Windows 10 Tip: Use the Dark Theme

Posted on August 9, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0

Windows 10 Tip: Use the Dark Theme

The ability to switch between the standard Light theme and a new Dark theme is one of the more eagerly-awaited features in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. But it’s not as simple as flipping a switch: There are a few additional things you need to know.

In the good news department, you can now switch between Light and Dark system themes. You do this by navigating to Settings (WINKEY + I), Personalization, Colors.


Changing to Dark works as expected, at least for this window.


Be ready for many inconsistencies, however. Sadly, this remains a Microsoft hallmark.

The first one is that Settings location. You may understandably assume you would change the theme in Theme settings (Settings, Personalization, Themes, instead of Colors settings. But no, Themes settings refers to the old-school desktop themes that are still configured with the Personalization control panel that dates back a decade or more.

The second is how these themes are identified: In Settings, the two theme choices are called “your app mode” for some reason. App mode? Come on, Microsoft.

Worse, the term app mode is not used elsewhere in the system: In those apps where you can configure the app theme separately from the system, the choice is sometimes (but not always) called a “theme,” as it is with Edge. But Groove and Movies & TV call it a “mode.”

In Edge, it's a theme.

In Edge, it’s a theme.

Speaking of apps, some—like Edge, Groove, and Movies & TV—let you configure the app theme separately from the system theme. Which is fine: It makes sense that a user might want entertainment apps, in particular, to display in darker colors. But it’s always inconsistent. Edge offers Light and Dark choices. Groove offers Light, Dark, and Use System Setting. So if you change your OS theme to Dark, Edge remains Light. Unless you change it manually.

And some other apps—like Photos—are just dark no matter what you do; you can’t make it light. And other apps, like File Explorer, retain the old-school whiteness of being regardless of which theme you choose.

Point being, setting the theme to Dark mode will not in fact make all of your apps dark. And you won’t be able to force all of those apps to look consistently.

Which, again, is classic Microsoft: The context menus you get when you right-click items around Windows 10 likewise offer a strange range of looks and color schemes. Why on earth would the system theme be any more consistent? Or is it called an app mode? Who knows?

Maybe we’ll see improvements to this feature in Redstone 2.