SQL Server Management Studio…Customising those themes!


Howdy all,

I am a bit of a customisation nut; pretty much with any software package I pick up I have the uncontrollable urge to dig straight into the options and get on the hunt for how to ‘theme it up’!

The one that probably upsets me the most is poor old SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). SSMS has long lagged behind, considering sharing the Visual Studio shell, on the inclusion of a dark theme. I ended up going on a scrummage around as it seems pretty incredible that this isn’t available yet. This is what I managed to dig up:

SQL Server Management Studio Dark/Black Theme

Back in April of 2016, this was the news at the time:

“We currently have the dark theme disabled as we need to do a lot more UI enhancements across all the SSMS dialogs and wizards to make this work properly. We will be working on this and true high DPI support in the coming months.”

The options on offer at the moment, by default, are a snooze fest at best:

Image showing standard colour themes in SSMS.
SSMS Standard Colour Themes.

By way of example, here is the light theme doing its thing:

Image showing the SSMS Light Theme.
SSMS Light Theme.

Alas, it sounds like we might be waiting a while longer for true dark theme support but…if you simply what to customise the code window you can (as in Visual Studio) work some magic in the interim, as follows (yes, the other dockable portions of the UI do not change, but it’s a start).

As a first step, you need to go in search of themes or, more specifically, custom made ‘.vssettings’ files. This is the resource I have used in the past and in this example:

Studio Styles

There are a tonne of pretty decent themes on this site. Here are some that immediately interested me, on first glance (as I’m a dark theme psycho):

  1. Son of Obsidian
  2. Smooth
  3. IR Black
  4. Visual Blend
  5. EaseEye
  6. Electric Energy
  7. Sublime Text 2 – New Edition
  8. Colorful Darkness

If anyone has a good recommendation for other places to go and seek out themes please leave a comment below.

Once you have downloaded any .vssettings files you are interested in (for SQL Server 2016 I have been using the VS 2015 files, without issues thus far), place them in a location that is easily accessible. Now, you need to fly on over to SSMS where the process of importing a .vssettings file is incredibly easy.

Start by navigating to Tools > Import and Export Settings, as below:

Image showing the Import and Export settings on the Tools menu in SSMS.
Import and Export Settings.

Next up, check the option entitled ‘Import selected environment settings’ from the following dialog, and click Next:

Image showing a dialog in SSMS allowing importing of custom themes.
Import Selected Environment Settings.

Next up, you can save your current settings to a .vssettings file, if you choose. This is a pretty solid bet if you have imported a new theme and have made customisations to it yourself, as you will want an easy way to rollback should your eyes be offended by whatever you import next 😉 ! If you like living on the edge there is always the ‘No, just import new settings, overwriting my current settings’ option. Pick the option that makes you feel good, then click Next:

Image showing how to save the current settings in SSMS.
Save Current Theme.

Here comes the meat in the customisation sandwich; browse to the .vssettings file location (where you have stashed one or more settings files) and pick one of your choosing, then click Next:

Image showing the selection of a new settings file.
Select New Settings File.

Check the dialog that pops up next for any warnings and, if you are happy, proceed by clicking Finish.

Image showing the confirm and finish SSMS theme dialog.
Confirm and Finish.

Finally, you should get a confirmation that the import process has completed successfully (or not, but I haven’t seen an outright failure yet!):

Image showing a theme import complete dialog in SSMS.
SSMS Theme Import Complete.

You should, all being well, see an immediate update to the theming in the code window, as shown:

Image showing the SSMS smooth theme in action.
SSMS Smooth Theme.

That’s all there is to it! Again, if anyone has a good resource for themes please let me know, I’m always on the lookout for the cool and unusual.

As an added bonus, here are a few ‘live action’ shots from the bear cave as I was constructing this post:

Thanks for reading, catch you next time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.