Veteran computer users know. Those who remember Microsoft’s Hot Dog Stand desktop profile on Windows version 3.1 learned early on that the color scheme you choose significantly impacts the overall user interface experience. But these colors also impact how effectively you can immediately read title bars, locate menus, spot highlighted items and differentiate between various related onscreen elements using the natural assistance contrasting colors provide.
But Hot Dog Stand?
The bold red and yellow color pairing was absurd and essentially assaulted you visually. As many learned, the clashing colors arrested attention at first glance, but after employing that creative palette for any extended period, you typically found yourself having to return to a more conservative, nay realistic, color combination. So imagine my surprise when I began playing with an approximation of the red and yellow color scheme on my Mac as a way of defying January doldrums and discovered the contrasting scheme can actually work on a Mac. The difference, of course, is Apple’s developers have implemented more subdued corresponding colors. While less playful, the Desktop and menu colors available within macOS work.
Judge for yourself. Figure A demonstrates a simple Hot Dog Stand approximation on macOS Monterey. Menus, highlights and selections are easy to spot. Even with a bright yellow desktop background, I found myself using the scheme for weeks with no thought of needing to change it.
An approximation of Microsoft’s infamous Hot Dog Stand desktop color scheme actually works well on macOS. The scheme helps the eye quickly locate highlighted selections and application menu bars, as shown here with an assist from Microsoft Outlook’s own individual color customization.
Adjusting corresponding Mac settings is easy. Open System Preferences, click General and test making changes to Appearance (a relatively new feature that permits applying the popular Dark Mode), Accent Color and Highlight Color. Combined with changes to the Mac’s Desktop background–completed by clicking Desktop & Screen Saver from within System Preferences, highlighting the Desktop tab and selecting a picture and even adjusting an individual application’s color scheme (such as can be done using Microsoft Outlook)–and you have the ingredients needed to quickly tailor a new Mac desktop working environment that adds some style, breaks up the regularly monotony of working with the same unchanging visual spaces and actually enhances usability and functionality.
Figure B and Figure C demonstrate the variety of color schemes that can be quickly enabled on a Mac. Changing just a handful of appearance and color settings provides the equivalent of entirely new operating environments, while also helping menu selections, highlights and title bars stand out for quick identification.
Enabling Dark Mode provides an intriguing contrast that helps menu selections and title bars pop out, while also offering a break from routine color combinations.
Combinations need not adopt nontraditional or overly aggressive colors. Using even a standard blue scheme, and pairing an application’s own color standard to match, can create an easy on the eyes but productive workspace.
Best of all, there’s really no harm if you select a palette arrangement that you later decide doesn’t work well. Just open System Preferences, click General and adjust the corresponding settings, as shown within Figure D, as needed.
Adjusting color values in macOS is fairly easy. Select from provided options for Appearance, Accent Color and Highlight Color.
Those using Microsoft Outlook on a Mac can tweak Outlook’s color profile using the program’s own Preferences options. Select Outlook from the Mac menu bar, select Preferences, click General and specify the appearance and color theme you wish to use, as shown in Figure E.
Some applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, include the ability to customize colors within its own Preferences menu.
Play with a few combinations. Make adjustments, being sure to also experiment with Appearance (Dark Mode) settings, which permit always applying Dark Mode or letting the Mac adjust the computer’s appearance (using the Auto setting) depending upon the time of day. Make a mistake? No sweat. Return to the settings and adjust the scheme as needed. Who knows? With a refreshed color scheme, including different Desktop backgrounds, you may find the Mac a little more welcoming and more user friendly.