Monday, April 26, 2010

Eyestrain and desktop colours

Maybe I'm getting old.  Ok, I know am getting old, proven by my kids insistence on having a birthday celebration for me today.  Also proven by that non-topical digression, I suppose.

As I get older, I'm having a little more trouble with eyestrain when using my computer. I've been in front of my monitor rather a lot over the past few weeks, and my eyes hurt. At least part of the problem is large white windows, so I've been fiddling with trying to invert my desktop colours ... white text on black gives me a lot less strain than black text on white.

But it is hard. Easy enough on the surface, but the Devil is, as they say, in the details. 

Desktop background, menu background and text, popups, text frames (like terminal windows) ... a lot of stuff is easy, just requires some attention to detail.

Even web browser colours were solvable, albeit non-optimally. In Firefox I could choose white text on black, but the pages still displayed white. I had to go the extra step of overriding the page's colour choices. Now I have white on black, but I've lost any shading the page author may have wanted to apply to a section.

And that hasn't helped HTML display in Thunderbird ... there I am currently getting white text on white background for HTML messages, which is a little rough for reading. Thunderbird doesn't present the same option to override a page's colour choices, perhaps because it isn't a web browser. Still, it gets plenty of HTML. and that HTML apparently has colours.

Even this editor I am working in now, writing this blog ... I'm in a lovely white-on-black screen, typing merrily away, but most the buttons at the top of the editing window are pure black, the little images don't show up. Most ... the "Media Browser" image shows up, and the pulldowns for Styles etc, but all the rest of the little boxes, all black.

Somehow I think this entry will be published without any special formatting or links.

What we need is some way for the user to specify colours for the broad range of situations that come up in all the content he views. Letting me override background and text colour isn't sufficient ... I also need a way to specify alternate background colours for sidebars, and for computer code boxes, and for table row highlighting, and ...

In fact, that's the problem - there are as many kinds of background as there are pages. Maybe not quite, but there are lots.

In part because there is no standardization. If I author a page with a table, and want to shade alternate rows of the table for separation, is there any standard name for that span? Will such a row on my page have the same style as a similar row on your page?

So me the poor user would need to separately override two styles for the same basic concept.  That sucks.

Where is the pretty UI that lists the styles I'm viewing or have viewed, lets me group them, and override portions, for example, override the colours while leaving font and size alone? Rules-based partial style overrides, similar to .mailfilter rules? Hmmm.

Or maybe something exceedingly clever that would let me click one checkbox to remap colours (for everything except images) to the opposite side of the colour wheel (0xFFFFFF- value).

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