In the Advanced Appearance dialog, you can edit Windows’ color scheme by setting the colors of numerous UI controls.

What is baffling is the Message Box (dialog boxes). Other than 3D Objects (buttons and such) and the title-bar (which is shared for all windows with title-bars), there is only one message-box item that has a color: Message Box Text.

The problem is that the message-box text color also changes the generic Window Text color and vice-versa. In other words, you cannot set the message-box text color to something different than the window text color.

Moreover, there are no items in either the registry (HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colors), nor the Windows API that correspond to dialog-box (static) text colors.

Some of the colors in the Advanced Appearance dialog are dynamically set or disabled altogether (some are not available at all and need to be set via other means) but message-box text color is none of these.

Does anyone know why the heck Microsoft bothered to include the ability to set the color of dialog-box text separately when it does not have its own color?

Advanced Appearance dialog

Bonus question: why is the color-box disabled for the scroll-bar when there is a scroll-bar color entry (COLOR_SCROLLBAR)?


This dialog box dates back several major versions of Windows, I think, perhaps as far back as 3.1 or 3.0. It was definitely in Windows 95. Back then, of course, all the settable items made sense. And the underlying values in the registry actually go all way back to Windows 1.0.

But Microsoft has never given this dialog box a major overhaul in all that time, instead doing minor tinkering with the list of settable items, or adding a whole 'nother dialog box for simpler setting of colours (specifically colour schemes).

Also in the interim, the way Windows uses some of the colour items has changed. This is why setting the scrollbar colour doesn't work anymore. And probably why setting the Message Box Text colour is changing the window text colour.

  • I figured it was a backward-compatibility/laziness thing, and I’d bet that Raymond Chen would concur with your analysis. Strange that they would continue to overlook it (then again, they have done very little in terms of providing theming support). Now I’m tempted to break out copies of old versions of Windows to see what they were all like. :-)
    – Synetech
    Jun 22 '12 at 4:15

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