How to change the colour of the highlight of selected text in Windows 10

by Phil Jones Computers
February 2016

What's this?

A customer asked for the highlight of selected text in Windows 10 to be a darker shade of blue. The default in Windows 10 is a lighter shade of blue for the highlight (aka text selection background) and white for the selected text. The customer said there was not enough contrast between the two and asked for it to be more like it was in Windows 7. In Mozilla SeaMonkey Mail 1.x, this is used for the selected email message in the Header Pane.

How to do it in Windows 10

In Windows 10, the registry keys in My Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colors are disregarded by the operating system. They are still there, presumably for compatibility with old programs, but their values are not observed by Windows 10. That is why the Advanced Appearance dialog has been taken away; these registry values are now ignored so there is no reason for the dialog to exist.

Instead, a theme file is read to obtain the necessary settings. The advantage of a theme file is that it is readily sharable. So a theme designer can compose new colours for the Windows 10 desktop and the user can install them via "Get more themes online" without having to import registry values. The disadvantage is taking away the user's ability to customise all of their Windows desktop colours.

Therefore... here is a little theme file to bring back old-Windows-alike white text on blue background selected text.
  1. Download this theme file (zip archive).
  2. Open "rons-theme.zip".
  3. Copy Ron.theme to C:\Users\[your name]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes
  4. Go to Settings -> Appearance -> Themes.
  5. Click on "Ron's Theme".
  6. Wait a moment while the theme is applied.
  7. That's it! Please enjoy your dark blue highlight of selected text.

To change the theme

Want a different highlight colour? The file Ron.theme is a plain text file that can be opened using Notepad. To open Ron.theme for editing, right-click on it, then choose Open with, then click Notepad. Don't see Notepad? In the Open with menu, click Choose default program, then you should be able to select Notepad from the list.

In the Ron.theme text file, the values that set the highlight colours look like this:

[Control Panel\Colors]
Background=58 110 165
Hilight=8 34 108
HilightText=255 255 255
Hilight sets the selection background colour in Red Green Blue values so dark blue is 8 34 108. HilightText means the colour of the text within the selection so white is 255 255 255. Save the change to Ron.theme using Notepad. Apply the theme again and the change should take effect.

Did this work? Let me know. Please use the form on my main page here.