SSMS 2017 – How to Use The Hidden Dark Theme

I’ve always loved having dark themes and styling on any code editor or IDE when I’m doing development work. It just makes it so much easier on my eyes for some reason. I feel less tired and can do more work without getting eye aches or headaches. The discussion of Dark Themes vs Light Themes among developers is never ending. There’s always new and interesting arguments for each, such as being able to interpret light text on a dark background as symbols. It is also natural to think that black text on a white screen is easier on the eyes simply because this is what we are used to from physical print material like books and newspapers. The thing is, these materials aren’t lit like the white background on your monitor screen. All this is further impacted by monitor position and the lighting in the room itself.

Every time I need to use SQL Server Management Studio, I always hate the colour scheme and the lack of theme or skin capabilities. I always wished it looked a more like the recent iterations of Visual Studio (2013, 2015, 2017).

Thankfully, a dark theme option is currently under development by Microsoft. While it can be turned on with a simple edit, it should be noted that there could be unexpected behaviour (and even colouring) as its still being developed.

You can download SQL Server Management Studio from here.

After installation, open a file editor as Administrator (Notepad, Notepad++).

Next, open the following file:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\140\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio\ssms.pkgundef

In here, comment off the following line:

// Remove Dark theme
// [$RootKey$\Themes\{1ded0138-47ce-435e-84ef-9ec1f439b749}]
[$RootKey$\External Tools\Error Loo&kup]
[$RootKey$\VB Editor]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\C/C++]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\CSharp]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\Disassembly]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\ENC]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\JavaScript]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\Memory]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\Register]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\ResJSON]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\TypeScript]
[$RootKey$\Text Editor\VBScript]

Finally, start SSMS, and go to Tools > Options > Environment > General. The dark theme should be available for selection in the Color theme option.

So much better on the eyes!