If you’ve been using the Visual Studio 11 Beta to delve into the underpinnings of Windows 8 as I have, you’ve no doubt had the same reaction to the weird new gray-on-gray user interface: Ugh. Well, Microsoft is responding to what was no doubt widespread complaining and is changing that UI, if subtly. Now the Visual Studio UI will feature a slightly lighter background, providing a bit more contrast.

“For beta there has been a lot of feedback on the overall grayness of the experience,” Microsoft director of user experience Monty Hammontree writes in a curiously longwinded explanation to the Visual Studio Blog. “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.”

No offense to Microsoft, but the new UI is still very much an overall grayness. Here’s a comparison that explains the change nicely, with the old (Beta) version of Visual Studio 11 on the bottom and the new (RC and beyond) version on top:

old_and_new

I’m sure my blogging cohorts are racing to explain that the new UI is “Metro-like,” but really all they’re doing is throwing the Office 15 UI in a gray blender; Visual Studio 11 uses all caps menu titles to emulate the Office 15 tab titles and will even feature the same bottom border color highlighting that we’ve seen in recent Office 15 builds:

color_borders

More important, of course, is the re-introduction of color to the Visual Studio toolbar buttons and Solution Explorer elements. In the Beta, the entire UI was just a few shades of gray, which Microsoft explained away as a way to let developers “focus on the content,” a theme at the software giant these days that, go figure, doesn’t make as much sense for developers as it does for end users. Some of these colorization changes are subtle, but I think they’re important.

colorize

According to the post, the Visual Studio RC will include these changes and should be available soon. Sorry to be cynical, but I have to wonder why Visual Studio ever went down that horrible all-gray path to begin with.