Mathworks: it's time for a dark theme.

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Antonello Zito
Antonello Zito on 14 Mar 2022
Commented: Michelle Hirsch on 13 Jun 2022 at 13:12
This is not a question, but a point of discussion for the entire community. I am aware that every 1/2 months this theme comes out, but until this is not fixed it is totally necessary that this comes, indeed, out. And I said "fix" because Mathworks has to understand that a dark theme is not only a visual/aesthetic matter, it is a substantial part of the game. Most of the OS, GUIs, programs are actually in dark mode, and a vast majority of the users makes indeed use of a global dark mode. How much one does like it is personal, but the benefits to power savings and eye health is instead a fact. Mathworks being ignoring this for years is nothing but ridiculous. Of course it is not an easy task, but every minute of committment for it is worthy. And nope, Schemer is not helpful because it does not provide a real fix to this question.
I feel free to suggest something similar to the Spyder's dark theme, which came out like 2 years ago if I remember correctly.
Of course, my point is not being disrespectful (I am instead very respectful to the huge efforts of Mathworks for making this wonderful program run). But, form a user's point of view, the fact that not a single word has so far come out from Mathworks about a dark theme (meaning that for sure we will not see it in a timing of months) requires us to put a strong pressure on this.
Mathworks, please: it's time for a dark theme.
Jan on 7 Jun 2022 at 18:00
I can reconsider, why you do not miss a dark theme. Working on a DEC_VT50 is comparable with running Matlab on a monochrome Apple iWatch.

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Accepted Answer

Michelle Hirsch
Michelle Hirsch on 1 Apr 2022
Hey, it's Michelle Hirsch here. I'm the head of product management for MATLAB. The fancy title means I'm the one you can yell at or poke with a stick, because it's my job to make sure we are doing the best we can to meet your needs with MATLAB.
I'm sorry we've been so quiet on dark mode. I want to let you all know it's not for lack of focus on it. We've been well aware of escalating demand over the past many years from so many of you. This demand really ticked up when Mac and Windows integrated dark themes at the OS level. It is taking much longer for us to enable our full product stack than I had hoped.
There are a bunch of pieces to get in place (editor, graphics, apps, icons, desktop, ...) and you are seeing incremental signs of our progress along the way. One small step was control over Live Editor background color in 22a. Dark mode support in MATLAB Online in 22a represents a major step forward (from a technology perspective) with the desktop framework and icons in place.
We currently use two different technologies to build the MATLAB Online desktop and the desktop MATLAB desktop (how many times can I say desktop!), which is why the work we did for MATLAB Online isn't helping desktop MATLAB users yet. We are working furiosuly to move everything over to the technology used in MATLAB Online. Once we do, we'll get proper dark theme support in desktop MATLAB. This is a massive project with the potential to change aspects of how you use MATLAB, so we are proceeding carefully with lots of what we call "user acceptance testing" to make sure we are building something you all will love. We plan to make previews of this technology available to more and more users as we have increasing confidence that you'll love it. I can't put a firm release date on when this will be ready for every MATLAB user. We set release targets internally, but we only release software when it meets our quality and user acceptance standards.
I hope you'll accept my apology for our silence and for the insufficient progress. I'm trying to give you a "peek behind the curtain", not to make excuses. I know we are not meeting your expectations. I want to leave you with the confidence that a whole bunch of us at MathWorks are doing everything we can to get proper dark mode support in your hands as soon as we can.
I'd love your help if you are interested and willing. We will be looking pretty soon for users who would like to test out early versions of the new MATLAB desktop based on the MATLAB Online version. If you are interested, the easiest way is probably to send me an email. You can go through my MATLAB Central profile, or just email me directly at mhirsch at mathworks dot com. We are also looking for guidance from users on how dark mode should behave in MATLAB. It's not as obvious as you might think, especially when you consider plots and apps. One simple example: if you are just working interactively, you probably expect your plots to all have a dark background and appropriately light line colors. But if you are programmatically creating and exporting a bunch of plots, you probably want them to have "normal" light background and colors. We need to get our default behaviors right and give you the ability to override them if you want somethihng different. Feel free to share opinions here or drop me a line.
Michelle Hirsch
Michelle Hirsch on 13 Jun 2022 at 13:12
@Walter Roberson is right - we are running a limited beta of the new desktop with dark mode; it's not generally available in the prerelease. Email me if you'd like a link to sign up.
@Jan - There's really not a coupling beyond the long list of methods for controlling the desktop window and the challenge/cost of adding dark mode support. It might be that it's harder to add robust dark mode support in the current desktop than in the new desktop, but I'm not sure. It's really a question of how to best utilize limited development resources, as we focus our energy on getting the new desktop out as quickly as we can to release all of the new capabilities including dark mode.

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More Answers (5)

Steven Lord
Steven Lord on 14 Mar 2022
As of release R2022a you can select a dark or light theme in MATLAB Online. See the Release Notes for more information.
Note: the documentation states "Themes are not supported in installed versions of MATLAB."
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 11 Jun 2022 at 10:36
I think any claim that a "vast majority" wants something is a claim that requires evidence (and not just strongly held assertions.)

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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 24 Mar 2022
I disagree with the premises expressed. I use my computer and phone many hours per day, but dark mode is hard on my eyes, making my eyes work harder against astigmatism.
I don't know if there is anyone left still using a CRT display. LCD do not use more power for brighter colors.
In my opinion, Dark Theme is much more a fad preference than a "need". But...
  • sure, some people do in fact prefer it; and
  • people do frequently buy based on fads; and
  • lack of dark theme is being used as an excuse by anti-MATLAB people, so take away the excuse to reduce their leverage.
M Herper
M Herper on 9 Jun 2022 at 14:03
I totally disagree.
  • Dark mode is an indispensable requirement for my eyes working in front of a 50' screen.
  • The older you get the more you will probably observe astigmatism and that white light is dazzling your eyes and nasty.
  • Nobody is asking for dark mode because of CRT. Don't presume people using old technology.
  • The term "anti-MATLAB" people is an inappropriate disparagement and inobjective.
  • There are not just some people requiring a dark mode - it is the vast majority.
  • Emitting bright light is emitting energy regardless of display technology while power consumption is for sure not the reason for people requiring dark mode.
  • I never heard anyone having problems with dark mode

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Matt J
Matt J on 14 Mar 2022
Edited: Matt J on 14 Mar 2022
Is a dark theme different from just setting the color preferences to black background and white text?
cui on 24 Mar 2022
@Antonello Zito I agree with you, it should be a black theme for all windows, not just editor, matlab local help documentation background does not support color setting yet.

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Jan on 14 Mar 2022
A dark theme saves power on OLED screens only. I assume, that most computers run Matlab with LCD screens, which do not profit from a dark mode. So the saving of energy is no hard argument.
I'm using a dark mode of Windws and let Scott C. Lowe's Schemer define dark colors for the command window and editor. My figures for diagrams and GUIs are controlled by a self-developped tool to manage colors, so the background and colormap can be chosen freely for all of my applications. This works since Matlab 6.5 reliably.
I do not have the need for any further tools to modify the darkness of Matlab. There are some light boxes e.g. in Matlab's preferences, but I do not use them in the daily work, so this does not bother me.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 9 Jun 2022 at 17:09
Apple currently uses two different display technologies. For some of their products such as iPhone, they use OLED, currently "Super XDR" branded. But for the MacBook Pro M1 they used LCD based technology, currently "Liquid XDR" branded. And LCD uses more energy for dark pixels, as it has to actively block the back light.

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Rana Hamza
Rana Hamza on 30 Apr 2022
It depends on you to change the theme as you can do it in setting.
because in light theme eyes can gambling


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