Solarized

April 12, 2011

Late last week one of my best friends sent me a link to Solarized, and said: "I'm sure you probably will get way into the fact that someone cared THIS MUCH." He's so right. This is the kind of thing that gets me really excited.

Solarized is a sixteen color palette (eight monotones, eight accent colors) designed for use with terminal and gui applications. It has several unique properties. I designed this color scheme with both precise CIELAB lightness relationships and a refined set of hues based on fixed color wheel relationships. It has been tested extensively in real world use on color calibrated displays (as well as uncalibrated/intentionally miscalibrated displays) and in a variety of lighting conditions.

Last year I asked if an optimal color scheme for my eyes could be determined; I received a few emails in response to that, but mostly from people wanting me to write a follow-up piece if I got a definitive answer. I never did. Relatedly, I've asked similar questions on Twitter a few times, usually to limited response.

People seem to be pretty cagey with their preferences when it comes to this sort of thing; either that, or--and I think this is more likely--they're just embarrassed to admit they use black text on a white background. (I can't imagine using such a scheme for long stints spent reading or writing; it's just too damn contrasty, and too damn bright. Yes, I realize this very site is black on white, but we aren't talking about me! ;)

Anyway, back to Solarized. It's hard to overstate the amount of thought and effort that's gone into this project, which includes packages for a large number of popular text editors, photo-manipulation programs, etc. Also, not only are light and dark color schemes provided, but they retain the "same selective contrast relationships and overall feel when switching between" them. I love this!

In addition, an importable color palette for Mac OS X's Color Picker is provided, which means using these color schemes in any of the many "writing" apps we all seem to bounce around in these days (e.g., Notational Velocity, nvALT, WriteRoom, etc.) is a breeze. Indeed, you just have to look at the values chart (shown on the project page, or in the README.md supplied with the various packages)--which includes Lab, hex and RGB values--and the relational rules defined at the bottom of the project page, and you're in business.

Clearly, your mileage may vary with respect to the actual colors used (I quite like them myself), but I don't think there's any denying that generally the palette is low strain and easy to read. I definitely am going to give these two schemes some serious use, and bet that I'll stick with them for quite a while.

Thanks for all of your hard work on this Evan. It's much appreciated.

(For those interested, Mark Story graciously ported Solarized to TextMate.)

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