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Programming IT Technology

Best Color Scheme For Coding, Easiest On the Eyes? 763

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-looks-good-on-you dept.
Marzubus writes "I tend to do a lot of code editing in vim and sometimes get the 'burning eyes' or headaches. I have been trying to find a background / foreground combination for my terminal sessions which is easiest on the eyes but cannot seem to find any real data on this subject. Does anyone know of a study / data on this topic?"
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Best Color Scheme For Coding, Easiest On the Eyes?

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  • Probably not colors (Score:5, Informative)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:19AM (#24042323) Journal
    I doubt that the colors will make half as much difference as the quality of your monitor, unless you've been using chartreuse on magenta or something. Not that I know a great deal about the technical details, but I have observed that many cheaper CRTs or LCDs seem to make my eyes hurt sooner than a more expensive one. Apple's monitors are excellent for this, BTW, but they do price them terribly high. These days I'd expect you can get something equivalent for less, though it won't be a $129 model. Also, in 2004 the same question was discussed at length here [slashdot.org], probably at least some of that is still relevant.
    • by nikomen (774068) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:25AM (#24042439)
      I concur. A while ago I purchased a couple cheap LCDs. I noticed that the LCDs at my university were easier on my eyes than my home LCDs. I sold my LCDs to my parents who I knew wouldn't be on the computer for any long lengths of time. I bought a couple HP LCDs that were recommended to me and they make a world of difference. This isn't an ad for HP, just simply stating that cheaper LCDs probably cause some kind of eye strain compared to a little more pricey (yet not horribly expensive) LCDs.
      • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:38AM (#24042703) Homepage Journal

        Great point, I have two LCDs at home, one is a six year old Envision monitor and then other is a three year old Samsung. The Samsung monitor looks worlds better and is much easier to look at for extended periods of time. It's one of those things I can't lay my finger on but it's definitely there.

        • by spec8472 (241410) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:02AM (#24043173) Homepage

          It's quite possible that the old LCD display is a 6 bit (256k colours) panel, which to display colours which didn't fit exactly onto that colour space, flickers between two on either 'side'. It's called 'temporal dithering'.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dither#Applications

          Theoretically you shouldn't be able to notice this, but it's the same with low refresh rates on CRTs - some people can notice it directly, others indirectly through eyestrain.

          • Peanuts (Score:5, Interesting)

            by pragma_x (644215) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:55AM (#24044185) Journal

            A little slash-trivia here:

            You can also notice the refresh of a CRT if you chew on something hard, like peanuts, while staring at the screen. The crushing action of your teeth vibrates your head just enough to interface with the screen's refresh rate, causing the picture to "bounce" and shear in your field of view.

            • Re:In tune (Score:3, Interesting)

              by led7 (1219712)
              Also works with low and pedal tones on a brass (low brass pref) instrument. Makes the digits on a LED digital clock waver and bounce slowly in addition to seeing screen refresh.
            • Re:Peanuts (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Bemopolis (698691) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:39AM (#24045065)
              Another way to see the refresh rate is to hold your index finger horizontally between the screen and your eyes and move it up and down. The refresh will essentially act as a strobe light, and you will see multiple images of your finger. If you get the cadence right and create stationary images, you can even calculate the refresh rate.

              Hey, what can I say — some people are bored nerds who are allergic to peanuts.
            • Re:Peanuts (Score:4, Funny)

              by Snodgrass (446409) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:53PM (#24047655) Homepage

              I went on an on-site tech call once. The little company I worked for supplied the computers to the local school district.

              While I was there, the "head computer guy" kept yammering on about all the problems they'd been having with the computers, but I'd only found one with an actual hardware problem.

              Anyway, I was getting ready to leave and he started pointing at a monitor (CRT) and saying "look at this! See? This is what has been happening!" I looked at it, but couldn't see anything wrong.

              "Right there!" he said, pointing, "See how it's jiggling around?" It was then that I noticed the bag of Cheetos in his hand. I told him to stop chewing for a second and see if the problem went away.

              It did, and so did he. I left without seeing him again, I think he was a little embarrassed. :^)

      • by SQLGuru (980662) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:39AM (#24042727) Journal

        Also, environmental factors. For example, I've been in various cubes over the years and the ones where there was a light fixture visible from my chair as I looked at my monitor caused fatigue faster than when the fixture was not visible (this includes when the fixture was behind me....basically visible in any direction from a sitting position at my desk). Also, for a while, they allowed us to dim the fixtures (turn off/remove one bulb) which helped too (not completely dark, but more cavelike).

        Other things you can do is to make sure the brightness and contrast are appropriate. Most people keep them too high (myself included).

        And of course, frequent "look away" breaks. I had an old NEC 21" CRT (heavy beast) that actually had a built in timer that you could set that would remind / force you to look away (the screen would go black except for the message). Easy enough to implement in software if you are so inclined.

        There's some good articles here: http://www.sangrea.net/ohs_dbase/colour-color.htm [sangrea.net]
        They are mostly focused on designing web pages, but the information is just as relevant for any computer image that someone will be starting at for any length of time.

        And of course, a different Slashdot question on the same subject: http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/09/14/1516207&mode=thread&tid=99 [slashdot.org]

        Layne

        • by mysticgoat (582871) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:20AM (#24043525) Homepage Journal

          Not yet mentioned but often a problem are reflections.

          Turn the monitor off and look at the dark screen as if it were a mirror. If you can see anything recognizable, or there are definite fuzzy brighter areas, then reflection might be the culprit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Pig Hogger (10379)

            To those environmental factors, I would also add two items: proper hydration (don't go thirsty) and not dwelling too much on an empty stomach.

            As for colours, nowadays it's mostly very dark on very light, but back in the pre-GUI days, white on blue was pretty soothing (which is odd, given the higher energy of blue photons versus red...).

        • by n7ytd (230708) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:55AM (#24046571)

          An optometrist once recommended to me the "20-20-20" rule: Every 20 minutes at the computer, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PeterBrett (780946)

          Also, environmental factors. For example, I've been in various cubes over the years and the ones where there was a light fixture visible from my chair as I looked at my monitor caused fatigue faster than when the fixture was not visible (this includes when the fixture was behind me....basically visible in any direction from a sitting position at my desk). Also, for a while, they allowed us to dim the fixtures (turn off/remove one bulb) which helped too (not completely dark, but more cavelike).

          For those of you in the UK: if you are experiencing a problem like this in the UK and your employer refuses to fix it properly (providing decent lighting with diffusers, for instance), they are violating workplace health and safety regulations and can be liable to large fines. Don't put up with it -- get it fixed.

      • by Skater (41976) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:16AM (#24043457) Homepage Journal

        I'll third this. I have a decent Dell monitor at work, and I had an old 17" Viewsonic CRT at home that was annoying because it was slightly unfocused in the middle of the screen. Having a decent display at work only made it worse because I knew how good the picture could be.

        I was happy with the Dell at work, so based on that and the recommendations of a couple friends, I bought a Dell Ultrasharp 22" widescreen earlier this year, and I've been much happier with my home PC since.

        My only gripe is that both Dell LCDs I use have one dead pixel each.

      • by Mick Malkemus (1281196) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:06AM (#24044373)
        You SOLD to your own parents? I can't imagine that. Has America become so materialistic that we sell things to our own parents now?
        • by SQLGuru (980662) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:31AM (#24044903) Journal

          Starving college student + parents who think the kid needs to sacrifice something instead of just giving them money = student sells stuff to parents. Parents just donate it to Goodwill if it isn't something they'd actually use. Tends to keep the kid from blowing the money on unimportant things.

          Layne

        • by D Ninja (825055) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:13AM (#24045717)

          I sell my old tech to my parents all the time. I like to teach them the value of money.

        • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:10PM (#24046809) Homepage Journal

          Yes. Here in the US, it's even common for people to sell presents they've been given.
          I gave someone an old computer because she needed one, and then she turned around and sold it. And then had the audacity to tell me with a smile how much she got.

          Back in the old world, this would be considered beyond rude, bordering on fraud, but "rude" is defined very differently over here. Greed isn't considered a bad word here where money always comes first, and if you give someone something instead of making a buck on it, you're considered a fool. So selling things to your parents would be par for course.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by e2d2 (115622)

            Where is the "old world"?

            You sound pretty jaded by American culture but just keep in mind that like most things in life, we are deeper than we appear on the surface. Not everyone in the US is a greedy selfish low life. But those few that are seem to make the most impact on people. I would never sell a gift and I was raised to appreciate a gift no matter the value. But yet I was raised in America. I'm not an oddity, I'm a common person. IMO you ran into the oddity, she sold your gift.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by arth1 (260657)

              Where is the "old world"?

              A hop and a skip, a splash and a flip, across the pond. :-)

      • by Glog (303500) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @12:25PM (#24047115)

        Alright, we have a lot people vouching for the superiority of "pricey" LCD screens - I doubt it's the price alone that eases the strain on the eyes. The real questions is - what is it about "pricier" models that makes them easier on the eyes - perhaps if we are able to isolate the one or two or five features that improve the user's experience (as far as eye-strain) we'd be better off when comparison shopping for LCD's. Any suggestions? I'd be interested since I am also in the market for a new monitor.

    • by Bandman (86149) <bandman@ g m a i l . com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:30AM (#24042555) Homepage

      With CRTs, refresh rate was a big deal, so that might have been part of it.

      If your monitor's refresh rate was equal to the ambiant lighting's refresh rate, you could almost guarantee a headache

    • by maexio (259664) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:58AM (#24043099)

      I think it was determined that Green On Black was the ideal method back in the day (When color monitors / technology was too $$$ / unavailable)

      Or it could have something to do with our eye's ability to see various wavelengths of color. For instance, the same 'intensity' green laser is 8x more visible than a red laser. This wiki link:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visible_light [wikipedia.org]

      shows the range of colours in wavelength form, while this one :

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_vision [wikipedia.org]

      shows the nm of light that each type of receptor can see. If you see, the Green wavelength appears to be near the middle, so although ianad (I Am Not A Doctor), the green theory seems to hold up.

      Also, i heard / read it somewhere a long time ago (ie, why all the crummy dumb terms seem to be green on black)

    • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:00AM (#24043129) Homepage Journal

      Actually, colors do make a difference... though I dont know enough to know which ones are better. Also, true flicker free lights help as well - even though LCDs are almost flicker free.

      I would guess the optimal colors would be determined by the color temp setting used on the LCDs. Personally, I prefer warmer lighting (warm white flicker free flourescents or warm white halogens), though the color temps on my monitors are pretty high.

      Possibly more important is light placing and intensity. Studies (on /. a long time ago, at the link above and elsewhere here; and on the web of course) shows that less light is easier on the eyes for coders and data entry people. It (if memory serves) helps reduce eye strain and distraction. Inotherwords, use enough light to see your workspace, illuminate your keyboard - and not much else. Upward facing lights (ie: "torch" lights, wall sconces, etc) help with this because they bring up the ambient light in the room without the eye-strain issues direct lighting cause for those who code or do data entry. To that, one would add task lighting appropriate to the job they are doing (like a desk lamp over their reading area where they browse their programming guide or stack of papers they are entering into the computer).

      Cheaper CRTs (or CRTs in general) have a flicker to them which can make one's eyes hurt. Cheaper LCDs sometimes have slower refresh and response rates that can cause a similar effect - contrary to some people's beliefs that an LCD is an LCD is an LCD. Also, if you compare a high quality LCD to a cheapo one, you can often notice the difference in quality - especially on text rendering... text is often "smoother" looking on the better one - which also helps reduce eye strain.

      Generally, for an LCD, one that (accurately) claims it is great for gaming - and has good pixel representation - is an ideal choice. It means it should have a very low response time, and good clarity and contrast. Skip CRTs... they may make pretty images - but as resolutions climb, LCDs beat them in text display.

      Keep in mind, much "eye" strain is due to data your mind is filling in and your eyes are trying to follow (or external visual distractions your mind or eyes are trying to absorb).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jasin Natael (14968)

      The monitor does make a huge difference, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I've got a 24" iMac (early 2007, matte LCD) as my primary workstation, and the screen is beautiful. However, it is insanely bright. Even at the lowest brightness setting, it's still too bright for working with the blinds closed. I use a free program called Shades to cut the brightness in software.

      But the things you can do to get better coding performance are:

      • Calibrate your monitor as well as possible. This ensures that y
    • by penguin_dance (536599) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:25AM (#24043613)

      If you wear corrective lenses, make sure you get your eyes checked regularly for any changes. Also, I found it worth the price to get a pair of glasses suited for the distance I sit from the computer.

      You should also be taking breaks at least once an hour. And keep in mind that people blink less than normal when on the computer so make sure you are blinking. I find that a good quality, moisturizing eye drop can help.

      Also check the brightness and contrast settings on your monitor. You may need to dim things down if you work in an area that already has bright lighting.

      The Mayo clinic also has a good list of tips [mayoclinic.com].

    • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:27AM (#24043663)

      I don't even think quality of the monitor has anything to do with it either.

      Just turn up the contrast and turn down the brightness.

      If you have a funny color balance going on, turn down the blues in a custom color profile. This brings out the reds (relative to the blues) which will further enhance contrast (blue is a contrast destroying color; it is also right next to the hardest color men have detecting, violet).

      You can see this for yourself next time you're near some sunglasses. Try on some with yellow, orange, or pink lenses; and look far off into the distance. Particularly if you can look out of the store into a hazy area. Then try on some with blue or purple lenses. The contrast difference is night and day; the extra contrast from the yellow lenses helps your eyes distinguish objects from the grey haze. This is why shooters, skiers, and sometimes wind surfers will go for yellow or pink shades; and almost never blue.

  • Color Scheme Sampler (Score:5, Informative)

    by slifox (605302) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:20AM (#24042337)

    I've looked into this topic a few times in the past...

    Last time, I found a page that shows samples of hundreds of VIM color schemes:

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~maverick/VimColorSchemeTest/index-pl.html [cmu.edu]

    I don't use VIM (I use JOE), but the color schemes are easy to convert manually

    Whats nice is that you can scan through a _lot_ of schemes very quickly, and easily pick out the ones that work very well.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:31AM (#24042571)

      I read a study once that said that yellow text on a blue background was easiest on the eyes, and I've been using this for text-only frames in PowerPoints ever since. I used to get the occasional complaint that slides were unreadable, but I haven't since. I've noticed also that when looking at these slides for a while I don't get quite as much of the after-image effect as I do with white-on-black. Give it a try.

      • by Cassini2 (956052) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:55AM (#24043037)

        The old color schemes were well researched. When people were paying $100,000's on their mainframes, they wanted monitors that worked well for their operators. The productivity of the mainframe depended on it. This resulted in many of the old monitors being amber on black or green on black rather than the easier to build white on black monitors.

        For color monitors, the white on blue and yellow on blue schemes are the best. Black on white isn't bad; it has the virtue of being high contrast. White on black is still one of the worst color schemes. I never got a good explanation of why black on white is good (think original Apple Mac), vs. white on black is bad (original IBM CGA).

        Resolution and refresh rate are also important. Generally, rendering the same number of characters at a higher resolution is easier on the eyes. Thus, the original IBM PC Hercules monochrome card is a much nicer screen to program on than the original IBM PC CGA video card. It wasn't until VGA that the color resolution on the IBM PC was as good as the monochrome resolution, and people started switching in a broad way to color only displays.

        Finally, look at purchasing a pair of glasses. Even if you have "borderline" vision, like I do, they may ease eye fatigue. At first, they will probably bother you, until you get used to using them.

        • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:59AM (#24043119)
          I never got a good explanation of why black on white is good (think original Apple Mac), vs. white on black is bad (original IBM CGA).

          You'll get it now: Depth of focus. Bright-on-dark results in a darker screen overall than dark-on-bright. This means that your pupils will open wider (to let more light in), which results in a smaller depth of focus (optics 101, ask anyone whose hobby is photography). And this, in turn, means that your eye has to re-focus more often.

        • by MrEd (60684) <tonedog AT hailmail DOT net> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:35AM (#24043825)

          I've done some industrial control room display design, where the client still wants things to be easy for the operators. The consensus among human factors professionals is that a light gray background is best (similar to the slashdot color scheme around this comment box). Why?

          - To match the screen luminance to your surroundings. Monitors showing black backgrounds will more harshly reflect the ambient light, resulting in annoying glare (unless you work in a pitch black room). The lower the ambient light level in your workspace, the darker your gray.

          - To allow the greatest range of text colors with acceptable contrast. For example, try reading yellow on a white background. Using gray gives you the option to transmit a lot of color information while keeping an even contrast. The key, again, is to choose text colors that are not "pure" from the MSPaint palette, but instead are pastel-ized enough to have equivalent contrast on your grey background of choice.

          The combination of these two should result in a fairly even constrast throughout your workspace. The goal is to minimize the light correction your eye has to perform when you look from the screen to your surroundings, and when navigating around through different parts of your code.

          If there are elements of your work (like BUGBUG in code) that you want your color scheme to draw to your attention, a grey background also lets you choose a more saturated, salient color to really punch up the attention-grabbing factor.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Pig Hogger (10379)
          Actually, "white" monitors weren't as easy to manufacture, because it involved a mix of various phosphors to re-create the white colour, whereas monochrome (green, amber) did not have this problem.
    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:44AM (#24042845) Homepage Journal

      you can scan through a _lot_ of schemes very quickly, and easily pick out the ones that look pretty

      Fixed that for you.

      For future reference, aesthetics (particularly in the short term) != usability.

  • Zenburn (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:21AM (#24042367)

    Zenburn is a low-contrast colour scheme for low-light conditions. It is popular color scheme among programmers because it is very easy on the eyes.

    Legend says it was used by the ancients when they developed teh internets and our realm.

    * http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000682.html [codinghorror.com]
    * http://slinky.imukuppi.org/zenburn/ [imukuppi.org]
    * http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=415 [vim.org]
    * http://slinky.imukuppi.org/2006/10/31/just-some-alien-fruit-salad-to-keep-you-i [imukuppi.org] n-the-zone/
    * http://termos.vemod.net/zenburn-for-konsole [vemod.net]

    • by pipatron (966506)
      I'm using zenburn myself, it's the absolute best. You want to use it with more than 16 colors though. There is now a high contrast mode as well, if you have a brighter workplace, or want to work on a laptop in sunlight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by edalytical (671270)

      This topic was discussed recently here on /. I find it pretty interesting. After spending a significant amount of time reading the comments and clicking links I decided Zenburn really was the best.

      I set up Xcode with the theme and I find it reduces eye strain. Now if I could only figure out how to get it to work with Aquamacs.

    • by edmicman (830206)
      Is this available in Visual Studio 6?
  • Here is an answer... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:21AM (#24042369)

    It is I, 1100101, and this was asked three months ago with a good discussion. I guess slashdot operates in quarterly cycles. :)

    Here is the previous discussion: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/04/08/2213222 [slashdot.org]

    As to not karma-whore, here was my response as a doc...
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=515908&cid=23008272 [slashdot.org]

  • Green on Black (Score:2, Insightful)

    by russlar (1122455)
    I use green text on a black background, and it seems to help. A lot of it has to do with the quality and type of your monitor.
    • by Shivetya (243324)

      I am in this camp as well, but I think my preference comes from years of working with 5250 sessions on an iSeries and 3270 on a mainframe. There is something to be said for what others came up with before. Sometimes the simplest solution is to look to the past.

    • I'm with the parent. Black background. I use Lime Green, with Lime Green for the cursor, and Yellow for selection. It's high contrast, easy on the eyes, and it makes it look like you're programming The Matrix. =)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by okvol (549849)
      Using green on black also helps to warp your brain to where you will think like old-style programmers. I've used several: Blue on light blue (C64 style), gold on black, purple on a pale blue, and more. You want some contrast, but not too much. And, chose colors that fit your personality. I remember someone who loved the "hot dog stand" colors in Windows 3.1!
    • by Angstroem (692547)

      Green on black is great; however, my xterms all run grey on black since I don't want to be confused with all these executables on my color xterm :)

      Whatever you do, just don't fall for anything-on-white. No idea who came up with the idea that actively highlighting the non-information would be best -- for a reflexive media like paper (which happens so be somewhat white-ish by nature anyway) I can see the benefits, but for actively illuminated media it's just plain stupid.

      As any eye doctor and optrician will t

  • by jhouserizer (616566) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:23AM (#24042399) Homepage
    A black foreground on a black background has always given me the least eye pain.
  • by QuantumPion (805098) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:24AM (#24042411)

    Pink text on green background.

    This combination is so vibrant that it burns the code into your brain, allowing you to better visualize your program.

    That, or give you a seizure.

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:25AM (#24042437) Journal

    This comes up all the time.

    Personally I find the above best. I can cope with green or yellow text, but find white best, followed by cyan. This whole idea of the modern WYSIWYG desktop trying to emulate paper and thus having a white background is just stupid. Paper is a reflective medium. Screens emit and therefore looking at a white screen is going to give you the office worker's equivalent of snow blindness. Print preview should have a white background, and it should be an easy thing to switch it on for typing up a text document (for true WYSIWYG) but we really shouldn't be using it all day.

  • Good luck (Score:2, Insightful)

    We seem to get this article every few months, and there's never any scientific data to look at.

    So, uh, enjoy your 400 posts of anecdotal evidence and personal opinion. Personally I reccomend pastel text on an ash grey background.

  • by Jurily (900488)

    The default vi colors on a fresh Gentoo install are absolutely beautiful, easy to read, and in my experience helps with eye strain too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mowall (865642)

      The default vi colors on a fresh Gentoo install are absolutely beautiful

      Could you check what they are and post them please? I'd like to try it but don't have that kind of time.

  • I'm an admin rather than a programmer, but when I write code, I'm usually pretty easy going with my color schemes, as long as the background is black and I can read the comments.

    vim by default leaves the comments in shell scripts as a dark, dark blue, which makes it almost impossible to see. A little lighter is fine.

  • Green text on black background.

    This has been 30 seconds with Captain Obvious. Thank you, and happy hunting!

  • when I used to do a predominant part of my day coding, I used to set the editor to full screen, and use not a full bright white background, but a gray background and then use the color syntax highlighting on that. When your in a room with typical 6500 degree-kelvin florescent lighting, combined with the peak white background (paper page simulated) on the monitor, they do tend to make your eyes really have to focus much too hard.

    What also helps the eye strain is if you are still using a CRT monitor, get the

  • Maybe it's because I'm getting old, but I prefer the old-school look of green text on a black background.

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:30AM (#24042553)

    This combination is the most relaxing for the eye. Also, illuminate the area around and behind the monitor.

    Why ? Depth-of-focus. Brightness will make the pupils contract, which increases the depth of focus and decreases the amount of regulating that the eye needs to do.

    Maybe you need to have your vision checked, too. Having a quarter of a diopter too much or too little is hardly noticable, but wil give you headaches in the long run.

  • One thing you have to remember is that you're not just seeing your screen, but also the things around it (in case you don't own a 30" TFT...). So, personally I have found whatever theme resembles the colors and brightness levels of the area of my desktop (the table, the wall behind it, the amount of light etc.) works best for me, i.e. causes the least strain on my eyes. Which, as a consequence, also means that I'll at least adjust the brightness of my screen with changing daylight hours.
    So, this being /., g

  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:32AM (#24042583) Homepage Journal

    A fir bit of informal research has been done by chessplayers on this subject. After decades of experimenting, the choice of chessboard color seems to have settled on dark green on yellow or beige.

    This makes sense when one considers that the eye sees colors best in the middle of the spectrum where yellow and green are; and sees worst at the ends where they fade into infrared and ultraviolet.

  • Bias lighting? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guanine (883175) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:33AM (#24042621)

    The few scientific studies [sfasu.edu] I've found on readability indicate that there is no color scheme that significantly enhances readability -- I would think readability would only be part of the issue regarding the eye strain problem.

    So, what about making your own bias light for your monitor [lifehacker.com]? That will _definitely_ reduce eye strain.

  • Zenburn (Score:5, Informative)

    by DarkDust (239124) * <marc@darkdust.net> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:33AM (#24042623) Homepage

    I love Zenburn [vim.org]. I use it on all my machines now and at work.

    But there is one thing you should do in your .vimrc prior to setting :colorscheme zenburn, and that is forcing the use of 256 colors:

    :set t_Co=256

    Also I found that the search highlighting wasn't visible enough for my taste, so I tuned it. After :colorscheme zenburn I have:

    :hi search ctermbg=223 ctermfg=238
    :hi incsearch ctermbg=216 ctermfg=242

    And if you like to have a little more contrast, then insert the following before your :colorscheme zenburn:

    :let g:zenburn_high_Contrast = 1

    which together makes for this:

    :set t_Co=256
    :let g:zenburn_high_Contrast = 1
    :colorscheme zenburn
    :hi search ctermbg=223 ctermfg=238
    :hi incsearch ctermbg=216 ctermfg=242

  • First, good monitor. If the CRT is old, the caps are breaking down and dot pitch starts to suck.

    Next, for the text editors you use all day, select a moderate contrast. Not bright text on black, and not dark text on white. The background should be no lighter than #CCCCCC or darker than #333333. Save the high contrast for brief sessions, like email or web.

    Lastly, every built-in color syntax highlighting theme I've seen makes the source code look like a carnival midway, if not the Vegas strip. Lose half

  • I don't have a great opinion on colors but I do like my fonts. Specifically the monospaced font Consolas. It's a Microsoft font that requires ClearType to be turned on, so chances are if you're using Vim you can't use it, but it just looks great. I've found it very easy on the eyes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolas [wikipedia.org]

  • White on blue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by huge (52607) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:48AM (#24042909)

    Ages ago when I was using Borland IDEs I got used to the blue background with white text and I still prefer that over anything else.

    To be precise Borland default color scheme was yellow on blue, which I couldn't stand, but with white text it's actually pretty good.

  • Amber all the way! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbarr (2233) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:06AM (#24043257) Homepage

    I coded for over 10 years using amber DEC VT terminals, and my prescription on my glasses only changed marginally. And much of that coding was done in 132-column mode.

    The important thing to do is to periodically give your eyes a break. Take the time to stop looking at the screen and focus on something distant across the room, office, or out the window. Staring at anything long enough will give you a headache....

  • by sudog (101964) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:11AM (#24043345) Homepage

    My eyes never burn no matter how many 16- and 24-hour sessions.

  • by guidryp (702488) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:22AM (#24043567)

    Matching brightness to ambient lighting is much more important than color scheme (unless you are going nuts with red on blue or something). I have been working as a coder for 12+ years now with a lot of 14 hour+ days...

    I never had much problem with CRTs. I prefer white backgrounds (standard VIM with syntax highlighting) with the brightness toned down to near paper levels for easy viewing.

    Most of the bigger LCDs I have tried lack the range of brightness control as they fight for supremacy in the specification wars. I have purchased LCDs of all three types (VA/TN/IPS) and in sizes ranging from 17" to 30".

    Eye comfort has correlated most strongly with how low you can modulate the brightness. On most big panels this modulation is quite poor when they aim for 400-500 cd/m2 which is insanely bright and hurt my eyes instantly regardless of color scheme (bright on dark or dark on bright both hurt). Even when these beasts are at ZERO brightness they are still often over 200cd/m2 which is completely nuts in a normal home lighting. You next have to resort to using the blocking characteristic of the LCD panel to lower it further which results in contrast going down the drain. Or set up more lighting which seems like a waste in terms of energy if nothing else.

    After all my purchases I have ended up with lower brightness cheap TN panels. These modulate to the dim end very nicely and tend to have fairly clear screen anti-glare coatings for nice clean text with a paper in light level brightness achievable.

    I recommend something like the Benq G2400W with it's nice 250cd/m2 max brightness (and therefore very good lower light performance).

    YMMV.

  • by clickety6 (141178) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:26AM (#24043661)

    ...it's only on the screen for half the time, thereby giving your eye the other half of the time to relax from reading.

  • Three rules (Score:5, Informative)

    by barracg8 (61682) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:54AM (#24044171)

    This comes up on /. every so often, and I'm summarizing here the advice from a few people who (to me at least) sounded knowledgeable about the topic last time it came up.

    1. Use a strongly contrasting color scheme - this is obvious, black on white is easier to read than orange on red.
    2. Match the background color to the environment - staring at a bright monitor in a dark room is like staring straight at a light bulb - and the reverse can be true too (you get a halo around the monitor burning into your retina). Green on black is probably a brilliant color scheme if you do all your coding in a basement only lit by the blinkenlights of a router, but in a well lit office may not be as good for your eyes.
    3. Limit color edges. Okay, this is where I'm going to paraphrase other people really badly, but here goes. Your eye has separate RGB color cones, and effectively has to match a set of separate red, green, and blue images together. For some people, you can start to see optical effects when there is a strong contract change in different channels - your eye doesn't line up the images correctly, causing a blurry shadow around objects. This is not necessarily visually all the pronounced, but causes eye strain.

    Based on this advice I've switched to blue on light beige (#0000C0 on #FFFFC0). It has a strong contrast in two channels, no change in the third, and suits my office (reasonably bright, but lit with non-natural light). So far, this is working well for me.

  • Orange on green (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skapare (16644) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @11:08AM (#24045617) Homepage

    The color I have found that works best is orange on green. This color pair has to be tuned so that the level of green primary in the orange is equal to the level of green in the background. This ensures that the boundary edge between foreground and background colors is limited to a single color. With the contrast being in a single color, it can remain in sharp focus regardless of the color error of the lens in the eyes or corrective lenses many people use. While red on black would maintain the same sharpness, having an added green base color increases the illumination level, causing pupils to contract to a smaller opening, increasing depth of field and improving focus and visual sharpness. Adding some blue to the base color (approximately pink on dark cyan) can also work. Just be sure that the foreground color has as much green and blue as the background color.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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