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date 26.Feb.2017

■ Tweak xplorer² background colors to give your eyes a break

Once upon a time you could tweak system-wide windows appearance down to minute details. Windows XP display properties had an Appearance tab that allowed one to choose individual fonts and colors for each display element, e.g. menus and dialog boxes. It has gone downhill ever since; Vista robbed us of the detailed display tweaking and windows 8/10 don't have many themes to choose from; gone is the Windows classic scheme, and you can choose basically only vanilla (white backgrounds) and "High contrast" which is a bit ghastly. Looking for more themes online only seems to cater for background pictures.

The only system-wide tweak available in the control panel is the "text size" which affects the display DPI

Starting from xplorer² version 4.3, it is much easier to switch to the fashionable dark mode using Tools > Options menu command, approaching total darkness. The checkbox for Dark Mode UI is in General property page.

I don't think that any 2 scienctists would agree about the "optimal" color scheme for long computer work, but many users are comfortable working with dark background schemes that are not too glary. Black or blue backgrounds are customary for console windows. Unfortunately for some years now there's no (easy) way to tweak the color elements that control all windows. At least you can control colors for your xplorer² windows. Let me show you how.

xplorer² has a rich option set that among other things allows you to choose the main font and background colors. There are two colors to consider, the one for the active pane (the one you are working on) and the inactive pane colors (all remaining panels). The latter is easier to reach, just use Tools > Options menu and you will find it in the Window property page:

choose inactive background color

To get to the active pane color, you need to start the external Advanced options editor. This is in again Options menu or if you are using the Ribbon interface, you will find it under File (leftmost) ribbon tab:

access options from ribbon UI

Here look for the Active panel background option under Layout tab. Tick the option box and then use the [...] dots button to choose the color. While you are at it you can choose a darker color for the ribbon background.

active background color property

After all the color choosing, hit on OK or Apply button, then restart xplorer², which will now be in its darkest guise — beware of the dark side! You don't need to choose a separate color for active/inactive panels, but doing so helps you recognize which one is the active pane. Also note that the toolbar backgrounds and other small parts of the window are still windows-10 white. The consolation is that they are the minority. The text colors are chosen automatically to provide a good contrast to the selected background.

xplorer2 window in black theme

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