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Note status: :herb:

I’m a big fan of dark themes. I’ve been using variants of Horizon for quite a while now in VS Code (as you can read about in vs code note), since I like the overall warmth of the theme’s color palette.

Unfortunately, the person who initially designed Horizon doesn’t seem to be actively maintaining it. Their original version is no longer findable in the VS Code extensions respository. Thankfully, the Daybreak variant fills this void nicely!

Activity Bar Contrast

The one thing I’m not a fan of about Daybreak is that the activity bar icons are extremely low-contrast. Especially if you lower the brightness of your monitor, you almost need to remember the order of the icons in order to know where to put your cursor.

original with low-contrast icons my current preference, which is easier to perceive colors with transparency
Here are three versions for the sidebar colors. My current preference is the middle one, with the highest contrast.

Here are the original colors:

original with low-contrast icons

VS Code lets you add customizations, so this isn’t difficult to override.

Here are the colors I’m using as of 2022-04-21:

my current preference, which is easier to perceive

This is what I’ve added to my settings.json file to achieve this:

    "workbench.colorCustomizations": {
        "activityBar.inactiveForeground": "#6C6F93"

The snippet above applies the dark purple/gray (which looks like this) from the original Horizon theme’s Dark UI palette just to the inactive icons. This makes the colors much easier to see on a dimmed monitor.

Here’s a version that lands somewhere in between, which you might prefer if your monitor is often at full brightness.

colors with transparency

This is the code to achieve these colors:

    "workbench.colorCustomizations": {
        "activityBar.inactiveForeground": "#6C6F9395"

The original value for the purple/grey is #6C6F93 — and in the above snippet, the last two digits in the code reduce the opacity from 100% to 58.5%. This is more than enough to help “situate” the color in the bar, at least to my eyes. It’s a good balance of increasing the contrast while still visually prioritizing the active icons.

But wait—why does 95 equal 58.5%? I’d forgotten that these values are in hex notation—and therefore, anything in the 90% range would need to start with F.

Even if you don’t particularly love this theme, hopefully this note helps you trick out VS Code however suits you!

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