"I find color schemes that I just like and that just feel right" - Alan Bean
Last week I spoke at length on how colors work for Access 2003. For Access 2007, we are shaking things up.
Right off the bet, we are changing the color picker control from that old 80s looking control to a 21st century color picker. This new color picker is now consistent across all of Access, and is the same one that you will see everywhere in Office 2007. As a small note, this color picker has meaningful tooltips (not color numbers, but say 'Dark Green'), which makes accessible users out there very happy.
And yes, this means that you can now (finally!) use more than 16 colors in your datasheets. You can pick any colors you want for gridlines, background and alternate background (new 2007 feature).
Here's how the new color picker looks like:
You probably noticed the 'Access Theme Colors' section, eh?
As everyone knows at this point, Office 2007 Beta 2 will have two themes: blue (Windows XP) and obsidian (Windows Vista). This poses an interesting challenges to Access developers everywhere: how can you develop solutions that look good in both themes? After all, your customers might be running any of which.
The answer is the new set of Access Theme Colors. Alongside the colors available in Access 2003 (including the system colors, we'll talk about that in a minute), we are making available a group of colors that will change depending on which theme you are. Right now (as in, don't assume this is the last work on the subject as it might change before RTM), we have 20 colors in this set.
The first 10 colors are colors that we use everywhere: border, background, alternate row background, selection, font color, etc. This set allows you to theme your forms and reports to match what we actually use in datasheets and everywhere in the product - so you will look as if it's an out-of-the-box Microsoft Access solution.
The second set of 10 colors is a gradient from light blue to dark blue (blue theme) or light gray to dark gray (obsidian theme). This set allows you to theme using variation on the same tone ("ton sur ton" like my mother likes to say). This is very effective in producing stylish, polished and professional looking reports and forms. And also a quick tip if you can't get your clothes to match :). Here's how it looks like (temporary colors, don't take them as final):
Given my previous post on the system colors and how Access supports them, it begs the question as to why we're doing this work if we could just tell developers to use that. The point is that we really can't use them, since they follow the colors of the user's Windows theme, which can be completly different from the Office theme (say, the user has Green while Office is in blue - that would look awful). So that's why don't recomment using these system colors at all with 2007 and forward, but they still work as well as they did in Access 2003 if you reaaaaaally want to use them.
An additional benefit that I haven't mentioned yet is that all of these Access Theme colors have accessibility support in them. If any of your customers uses high contrast, these colors will adapt to it and always show correctly. So not only are you able to build solutions that look good in the Office Themes, but ones that look correctly for all your customers that require accessbility support (Goverment contracts anyone?).
As an added bonus, we are also changing the property sheet to make all of this more helpful. First, the color properties (border color, font color, background color, etc) are now combo boxes instead of text boxes. So when you actually select one of the Access Theme Colors in the color picker, we will show "Background (white)" or something like that instead of a bogus long number. Even further, we are also listing all the system colors (the negative values I mentioned on a previous post) in this combo box - so you will never ever see those negative numbers again in the property sheet. (Side note: as not to break your solutions out there, the OM is unchanged).
As the last coupe-de-gra - and I do like to gloat about this even although most people just shrug when they hear this - the colors are now shown as HTML colors. That means that all custom colors in the property sheet will be shown as "#FF0000" instead of 255. To make it extra-nice, we allow you to type in HTML colors and old Access numeric values (you can use this as an old timer trick to impress new Access 2007 users). No more conversion tables to find the colors you like.
Here's how it all looks like in the property sheet:
Now, how do you like that?
Next week I'll talk about how these new colors relate to MDBs and ACCDBs, what do you need to watch out for backward compatibility and show a little more of how we make the Access Theme Colors work.