SQL Shades for SQL Management Studio – Review

For those of us who’ve worked with SQL Server for some time, we’ve regularly used SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in websites and applications offering a Dark Mode. Azure Data Studio has one built in as it’s based on the VS Code engine. SSMS is a form of the full Visual Studio IDE and offers some ability to skin, but attempts in the past to make a true dark mode have been only partially successful. Microsoft has not given us that option in SSMS as it’s been more work than they can commit to with a broad platform. So our options have been partial dark modes, which leave big portions of the interface a bright white, or just use the defaults with everything being light.

Enter SQL Shades – authored by Michael Van Devender. Currently available for SSMS v18 and v19, Michael has given us a much more full-featured Dark Mode for SSMS. A free plugin for SSMS, we can now work in whatever manner is comfortable easily. This even includes the login screen as seen here:

Queries and results will show in Dark Mode as well. Outside of SQL Shades, we would only see partial dark mode. As you can see, with SQL Shades, we get dark mode for both query and results.

If you want to use the defaults or a different theme, there are a couple of pre-defined themes from which to choose:

SQL Job creation – also gets a nice dark mode:

Edit Top 200 Rows is working for Dark Mode:

I tried the option to colorize 3rd party dialogs, but don’t have a lot of options there. The only 3rd party option I have locally is Red-Gate’s SQL Search. I checked that to see if Dark Mode worked and it does not at this time.

Overall, I’m enjoying my use of SQLShades on my local machine. As I work with a variety of clients with varying security rights around installed software, I can’t install SQLShades most places, but as I get approval, it’s a tool I try to install. It makes SSMS much easier on the eyes and gives options that MS can’t easily provide due to the complexity and breadthy of SSMS. Michael is adding features and support regularly as requested and needed.

* SQL Shades is free to use. I was not compensated in any way for this post, though Michael and a couple of people in the SQL Community encouraged me to write a review. It’s purely informational about an add-on for SSMS that I find useful, providing a feature that many of us have wanted for some time. There may still be some dialogs that haven’t been addressed, but the main features we tend to use are now much easier on the eyes. As always, test on a non-production system and use at your own risk.

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