Babylon 5 with a massive render farm of about 20 machines.

Agnus and Denise could be found inside.

The best VIM color scheme... (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042875)

is desert. It has pleasant mild colors and it distinguishes (by color obviously) between a lot of text objects that other color schemes ignore and paint with the same color.

If you are on Mac and use MacVim you can also make the GUI window transparent (15% works the best) and coupled with blueish wallpaper (like blueberries) works really well.

If you use terminal version of VIM then the number of colors is limited, but I find desert works best in this case as well.

Also, if you don't already have it, try Bitstream Vera Sans Mono font. I believe it is the default system mono font in Linux terminals (at least it is in Fedora Core) and it is very readable and easy on the eyes.

On Windows I also use Consolas and Courier New. But Bitstream works well there too.


a scientific study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24042881)

White on blue (3, Interesting)

huge (52607) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042909)

Ages ago when I was using Borland IDEs I got used to the blue background with white text and I still prefer that over anything else.

To be precise Borland default color scheme was yellow on blue, which I couldn't stand, but with white text it's actually pretty good.

Check Your Eyes... (1)

sjanich (431789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042919) you get older they change. You may very well need correction for reading.Even if it is slight that will effect monitor viewing. When I reached a certain age it happened to me.

Green & Black (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042935)

I was raised on it. :-)

Green, a bright green on a very black background is incredibly easy to read for me.

A close tie for second is yellow on black and orange on black.


Change the schemes frequently (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 6 years ago | (#24042941)

One critical point is that ANY color scheme will fatigue your eyes if you constantly use it.

Set up several schemes, with a pale background, not white. Use DARK shades of color-coded text, not glaring primaries. Rotate the backgrounds frequently.

Set the screen contrast down until you have a no-glare effect. Turn the brightness down and up a bit (no way to script that) periodically.

If you have flourescent lighting in the office, use one low-watt incandescent or LED bulb for screen lighting. It cancels out the flicker from the flourescents.

TAKE BREAKS! And don't play games on the breaks.

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