[Draft discussion] Theme / skin support

great, thank you!
I’ll edit description today a bit later.

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Ok, I haven’t found a way to edit description (I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong, but actually it seems like I can’t do that), so here’s a description text, just in case.

The interface of Bitwig is pretty good, but we all have our own needs and the appearance of the interface is important because we stare at the screen for hours.
For example, I have long dreamed of dark skin, because my eyes get tired of Bitwig faster compared to other DAWs.
But some have different needs, so the idea of several different skins, or, ideally, the ability to create your own looks more versatile. This way everyone can get a skin that better fits their needs.
In our time, this possibility exists in one form or another in the majority of DAWs. It would be great to finally get it in Bitwig.

My fault! Now you (and anyone else) should be able to edit the description.

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Great, thanks! :grinning:

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(We need to use the template for consistency across all feature requests.)

Is it clear which parameters are “skinnable”? I mean, what are the different elements that skin creators could customize?

I have added to the description the table that is posted on the Reddit link above.

Seven votes here and a history of discussions elsewhere. @funky or anyone else, do you want to volunteer a bit of time to complete this description, please?

Hi, I don’t think I’ll ever have time and possibility to do anything, sorry. So you guys just do whatever you feel right or just delete it or whatever.

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Question to the room: which DAWs would you say excel on theme / skin support and could be taken as example? Links welcome.

I just want to compile a bit more of information and then get this request ready for #features .

12 votes, and still it would be great to get some help here. Personally, I don’t know about other DAWs and (honestly) I don’t care much about themes on a DAW myself. But this is the most voted draft, so I’ll try to help. :slight_smile:

I asked my browser engine, and the first results showed two things:

  1. The term “theme” seems to be used by everyone, less so “skin”. For clarity, I suggest we stick to “themes”.
  2. DAWs mentioned among the first results: #reaper (with an apparent difference in quantity and quality of results) #ableton-live #reason #cakewalk , even #LMMS.

Therefore, this feature seems to be relative commonplace across DAWs. It will be easier to make the case here. I’ll check the Reaper documentation another day unless someone is faster than me at improving the description. :slight_smile:

EDIT: Reaper documentation is… too much for me before any morning tea. I thought Ableton Live docs would save the day, but unless it is hidden somewhere, theme developers seem to be left on their XML own. The first impression I am getting is that DAW developers enable theming by showing the themable elements to theme creators and by giving users an option to install a new theme but that’s it, then everyone is on their own. Probably this would fit the Bitwig’s team (brand-heavy) philosohy anyway.

OK, my bad. I really need to get this draft done (even if I personally have zero motivation for this feature) :smirk: to honor the 16 votes this request has.

Something that I wonder is how do the settings “Midtones” and “Black level” help achieve a “Drak mode”. To me Bitwig already looks pretty dark, and I haven’t played with these settings.

Hi guys

I want to add to this a little bit, I’m copying my post from the bitwig KVR forum. Let me know your thoughts:

I’m someone trying to make the move from FL Studio to bitwig. I loved BW. Very forward thinking and relatively easy to use but although the UI ‘looks’ nice at first glance, I couldn’t really connect to it and decided to not make the move yet because of that reason. The UI to me feels very clunky compared to FL.

What I mean by that is: It feels like there is a ‘delay’ everytime you need to do something, anything. Whether adding a midi note, editing note parameters, moving faders, playing a sample from the browser… etc… i hate that. It’s works against my brain and makes it frustrating. FL in that regard is superior and very fluid.

Also, over time the colors start to get tiring. I hate how the midi notes look, kind of like they ‘dont stick’. They’re hard to extend or shorten if you’re a bit zoomed out. The clips in the arrangement have an awful ‘look-feel’ to them and once the project gets busy, it’s hard to discern tracks in the arrangement window because they’re identified by a very small and thin color code to the left of the header.

The ability that we can’t change to a darker theme is also a bit off-putting to me.

  • I would suggest a little bit more fluidity in the UI. No delays when clicking on sample in the browser till we hear it. and pretty much that slow feel with mouse clicking in BW to be faster and without any discernible lag. If you haven’t used FL before, give the trial a shot and see what I mean.

  • Ability to have a dark theme and more decent looking midi clips and midi notes. Either make the whole UI flat or to make the clips and notes ‘pop’ a little bit more and have more of a 3D look to them. Honestly when I add notes and midi/audio clips in BW it’s the weirdest and most unnatural looking out of all DAWs. Also I could say there isn’t an nice differentiation between the borders of a midi/audio clip for example and the background of the arrangement window. Same with notes and the piano roll. Having the options to have the clips background in the arrangement to be transparent could be a nice break from all those bold colors.

  • An option for a one-window browser could be good too. I can’t get used to this one.

  • A better visual way of identifying tracks in the arrangement as this little color identifier on the header makes it hard to identify tracks when the project becomes busy.

  • Ability to custom set track heights in the arrangement or at least multiple different sizes. The option to switch it off now makes notes and waveforms in the clips totally disappear which I would believe makes it useless for most people. Scaling backwards is important too. 100% scale at HD feels a bit large to me. I need more space.

Please let me know if anyone else feels the same. To make it short, it has the most unnatural look and feel (feel as in controlling the DAW with a mouse) out of all DAWs I used and is the main reason why I haven’t made the move yet.

Would love to know the thoughts of others.


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Hi @Dan_CF, welcome! Thank you for your comments. There are different topics mixed here, let’s go through them, starting with the ones related to skin support – the rest need to find other venues if you want to discuss them. #brainstorm is a good place to start, one topic at a time.

The colors and color schema of the clips can be changed (right-click). What elements of the UI would you like to see in different colors?

Have you tried different combinations of contrast? See Settings > Contrast > Midtones / Black level.

This sentence is very subjective as it is now. I don’t think I understand what you mean. Is this caused by elements that could be addressed by a skin?

Also subjective. Can you suggest improvements that (ideally) a skin could handle?

Preferences here are subjective too. I wonder whether the skin/theme engine could allow defining flatness vs 3D (like CSS supports 3D buttons).

I guess the question is, when we talk about skins, are we talking only about colors or also about shapes of UI elements? I bet that going beyond colors complicates things way more.

I don’t know whether this helps, but you can paint the tracks with the same color as the background, or choose colors that have little contrast with the background.

About transparency in clips, see also Visible Gridlines Behind Clips.

For #brainstorm or new #drafts (separately):

(I’ll note that in my system I feel Bitwig responsive, without a sense of delay.)

Separate discussion.

Separate discussion.

OK, but bear in mind that this is subjective. DAWs weren’t found in nature before humans invented them, and this defines how “natural” any of them is. :slight_smile: I’m skipping other comments about something being nice or not, for the same reason.

Different discussion. See (perhaps) Global search for browser.

Different discussion.

Different discussion. There is a related topic that was archived due to inactivity: Mixed track heights. If anyone wants to work on this request, just ask.

I’m copying my post from the bitwig KVR forum.

I’m not a mod but this isn’t good. Unlike KVR, here we tends to stick to specific topic as much as possible.

I agree with with you in many parts (particulary responsiveness) as I came from FL Studio too (with Live in the middle)

For some part, I’m sure you will be get used too. However, I could never get used to some parts so I keep ranting about them here and there. Once you go through your adapting process, you’ll definitely have your own group of ideas that are specific and blend well into Bitwig. Sharing them would be much appreciated.

And one reminder: FL doesn’t have theme support either. Technically it still has one but now it’s very limited.

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Yes, this is correct. I have addressed the comment with its multiple parts because it was the first post of a new user and this is a draft discussion that will be archived when this request moves to #features.

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It’s just like brightness and contrast settings on monitors. No way it can achieve true dark mode.

I actually like light backgrounds in detail editor and arranger but seems like many people want them to be dark too.

Back to the topic, I think, at current stage, .theme file support would be enough for most people. We can have something like theme editor later on. Something more customizable like Reaper, might not go well with Bitwig’s streamlined look and feel

  • Proper .theme file support.
  • Preference for choosing theme.
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Hi there

Thanks for taking the time. I’ll make sure to keep KVR posts for KVR and bitwish posts for bitwish here on.

  1. Tiring colors: Concerning the colors, put simply a dark theme would solve that. I use dark themes pretty much on every device I use. Clearly it’s a popular visual theme even non DAW users switch their mobile apps to dark.

  2. Midtones/black level: They made things slightly better only.

3 and 4. Midi notes not sticking/Clips look: I think either making the whole UI flat or making the MIDI notes pop out a little bit (3D, kind of like FL) would cut it. That can happen for both midi notes and clips in general. The UI now has a cartoonish feel at least when it comes to midi notes and clips in general.

  1. UI Flat or 3D: I agree it’s subjective but I personally don’t feel the UI and theme ties together very well. Over 70-80 hours in BW maybe more and I’m not connecting much to the UI. I could get used to it maybe)

  2. Transparent clips: I’ll look at the link you shared thank you

  3. Delay in the UI: it’s definitely there. In my KVR post a lot of users felt the same. Especially compared to a super smooth UI in FL. Protools is super fluid too but that’s a diff story. Believe me, compare it to FL and you’ll notice the lag in BW. Some actions happen on mouse release not on mouse click. Playing a sample from the browser seems to have at least .5 sec delay, faders respond less quickly than in FL. I understand it’s maybe a preference but moving from a more fluid DAW, the brain won’t like it. Why is there an unnecessary lag? It doesn’t understand :stuck_out_tongue:

The rest are probably subjective and a separate discussion.

Thanks again

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I have made changes to the description. Please review.

I have removed this table:

A table copied from this Reddit post (which may or may not be obsolete):

If you want to sleuth around yourself, here’s some of what I’ve found while going through the default.theme file:

object_id section object name desc
848 timeline_styles Content Timeline definition for content timeline object. I believe this is the object that describes the arranger timeline and its characteristics.
855 timeline_styles Header Timeline Similar to the above, but the header.
863 value_event_timeline_styles Content Timeline Similar to the above, but I believe this is the note editor.
870 value_event_timeline_styles Header Timeline Header for note editor.
8 color_styles Panel body This is a color referenced by timeline_styles and value_event_timeline_styles objects
160 color_styles Top Level Timeline Background Background color object referenced in arranger timeline object 848. I think this is the main color to tweak, but changing the values seems to do nothing.
161 color_styles Dark Timeline Background Color referenced in 800-range objects above
162 color_styles Light Timeline Background “”
163 color_styles Irrelevant Timeline Background “”
165 color_styles Timeline Background Pattern “”
184 color_styles Loop Region Background “”
185 color_styles Top Level Timeline Header Background “”
186 color_styles Dark Timeline Header Background “”
187 color_styles Light Timeline Header Background “”