Dark Theme: Can't Change Main Editor's Text Color

I feel like a moron having to ask about this, because (a) I’m a Scrivener noob, and (b) the topic appears to have been addressed many times. But for the life of me I cannot select a dark theme that displays the main editor’s foreground text in a light color; it always, always stays black. E.g. I select Solarized Dark, and remove text color (the white square with a slash), and see black text on a dark background. I’ve tried removing the text color by highlighting all the text in the front document, by not highlighting any text first, and by removing it from the template (Preferences > Editing > Formatting).

I found an instruction from AmberV to change the main text color using this Preferences option:

…But on Mac 10.13.6 + Scrivener 3.2.2, that Preferences tab has no such option on that tab to change text color, only “editor” color:
Screen Shot 2021-07-11 at 4.01.44 PM

Please help me see what I’m missing here.

Weird. Also your icons look different (my screenshot shows v 3.2.2). :thinking:

Thank you, I feel less crazy now that I see that the option to change “Text” color is genuinely missing only on my installation.

Is your Scrivener from L&L’s downloads page, or the App Store? I just re-downloaded version 3.2.2, and the Text option is still missing. I might try uninstalling and downloading version 3.2.1.…

UPDATE: Preferences > Appearance > Main Editor > Colors > Text is MISSING from both versions 3.2.2 and 3.2.1 (downloaded from L&L’s website).

Downloaded from L & L. I don’t get it. I see your macOS version is a bit older, but it meets Scrivener’s minimum requirements. But how could that change anything?

Everything may be okay with your installation. What looks to be happening here is that the software is in Light Mode. The ability to override the text colour is something only available in Dark, as a design decision.

This is documented in Appendix B.5.8.

Does the Light Mode feature a different set of icons? I can’t check right now.

Do you mean the preference tab icons along the top? If so, no that’s macOS version dependent. The screenshot you posted is how things look on macOS 11, which moves even further away from having colourful icons in software. The screenshot they posted is what the Preferences pane looks like on all earlier systems.

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I had no idea. Now, that’s quite some dedication! :+1:

Though I still can’t reproduce OP’s problem… unless he’s actually in Light Mode, with a light theme, setting the background color to dark…?

I think that’s exactly what’s going on—and the software isn’t really set up for having a dark main editor with the software otherwise set to light mode. Composition Mode is the only place where you can do that effectively.

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So it is my OS version that’s the problem. I also have no such menu item as Scrivener → Appearance, which, I presume, is only available on OS 10.14 and up. I’m still on 10.13, the last version not to have an OS-wide dark mode. I was hoping to stay in the 10.13 High Sierra territory for as long as possible and resist the draconian march of ever-prettier, but hardly more functional OS updates.

Alas, Dark Mode is a prettification that I actually find useful at night. So I’ll start investigating upgrading to 10.14.

I would suggest that L&L specify more prominently that proper functioning of dark themes is dependent upon having OS Dark Mode, as this is not (or hasn’t been till recently, perhaps) the usual practice with themes. E.g. I can apply light text on dark background seamlessly in TextMate, Sublime Text, Ulysses (which I’ve abandoned, because it is now rental-ware), LibreOffice, and so on.

Thank you for your good sleuthing!

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I hear you on that (though I would say the older systems are prettier from a functionality standpoint, the latest OS is way too flashy and self-aware for my taste)! macOS 10.14 requires a longer checklist of annoying things to disable, and some things cannot really be disabled and must be pushed through gradually as you go (like affirming that, yes, when you use the New Folder shortcut from a file save dialogue, that you really do wish to make a new folder, and have Software X “control” Finder :roll_eyes: ). Eventually you’ve answered all of the mundane “do you really want a computer or tablet” style security theatre questions, and it feels like a normal Mac again. It takes about half a year or so of normal usage, depending on how much automation and cooperative workflows you make use of.

I did it because I like dark mode that much, but I do still miss the cleaner experience of .12 and .13. That said, once you do push past the initial resistance, 10.14 is not too bad.

I would suggest that L&L specify more prominently that proper functioning of dark themes is dependent upon having OS Dark Mode…

You mean if you download a theme meant to be used for dark mode and try to use it? I suppose we could (I kind of thought we did)—it’s been so many years since that was an issue for the majority of users though, that it might not be worth the trouble at this point. Very few people are still using anything older that macOS 10.15 to be honest.

Somehow, AmberV, your frank description of the transition to Mojave made it possible for me to feel OK about upgrading. The eye-roll (which I continue to laugh at!) felt like a kind of Buddhistic acceptance of software as necessary illusion and inevitable but acceptable suffering.

As of today I’m running 10.14, and Scrivener looks dark and pretty and functional all at the same time.


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I just meant that theme and mode aren’t usually the exact same thing: dark and light modes are broad applications of differing themes; if you don’t have at least two different themes, you can’t have two different modes. But the reverse is not usually true: software running on 10.13 and below, with only one mode (light), can change their theme; multiple programs just can’t all change their themes at the same time. Here is a tiny software drama starring Mac and (Text)Mate to illustrate:

Screen Shot 2021-07-14 at 12.17.52 PM

Screen Shot 2021-07-14 at 12.23.33 PM

Scrivener has implemented dark-theming in lockstep with dark mode. If I were Scrivener, I’d feel envious of Mate in this respect, because it still retains autonomous full theming capability (namely, light text).

[Content Warning: 80% of following paragraph is a tangential rant, but there is a point in here.]
I acknowledge that there are relatively few pre-10.14 users. I am still one of them, as I have a second MBP – the glorious, tragically flawed 17" powerhouse from 2011, thought by many of its owners to be the best laptop ever created – that is stuck forever on El Capitan. (The tragic flaw is that the motherboard’s GPU was poorly manufactured and will prematurely burn out unless you partially disable it through an elaborate process, which would have to be redone upon upgrading the OS.) Anyway, the point is that there is a persistent minority population of “business” users who value muscle and flexibility and autonomy in computer use because a computer is a tool, above don’t-worry-your-pretty-little-head-about-all-those-settings, black-box-like, prêt-à-porter UX and buy-me-because-I’m beautiful UI. And these typically older, less-likely-to-upgrade-without-practical-benefit users are, I believe, depressed, because we simply don’t represent enough market share to matter most of the time, because to design for us is unprofitable. To many of these users, the recent 16" MBP was the first Apple laptop since the 2012 unibodies to be worth buying.

Back to the realm of relevancy and the topic at hand. Scrivener is muscle-, flexibility-, and autonomy-oriented. It is exactly the kind of software that I and my crusty “Ahh, kids these days!” cohort love. So – and this is pure speculative deduction on my part – I would think that there is a small but dedicated user base with older machines and OSes who would appreciate the application of one more minor old-school design value – distinguishing theme from mode – on top of the multitude of sound design values that Scrivener already demonstrates.

You could call such a strategy: No Codger Left Behind.

I might have phrased that poorly, or displaced what I meant to have emphasis. There was a point in time where 10.14 was brand new and a massive chunk of people were still using 10.13. We did not have major issues with people applying dark mode themes even at that point in time. So to change it now, five years after the fact, would be a strange way to budget our time. That’s all I mean by it; it’s a calculation that has to be done for everything, and is not peculiar or exclusive to supporting older systems. Rare or edge case issues get left aside all the time, whether past, present or future tense in their concerns.