Microsoft is making changes to the user interface for the planned Visual Studio 11 IDE, which impact coloring, icon usability, and application of the Metro look and feel.
The changes, based on feedback Microsoft has received on the February beta release of version 11, will be featured in an upcoming Release Candidate of the IDE upgrade, though no date has been set for its availability. The update will include the addition of bold accent color and contrast to the IDE, reduced use of capitalization to optimize for legibility, and a brightened overall design to add "energy" to the environment, a Microsoft representative said. Although Visual Studio 11 is the working title for the new IDE, there has been some speculation that it could end up being called Visual Studio 2012 upon official release.
In a blog post Tuesday, Microsoft's Monty Hammontree, director of user experience in the company's Developer Tools Division, detailed the areas of improvements: "For beta, there has been a lot of feedback on the overall grayness of the experience. We heard your call for greater vitality in the user experience and have taken steps to both lighten and brighten the experience through the use of bolder theme accents and lighter background colors."
Microsoft will lighten the grays used in the IDE's light theme and window chrome to improve the energy level and readability. Also, the Status Bar will be colorized: "We are using the status bar color to add visual interest and functional value by communicating various IDE state changes such as when the IDE is in debug mode," Hammontree said. Further, Microsoft will add greater flavor to themes to make broader and bolder use of accent colors in areas such as tool window headers and tab treatments.
Pertaining to the Metro-style look and feel, which is a key feature of the upcoming Windows 8 OS, Microsoft has made changes to give structure and emphasis to screen areas such as tool window title bars, auto-hidden tabs, tab groups, and separators that do not require uppercase titles. Metro is Microsoft's attempt to offer a look and feel that can work on tablets, phones, and PCs. Also pertaining to Metro, Microsoft with the Visual Studio 11 release candidate has removed capitalization for window titles, auto-hidden tabs, and tab group members. With the release candidate, all caps is used only for top-level menu titles.
Microsoft also is attempting to improve the overall sense of Metro styling within themes by drawing its own window chrome, which is the term Microsoft applies to the frame that surrounds a workspace within a window. "By drawing our own window chrome we have succeeded in both making more efficient use of space and in increasing the overall sense of Metro styling," Hammontree said.
Addressing usability concerns, Microsoft has reintroduced color to select commands, IntelliSense, and Solution Explorer hierarchy icons. "Post-beta we have employed a simple rule set that combines icon selection heuristics for common actions and content conventions with a basic five color palette," Hammontree said. "When taken in conjunction with the flatter and simpler glyph style shapes of our Visual Studio 11 icons these rules give us a recipe for applying color in a very straightforward and consistent manner."
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