Mathworks: it's time for a dark theme.

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Antonello Zito
Antonello Zito on 14 Mar 2022
Commented: Taha on 27 Feb 2024 at 11:13
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.
  22 Comments
Rik
Rik on 31 Jan 2024
That is factually incorrect. You have a preference, and apparently that is shared by those around you.
I also prefer a dark theme, but at least I have the humility to know that my preference isn't universal truth.
Your claim that every single developer prefers it isn't actually proof. I personally know a dev who prefers dark mode for once language and light mode for another. So even if I take you literally, you're wrong.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 31 Jan 2024
I do not like dark theme; I find it to be hard on my eyes.

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Accepted Answer

Michelle Hirsch
Michelle Hirsch on 1 Apr 2022
Edited: Michelle Hirsch on 17 Mar 2023
UPDATE March 17, 2023: Try dark mode by installing the beta of the New Desktop for MATLAB, available for R2023a. Just search for New Desktop for MATLAB in the Add-On Explorer, or download and install from here on the File Exchange.
---------------------------- Original Answer from April 1, 2022 (no joke!) --------------------
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.
  24 Comments
Abby Skofield
Abby Skofield on 2 Jan 2024
Edited: Abby Skofield on 2 Jan 2024
@Ryan Budde - yes, starting in R2023b Update 3, the New Desktop for MATLAB Beta includes dark theme support for apps and plots! We're excited to hear what you think of this feature. It is not documented as it is in Beta development, but there are some code snippets for reference on the Beta page.
As you note, you can set a specific theme on a single figure using the Theme property, e.g. fig.Theme = 'light'. If you would like to change the automatic behavior for all figures in a MATLAB session, please use the GraphicsTheme preference as shown below. The value of this preference is 'auto' by default, and it can be configured to 'light' or 'dark'.
s = settings;
s.matlab.appearance.figure.GraphicsTheme.PersonalValue= 'light'; % PersonalValue persists after restarting MATLAB
s.matlab.appearance.figure.GraphicsTheme.TemporaryValue= 'light'; % TemporaryValue is just one MATLAB session
Please note that setting the DefaultFigureTheme will not continue to work in future releases.

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More Answers (7)

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."
  11 Comments
Rik
Rik on 9 Jun 2022
R2022b is not too far away. You can check whether you're elligble for the R2022b pre-release. I expect more theme-related options in there.
(I don't use pre-releases, exactly for this reason: if I were using it, I would be under NDA whether or not such a change was present).
For me, Schemer provides enough options, so any more options are nice-to-haves.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 11 Jun 2022
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.
  11 Comments
Andrew Janke
Andrew Janke on 24 Oct 2022
> but when it comes to code editors, I would agree that the vast majority of users prefer dark themes.
I would agree that the vast majority of code editor users who like to talk online about light theme/dark theme support do prefer dark theme. But I dunno if that generalizes to "the vast majority of users". If you like light theme, which is the default, why would you spend your time going online and talking about dark theme support?
Wyatt
Wyatt on 19 Feb 2024 at 1:26
Anti-MATLAB people? Give me a break smh.

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Mike Croucher
Mike Croucher on 17 Mar 2023
  1 Comment
Andrew Janke
Andrew Janke on 18 Mar 2023
Heck yeahhhh, time to hit that Download button and start filing minor bug reports.
Thanks for making this happen! I can't tell you how many people will be excited about this.

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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?
  2 Comments
Antonello Zito
Antonello Zito on 14 Mar 2022
Honestly yes... dark theme means a global dark theme, so including the totality of the GUI (windows, menu etc.).
As I said, a good example might be how a dark theme is implemented in Spyder:
Matt J
Matt J on 14 Mar 2022
It seems like a small difference. At the very least, the concerns of energy and eye health should be mostly addressed with a black background.

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Jan
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.
  17 Comments
Rik
Rik on 16 Oct 2022
You don't have to look into a white screen. Matlab Schemer already allows you to turn most of the screen dark. So you already have a solution that gets you most of the way. It doesn't work on the documentation, but you can use your system browser, which you can customize as well.
I'm not denying some people need a darker screen for medical reasons, but saying a true dark mode is required is simply an exageration. Unless even a white menu bar already causes you migraines, in which case you have my sympathies.
Luke
Luke on 1 Mar 2023
its quite simple, we just want dark mode because we think it is better to look at

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John Kelly
John Kelly on 1 Nov 2022
Edited: John Kelly on 1 Nov 2022
We (MathWorks) have removed the previous information in this Answer, origianlly posted by @Nicolai Lamp, because the instructions were about how to access the JSD software, which is still in beta stages, on our public site. If anyone wants more information about how to try out the JavaScript Desktop beta software, we'd love to engage with you directly. Please refer to @Michelle Hirsch's response below for information about how to participate in the beta.
Or you can sign up here and the team will reach out to you:
  4 Comments
Michelle Hirsch
Michelle Hirsch on 27 Oct 2022
Edited: Michelle Hirsch on 2 Nov 2022
Good find, @Nicolai Lamp! We are very excited to have you and others try out the new desktop. But I'd like to ask that you go through our official channel of signing up for our beta. The directions we provide are a little easier and give a better experience. You'll get buttons right in the desktop to enable/disable the new desktop and to provide feedback. This feedback mechanism is especially important to us, so we know what's working well for you and what else you'd like to see.
Sign up here with the email address associated with your MathWorks accountand the team will reach out to you:
Nicolai Lamp
Nicolai Lamp on 1 Nov 2022
Moved: John Kelly on 1 Nov 2022
@Michelle Hirsch Thanks for the mention of the beta program, I didn't know that was an option. I just stumbled upon the flag somewhere online and thought it might be worth it to pass it on.

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Taha
Taha on 27 Feb 2024 at 7:51
Edited: Taha on 27 Feb 2024 at 7:58
install CareUEyes app turn dark mode(MagicX) on matlab session , worked for me but this temp way not fixing anything...
hope you like it.
dark theme matlab
  2 Comments
DGM
DGM on 27 Feb 2024 at 9:43
Edited: DGM on 27 Feb 2024 at 9:45
This is similar to the method I've been using for years, though I think it's worth pointing out that there are drawbacks to inverting the display (or selected windows), depending on what sort of tasks you do in MATLAB.
That said, I've been doing it so long that I almost get confused when see non-inverted syntax highlighting.
Taha
Taha on 27 Feb 2024 at 11:13
yeap as i said it is not solution, even this methods has disadvantages, such as reducing the quality of textures or color inversion but good for people who cares about their sight.

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