Debates about the fonts and colors that programmers use tend to get out of
control very quickly. While studies on the readability and eye fatigue of
various font and color schemes exist, it very much remains a matter of personal
preference. However, one detail that many programmers seem to agree on is that
scheme presented by Visual Studio is less than ideal. Standard 10 point Courier
New is simply difficult for most people (at least most people that care about this sort of thing—except
) to look
at all day.
A common solution—especially for high-resolution displays—is to increase
the font size in the editor. Personally, I'm a big fan Microsoft's
font, and as Scott Hanselman
points out, I really feel that it looks best at 15 point.
This is well-covered territory in the blogosphere, but I want to discuss a
point that frequently is overlooked. While many of us strive
for the perfect font and color scheme in the text editor, we neglect the
opportunities for improvement in other windows. For example, I may feel
good about using 15-point Consolas to decrease my eye strain, but I haven't done
anything to improve my experience with
(Public speakers are often the biggest culprits of this. Helpful presenters
will increase the size of their editor font, but few will adjust other areas
such as IntelliSense, debugging windows, etc.)
Fortunately, Visual Studio 2005 makes changing the fonts and colors
of much of the IDE easy. The "Show settings for" combo box on the Fonts and
Colors page of Visual Studio's Options dialog provides the ability to customize
many areas of the IDE,
in addition to the text editor. For example, the default font setting for the
statement completion window is definitely too small when compared to the
15-point font size that I use in the text editor.
One simple trick to improve the readability of the statement completion
window is to use exactly the same font and point size as the text editor.
Logically, if I'm searching for a class or method name in IntelliSense, it might
be easier to find if it looks exactly like it will when inserted into the text
A similar effect can be achieved by adjusting the font of the editor
tooltips. Compare the default setting...
...to the adjusted one.
Other good candidates for similar adjustment are:
- DataTips – These are the cool expandable tooltips that appear when
identifiers are moused-over in debug mode. Making these easier to read is a
- [All Text Tool Windows] – This is actually a font and color group
that controls several settings. When selected, any adjustment made affects
the Command, Disassembly, Find Results,
Immediate, Memory, Output and Registers windows.
- [Watch, Locals, and Autos Tool Windows] – As the name suggests, this
group handles adjustments for the Watch, Locals and Autos windows.
Remember: when your goal is to improve readability and reduce eye fatigue,
adjusting the font in the text editor isn't enough. Pay attention to the font in
all areas of Visual Studio.