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Color Changes in Mac OS X for the Visually Impaired? 87

drdink asks: "I am an avid FreeBSD and Windows user. This semester for a class I'm having to use MacOS X for the first time, and I've also been pondering jumping into the Apple scene anyway. However, I am also visually impaired and I can't seem to find a way to do specific color theming in a way similar to Windows, KDE, and GNOME. I want to be able to say 'Text is white, backgrounds are black, but EVERYTHING ELSE is its normal color.' The only options I've found that are similar is using 'White on Black' in the Universal Access control panel. However, this results in me losing all display colors and my machine looking monochrome. I don't want to use a $2,000+ machine just to have no colors. Is there anybody out there who has actually managed to get Mac OS X to use the normal colors but have high contrast white on black dialog boxes? I am interested in the Apple platform, but I can't use it for useful things, if I have no color."
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Color Changes in Mac OS X for the Visually Impaired?

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  • One idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZackSchil ( 560462 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @08:51PM (#6864852)
    You can switch to white on black, then change the number of colors back to Millions. It gets you back your coler and keeps everything reversed. Problem solved.... well, if you don't mind using a negative of aqua :^D Gotta love the orange buttons.
  • Solution (Score:4, Funny)

    by karmavore ( 618727 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @08:53PM (#6864871)

    There is a company that has a product that can produce any desired colours on any screen. I believe their name is Crayola.

  • by glowurm ( 518048 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @08:59PM (#6864911)

    Hope they help:

    ResExcellence Themes []
    Theme Park Tutorial []

    What does this mean? Make your own. While I'm not familiar with the creation process for other windowing systems (like you mentioned) I do know that you can probably make your own theme to specifications you desire. Those links are where I would start; perhaps there's something there that you can modify or a theme that fits the bill without changes.

    Good luck!
    • Why does drdink not reply to this? Did he not find these links useful? I've been using themes on my Mac since 10.1 for a number of different reasons with great success.

      This sounds like what he is looking for, but even though he posted another response five minutes before glowurm's comment, he didn't seem to catch this one.. odd.

      Hopefully the links will help direct him to where he can find some help.

      If you do catch this, drdink, the app that has worked for me with all the themes i can throw at it is cal
    • I like the Duality [] theme changer, too.

      As more people create quality themes, the value of this sort of utility keeps growing. I bought a Kaleidoscope [] license way back when -- alas, MacOS 8.x - 9.x only -- the tons of excellent themes made it worthwhile.
  • This would be a good reason to write to Apple and ask them if they have solution or know of one. There might also be some shareware that could help you. Ask on or
  • Curious (Score:2, Informative)

    by igabe ( 594295 )
    If you can't work without the black and white you talked about, then how can you can you still see "everything else"?

    OS X's Aqua GUI has a lot of white, and now with Panther(Apple's fast approaching major OS update) coming out, brushed metal(metallic darkish grey) is going to be everywhere. Just not sure how that is going to look with any solution you may find.
    • Re:Curious (Score:5, Informative)

      by drdink ( 77 ) * <> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @11:28PM (#6865772) Homepage

      If you can't work without the black and white you talked about, then how can you can you still see "everything else"?

      It is more of an issue of contrast. I can see white on black so much easier than black on white. Since there is less white blazing out at me, it is easier to see the text. I can see black on white, but it causes eye strain much faster and takes a lot more effort to read. Having the majority of my 'readable' screen area in high-contrast colors saves my eyes from catching on fire after a while.
      • Scotopic Sensitivity (Score:3, Informative)

        by yroJJory ( 559141 )
        Have you ever been tested for Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS) []? This may be a better way to correct the issues you are having, as the solution uses color overlays or colored lenses to limit the amount of light entering your eyes. For example, if you see letters jiggling when reading a book, it is a sign that you may have this problem.

        The Irlen Institute [] has done quite a bit of research about this and I can tell you from both my experience and observation that it works. After all, if the problem is oc
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @10:19PM (#6865374)
    Here [].

    This program inverts the colors (white->black, black->white, blue->brown, brown->blue, etc). This will give you color-cue information still.

    If you want to just convert white to black and black to white, keeping the rest, you might ask the author if he can set up a color conversion table to do that for you. I know that he's already set up a preferences to eliminate light grays for example.

    You're welcome.

  • by catwh0re ( 540371 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @11:11PM (#6865692)
    A new panther feature lets you increase the contrast of the entire screen any desired amount (until you basically get everything, 100% white, black, RGB, CMY)
    Also current versions support a nifty zoom in feature.
    • by drdink ( 77 ) * <> on Wednesday September 03, 2003 @11:22PM (#6865752) Homepage
      The zoom functionality in OS X kicks ass. It makes the stupid Magnifier in Windows 2000+ look like a piece of crap... oh wait, it is. However, I think I could get along well without zooming were the screen a higehr contrast (white on black). That is how I operate in every other GUI right now (Windows, KDE, GNOME, ...). It is sort of saddening to see how difficult it is to do the equivelent in OS X. I haven't seen the contrast setting, but I've heard of it. Is this something that is currently in 10.3 snapshots?
      • And GTK+'s fully-adjustable font sizes with automatic resizing makes any kind of zooming applet look like a piece of crap.

        Windows does this too, although not as elegently.

        Oh, and the "new" contrast enhancing functions of OS X have been in my NVIDIA drivers since 2001. You can adjust brightness, contrast, gamma, and there's a control called "Digital Vibrance" that makes colors more pronounced.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          yes it's given that the 'contrast' feature is just like digital vibrance control, graphic cards, and software have been doing these features for year, yes, all true.

          The wisdom comes from putting this control under Accessibility Options, and not placing it in the colour syncing utilities.

          Windows has had contrasting features, in the order of a colour scheme and big fonts, OSX also features the ability to speak to the user the text under cursor, dialogue and so on, software which costs $2500 AUD when I aske

        • OS X's zooming does much more than just changing font sizes. It is the equivelent, sort of, of setting a low resolution in X but having a large virtual desktop. It is very much like how all commercial screen magnifiers for Windows function. Font resizing can't touch teh usefulness and accessability of the full screen zooming.
  • Reverse the Polarity (Score:5, Informative)

    by yancey ( 136972 ) on Thursday September 04, 2003 @12:57AM (#6866149)
    This doesn't do specifically what you're asking, but it may be useful to you, even if only for fun.

    Open Terminal and enter the following command.

    defaults write DisplayUseInvertedPolarity -bool YES

    This command sets a preference that reverses all color polarity on the screen (like a photographic negative). I think you'll have to reboot or at least log out and back in to see the results. Of course, changing the -bool YES to -bool NO will return your display back to normal.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2003 @02:51AM (#6866516)
    try the Apple disability website for starters:
  • You could open a finder window, open view options, set all finder windows to have a black background, and set all folders to have white text.

    You could also assign a special style sheet to your browser if need be.
  • by slart42 ( 694765 ) on Thursday September 04, 2003 @04:57AM (#6866885)
    Simple: Log in as ">console" (without the "")
    colors should be preserved ok, where they are used.
  • by your_mother_sews_soc ( 528221 ) on Thursday September 04, 2003 @08:53AM (#6867779)
    It looks like the file /System/Library/Colors/System.clr/System.clr contains an archived Dictionary of (NS)Colors. It contains the color values for UI items like controlColor, scrollBarColor, textBackgroundColor, etc.

    I am sure there must be some utilities out there to load/change/store the colors contained in this file. If not, a slashdoter who is up to speed on Cocoa should be able to whip something together pretty quickly. Until then, the best place to search for handy utilities of this sort is []. Good luck.
  • You can obtain total control over the screen colour by using an ICC colour profile for your monitor.
    It's pretty cool- unless you're calibrating at D50. (In which case it will be rather warm, if you don't get the mild humour).

    The profiles live here.
    I (Ben) even wrote a freely available ICC profile editor back in 1995. You can find it on this stranger's [] page.

    Amazing. it still works. (on OS 9) - I lost all the source code, so it never got beyond beta, and it will
  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Thursday September 04, 2003 @10:32AM (#6868664) Homepage

    It's intended for astronomers so as to preserve their night vision, but is fully configurable.

    Free too.

  • Since Apple "Steve'd" the disability solutions group at Apple, solutions for the "differently'abled" have been declining or slow to come.

    As far as disability solutions are concerned, Mac OS X is not as mature as Mac OS 9 was.
  • by mckeever ( 410646 ) <robm.mac@com> on Thursday September 04, 2003 @12:52PM (#6870212) Homepage Journal
    During WWDC this year, one of the presenters showed how certain files can have ICC profiles embedded in them that can translate the color palette in radical ways. They were using this to verify that apps were using colorsync correctly and not double applying it. After this, I started digging and (in Panther, anyway) you can use ColorSync Utility to install custom output filters to adapt colors any way you like.

    For instance: They include an output filter for CMYK (4-color printing) that prints everything in sepiatone.

    There's absolutely no reason at all that this facility couldn't be used to do some funky color translations for the screen to help color blind people see it better. Obviously, this would require a better knowledge of the various types and degrees of color blindness than I have, but it could be useful to many and should automatically effect all apps on the machine
  • I am partially color-blind myself, and have difficulty distinguishing iCal entries by calendar color due to the particular shades Apple has chosen. Anyone know how to tweak these?


    P.S. While I'm at it, I woudn't mind hearing about any trick for inverting the color scheme at arstechnica back to something sensible!
    • Re:iCal coloration (Score:2, Informative)

      by macmastery ( 600662 )
      You can request this feature at:


      There is a feedback page for just about every iApp and for Safari. There are links to them from the App's application menu.
  • Black Light (Score:3, Informative)

    by WCityMike ( 579094 ) on Thursday September 04, 2003 @09:07PM (#6875195)
    You might want to see if the effect this application [] produces (essentially inverting the gamma curve) assists you at all.
  • I am epileptic. I find a mass of white light very aggravating. This problem is less with LCD with less flicker, but my tendency to attacks during extended sessions in front of the computer is less when I use a black background. In my situation, I have always used a background that is black.

    I have been on white on black in windows, but since converting to OS X I have not found a suitable alternative.

    I hope Apple will squarely address this for us epileptics, if only to allow us to remain on computers for lo
  • Apple could do with updating it's web site from time to time... html []
  • Go to System Preferences, and Choose Universal Access. You can turn on zoom that can zoom that is practically illimited. You can manually zoom what you need to see better in any application after that.

    alt command + zooms in
    alt command - zooms out
    alt command * switches zoom on / off.

    You can also choose the background and text colors to be more visible for you.

    There is also an external application called BackLight. It inverts the colors you have on the screen. Many even normal sighted people sometimes find
  • It should be possible to modify the default colors of all text fields (via a haxie or Input Manager). Would that help? For Safari, maybe you could use a custom stylesheet. What other apps do you need modified? Cheeers, -sapporo.

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.