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IDE changes in Xojo 2018r3 and more

About three years ago, we added HiDPI/Retina support to our framework which was released to users as part of Xojo 2016r1 when we also shipped our first HiDPI IDE.

With Apple’s announcements at WWDC 2018 and the introduction of dark mode it was time to revisit our graphics and the overall appearance of the IDE again. Here are some things which contribute to the changes that have been made and ones that you will see in the coming months.

Dropping macOS 10.9

Xojo 2018r3 drops support for macOS 10.9 and as the last version which had the skeuomorphic design elements all of our supported OS’s now have the flatter modern design. It’s not that this has held anything up per se, but it’s a good reminder that “it’s time”. 

To that end, we have taken that opportunity to remove some of the graphics that make the IDE look out of place and doing so subtly lowers the memory footprint and accelerates drawing of the IDE itself across all platforms. We’re also using a variation of Apple’s image templates which has somewhat reduced the on-disk footprint of the IDE itself.

macOS Dark Mode

Apple’s addition of a darker variant of the visual “Aqua” theme in macOS means that we needed to do an audit and update of several of our base framework controls so that your apps would render correctly as well as ours. 


While it probably won’t be used very often (how often does one change themes while running a piece of software, besides the novelty of seeing it happen), we added an event to the App class named AppearanceChanged to notify you when the user changes from light to dark or changes their accent color. This is a good place to clear any graphic or color caches which contain theme specific UI graphics. 


There is also a new global method called IsDarkMode(Boolean) which will return True if your app is running with the Dark Mode theme on macOS 10.14 or higher. If your app is running on 10.13 or lower or in light mode on 10.14, IsDarkMode will return False.

Build Settings

Enabling Dark Mode in your apps is as easy as flipping a switch in the Shared Build Settings. Unfortunately, because Apple made the assumption that most apps would “just work” versions of your apps compiled with older versions of Xojo will either need to be recompiled with Xojo 2018r3 or you’ll need to push out a new version with a plist entry to prevent macOS 10.14 from showing your app dark in Dark Mode. 


When testing apps for use with Mojave’s dark mode, I seriously suggest that you test on a system that allows you to see the translucency effects of dark mode. Virtual Machines are usually really handy for testing, but in this case, Parallels Desktop 14, VirtualBox 5.2 and VMWare Fusion 11 do not show the subtleties of dark mode.


One of our goals at Xojo is to remove some of the headaches involved with the minutiae of each OS that you deploy for and to that end, we wanted to make drawing custom controls easier too. What this means is that the built-in global colors are largely theme aware now and will change depending on whether your app is running in light or dark mode on macOS. This affects things like TextColor, FillColor, FrameColor, HighlightColor, etc, so if you use those methods when drawing in pictures and canvases, you will want to audit that code. If you want a specific color, you should use a color constant. For instance, use &c000000 if you want black because TextColor will now return white in Dark Mode. 

In terms of the framework controls themselves, we are taking this opportunity to make some changes to make your apps appear better in the macOS 10.10+ ecosystem. Ever notice that a Label control and the text portion of a CheckBox or RadioButton control are not exactly the same color? Going forward, the default colors of controls which should automatically change between Light and Dark modes will do that. So if you have a Label using the default color of &c00000000 (Black with Transparency = 0), the color that is actually used is what Apple calls labelColor. It’s still black, but is a tiny bit translucent. TextFields and TextAreas will automatically change text, placeholder, selection and background colors to match the Apple prescribed colors for automatic Light/Dark compatibly. We think you’ll find that building your apps with 2018r3 will largely make them just behave and appear the way you expected them to.

IMPORTANT NOTE: These color and framework changes affect how your apps draw on all versions of macOS, so make sure you try them out on your 10.10 through 10.14 VMs before shipping!

Eating our own dog food

One thing we hear from users every so often is the desire for Xojo to use our own products for building apps. As most of you know the IDE itself is written in Xojo, but we also have several other apps (big and small) that are written in Xojo.

  • Feedback – Our bug reporting system
  • Xorders – Our internal order system
  • Lingua – The Xojo localization app
  • Remote Debugger – The remote debugger stubs for desktop and console

While the 2018r3 cycle was in progress, all four of these projects got updated for Mojave’s Dark Mode and definitely helped us find framework rendering bugs early on in the pre-release process.

What about Windows and Linux?

The TL;DR version is that we’re still looking into it. 

Currently there are several different ways to change Windows 7, 8 and 10 to use a dark interface, not all of which are compatible with the Xojo Framework controls and the Windows 10 2018 Fall Update promised yet another way but that ended up only being for UWP. We are looking into which method gets you the most “bang for the buck” so to speak.