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Discussion on: Why Most Developers Prefer The Dark Theme IDE?

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altjero profile image
Jeremy Rumble

In regards to point #3...

If you ask me, the premise that a dark-themed IDE will use less energy is problematic at best.

Popularised by Blackle, an energy-saving, dark-themed alternative to Google, the energy saving nature of dark themed apps mostly only applies to mobile phones with an (AM)OLED screen and computers running an old-fashioned box monitor.

The boxy CRT monitors of the 90's and early 00's, similarly to modern (AM)OLED screens, creates light pixel by pixel. That means that the more light that's created, the more energy used. Thus, the brighter overall look of a theme, the more energy used.

The vast majority of laptop screens and current desktop displays work differently. LCD screens start with a certain amount of light coming from a backlight. That light passes through a screen which dims certain pixels depending on how dark a theme is. Aside from screens with intelligent, multi-zone backlight dimming, the darker the screen doesn't mean less energy is used because the backlight is still on.

In addition to the backlight, the switching of the LCD pixels from light to dark uses energy. This can differ because some screens use energy to switch from light to dark, and then spring back to light when the power is removed, while others use energy to switch from dark to light. The former screens will even use more energy for a dark theme because it takes power to keep the pixels of the LCD screen dark.

Finally, I personally tend to turn up the overall brightness of my screen when using a dark theme so that the text pops out even more. In the case of an LCD screen that works exactly the wrong way for trying to save energy.

I can say that I'm looking forward to MacBooks with AMOLED Retina (or whatever the follow up to that will be) screens, so that black is truly black and dark themes will actually use less energy.

For now, though, you'll need to get a laptop that does have, or an IDE that will work on your AMOLED mobile phone :)