Computer screens can be glaringly bright, especially in the dark. Try reducing eye strain by using a dark Windows visual style and web browser theme. You can even give every web page you view a white-text-on-black-background look.
You can choose from two types of dark Windows themes: (1) a high-contrast theme — which won’t look as pretty, but doesn’t require any additional software — or (2) a third-party theme, for which you need to perform a little hack on Windows to install it.
Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 have several built-in High Contrast themes you can use to get a dark desktop and applications. Right-click your desktop, select Personalize, and select one of the High Contrast themes. Feel free to try each and see which you prefer.
Third-Party Visual Styles
The high-contrast themes aren’t ideal. They’re designed for accessibility, not prettiness. They also don’t use Aero, so they’re not properly hardware accelerated and don’t look as nice.
However, Microsoft doesn’t allow you to install third-party Windows themes without a hack. Download the UltraUXThemePatcher installer, run it, and reboot your computer to patch your system. The tool modifies the uxtheme.dll file in Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 to load any theme you like — by default, it checks themes you attempt to load and only loads them if they’re signed by Microsoft.
Once the patch was applied, you can download theme files and drop them in C:\Windows\Resources\Themes. They’ll appear in the Personalization dialog.
Selected Third-Party Themes
Since you can choose from so many different themes, here are a few samples. Some of these themes also come with icons and fonts — the screenshots below show how they look without the additional bits. Bear in mind that the themes won’t look perfect in every program, as many programs just assume you’re using the Microsoft-provided default themes.
Dark Agility for Windows 7 focuses on providing a dark interface. Many dark themes provide a dark toolbar and white content panes, but Dark Agility goes all the way. Compare it to the high-contrast theme above and you’ll see just why you’d want to use a third-party theme. It’s much slicker.
Dark Pearl VS for Windows 7 incorporates more gray for additional contrast. The content panes are no longer blindingly white, so it’s a nice compromise between an all-black or all-bright theme.
Abisso 2014 for Windows 8.1 is about as dark as you can get. It’s all black aside from the text and interface elements, which are white and blue to stand out.
You’ll probably want to install a dark browser skin so your web browser will fit in with your dark desktop. Internet Explorer doesn’t support themes and will use assets from your Windows theme, but other browsers have custom themes you can install. The themes here are just suggestions — you’ll find many more dark themes on your web browser’s theme-download website.
Slinky Elegant for Chrome provides a nice-looking, minimal dark theme that makes Chrome mesh with your new dark desktop.
Dark Fox for Firefox gives you a dark Firefox logo in your toolbar as well as white, brightly colored buttons.
Opera Simple Dark for Opera will help the Speed Dial page match your operating system theme.
User styles can go beyond theming your desktop and the applications running on it. You can have user styles give a single website — or even the entire web — a dark look. These work by applying a CSS style. You’ll need the Stylish extension installed to use these scripts in Chrome, Firefox, or Opera.
Midnight Surfing Alternative is a user style that attempts to turn every web page you see to a dark theme. Of course, it won’t work perfectly on every site.
Dark Google Minimalist attempts to do the same thing, but only for Google. It won’t interfere with other websites.
Search userstyles.org for “Dark” to find dark themes for other websites.
You should now have a dark desktop, a dark web browser and even dark web pages. Check out our list of the best websites to find wallpapers, if you need a new wallpaper, too.
Do you have any other favorite dark themes? Leave a comment and share your top picks!