Updated Feb. 21, 2018 – Each time you install a newer version of SSMS, like 17.5 that released last week, you will need to go and update the configuration file and comment out the Dark theme references as described below.
If you’re like me and you like to use the Visual Studio Dark theme and wish you could use this theme for SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), unfortunately, there is no official support at this time (keep bugging Microsoft for this feature please). Currently SSMS 2016 and SSMS 17 support both the Blue and Light themes.
If you weren’t aware, SQL Server Management Studio is built on the Visual Studio shell, so it does support the Dark theme but it’s currently disabled due to “unfinished work” with various parts of the application like the Object Explorer and Output panes.
Here is my current SSMS 17 using the Light theme:
To enable the Dark theme follow these simple steps
1. Close down all running instances of SSMS
2. Open Windows Explorer and browse to the following location to change the configuration file ssms.pkgundef
- For SSMS 2016: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\130\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio
- For SSMS 17: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\140\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio
3. Type the name of the file into the search box at the top right corner and then right click to edit this file. Note: You will need to edit this file with Administrative rights.
4. Now search the file for the following line // Remove Dark Theme and then comment out each line in this section by using // at the start of each line in this section as shown below:
5. Save the file and now re-launch SSMS. After restarting SSMS, go to Options you will see the Dark them listed. Select the Dark theme and then press the OK button.
Your SSMS should now be using the Dark theme, similar to what my SSMS looks like now after enabling this theme. Ah this is much better!
For the most part its dark but where it fails is in the Object Explorer and Output panes as you can see here:
There is a way to go into Options and tweak the colors for the Output pane (results grid and messages), but that is extremely tedious and not worth the effort in my opinion.
Now I’m not sure why this is not fully supported yet, especially for the Object Explorer and the Output panes. People keep asking for this feature and release after release it’s still not properly supported.
Now if you look at Visual Studio, there is a SQL Server Object Explorer and when you run a query, the results window (text and grid) supprt support the dark theme as shown below. So this is an alternate method if you don’t want to change SSMS.
For those of you that are not developers and use SSMS for interacting with your SQL Servers and want to use a dark theme editor, you can install a bare bones instance of Visual Studio 2017 with just the database tooling by selecting the Data storage and processing workload.
Hopefully, a future update to SSMS will enable the Dark theme out of the box and until then this is a temporary solution that may or may not work for you. For me, I spend most of my time working with SQL queries that I don’t need Output or Object Explorer visible, so I just collapse them.
This method works for both SSMS 2016 and SSMS 17.