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Preface

Color scheme management in Intellij IDEA 12.1 was changed to ease the work of scheme designers and make schemes look equally well for different programming languages even if not designed specifically for these languages. Previously language plug-ins were using fixed default colors incompatible, for example, with dark schemes. The new implementation allows to specify a dependency on a set of standard text attributes which are linked to a scheme but not to any specific language. Language-specific attributes still can be set by a scheme designer if needed but it's optional. New color schemes have got a new .icls (Idea CoLor Scheme) extension to avoid confusion about compatibility problems with older platform versions: if only standard attributes are set, they will not be used by the version prior to 12.1 and this will result in different highlighting colors.

Plug-in Developers

Text Attribute Key Dependency

The easiest and the best way to specify highlighting text attributes is to specify a dependency on one of standard keys defined in DefaultLanguageHighlighterColors class. Here is an example:

Code Block
static final TextAttributesKey MY_KEYWORD = TextAttributesKey.createTextAttributesKey("MY_KEYWORD", DefaultLanguageHighlighterColors.KEYWORD);

Color scheme manager will search first for text attributes specified by "MY_KEYWORD" key. If those are not defined explicitly or if all the attributes are empty (undefined), it will search them using "DEFAULT_KEYWORD" key. If neither are defined, it will further fall back to a default scheme.
Text attribute keys can be chained, for example you can define another key as:

Code Block
static final TextAttributesKey MY_PREDEFINED_SYMBOL = TextAttributesKey.createTextAttributesKey("MY_PREDEFINED_SYMBOL", MY_KEYWORD);

The rule is the same: if text attributes can not be found by "MY_PREDEFINED_SYMBOL" key or are empty, the color scheme manager will search for "MY_KEYWORD" and if not found (empty) will further look for "DEFAULT_KEYWORD".
Note: A use of fixed default attributes is strongly discouraged now. If you are not sure which base key to use, it's better to pick the most generic one, for example, DefaultLanguageHighlighterColors.IDENTIFIER. Remember that using fixed default attributes will force a scheme designer to set up a color for this element explicitly. Otherwise it's default colors may visually conflict with a color scheme. If the scheme designer doesn't have a language plug-in, he will not be able to fix this at all.

Providing Attributes for Specific Schemes

A language plug-in may provide default text attributes for "Default" and "Darcula" bundled schemes or basically for any other scheme if the scheme's name is known. This can be done in plugin.xml by adding an extension with a name of the file containing desired text attributes, for example:

Code Block
<extension ...>
..
  <additionalTextAttributes scheme="Default" file="colorSchemes/MyLangDefault.xml"/>
..
</extension>

It tells the IDE that the file MyLangDefault.xml must be searched in resources under "colorSchemes". Note that the path should not start with a backslash and its fully qualified name (in our case colorSchemes/MyLangDefault.xml) MUST BE UNIQUE to avoid naming collisions between different providers. Thus adding a language prefix, for example "MyLang", is a recommended way.
The file itself is an extract from a color scheme with required attributes, for example:

Code Block
<?xml version='1.0'?>
<list>
  <option name="MY_VAR">
    <value>
      <option name="FOREGROUND" value="660000"/>
    </value>
  </option>
  <option name="MY_SPECIAL_CHAR">
    <value>
      <option name="FOREGROUND" value="008000"/>
      <option name="BACKGROUND" value="e3fcff"/>
      <option name="FONT_TYPE" value="1"/>
    </value>
  </option>
</list>

Note: When the scheme is copied via "Save as...", all its attributes including the ones defined in the extension will be copied to the new scheme as well. A scheme designer may need to check that these copied attributes do not conflict with his/her color scheme although in this case the plug-in is installed and it should not cause any problems. Anyway, try to stick with a simple key dependency if possible (note that it works well for "Darcula" too), provide explicit attributes only if really necessary.

Scheme Designers

A Typical Workflow for a New Scheme Creation

  • Choose a scheme which will be used as a base, for example "Default".
  • Click "Save As.." and give a name for the new scheme.
  • First set attributes in General section and proceed with Language Defaults.
  • Check all the languages and adjust language-specific text attributes if necessary. In most cases this may not be needed but there are two cases which may require an extra action:
    • There is an obsolete plug-in which does not use the new color scheme management API and therefore does not utilize the attributes set in "Language Defaults". Ideally a report must be created for the language plug-in so that its author will fix it eventually.
    • A plug-in intentionally sets some default colors and, if the scheme was created from a default one, the colors are copied to the newly created scheme. This can be fixed either by resetting all the attributes to restore the inheritance from Language Defaults (see below) or by setting other colors suitable for the scheme. The first way is preferable since it will require less effort to change the color scheme later.

Text Attributes Inheritance

For many language text attributes which do not have any values there will be a line indicating that the attributes are inherited from a certain section/attributes, for example: "Keyword (Language Defaults)". If an element has any attributes set, only these attributes are used, all attributes from the base element are ignored. To restore the inheritance uncheck all the boxes and click Apply.