Dark mode

Columns UI 2.0.0 and newer feature an optional dark mode on Windows 10 version 2004 and newer.

If dark mode is active, panels should render system UI elements, such as common controls and scroll bars, with a dark theme.

The following code sample shows how to enable dark scroll bars for a window depending on whether dark mode is enabled:

const auto is_dark = cui::colours::is_dark_mode_active()
SetWindowTheme(hwnd, is_dark ? L"DarkMode_Explorer" : nullptr, nullptr);

Some common controls have a native dark mode that can also be activated using SetWindowTheme() and one of the following themes:

  • DarkMode

  • DarkMode_Explorer

  • DarkMode_CFD

Handling dynamic dark mode changes

If you have an existing cui::colours::client implementation, you should:

1. Override cui::colours::client::get_supported_bools() to return the cui::colours::bool_flag_dark_mode_enabled flag (use | to combine multiple flags). For example:

uint32_t get_supported_bools() const override
    return colours::bool_flag_use_custom_active_item_frame | colours::bool_flag_dark_mode_enabled;

2. Override cui::colours::client::on_bool_changed() to handle dynamic dark mode changes. For example:

void on_bool_changed(uint32_t changed_items_mask) const override
    if (changed_items_mask & colours::bool_flag_dark_mode_enabled) {
        const auto is_dark = cui::colours::is_dark_mode_active();
        for (auto hwnd : hwnds) {
            SetWindowTheme(hwnd, is_dark ? L"DarkMode_Explorer" : nullptr, nullptr);

If you don’t have an existing cui::colours::client implementation, you can use cui::colours::dark_mode_notifier to react to dark mode status changes. For example:

// Member variable
std::unique_ptr<cui::colours::dark_mode_notifier> m_dark_mode_notifier;

// Window procedure
    // ...
    SetWindowTheme(hwnd, is_dark ? L"DarkMode_Explorer" : nullptr, nullptr);
    m_dark_mode_notifier = std::make_unique<cui::colours::dark_mode_notifier>([hwnd] {
        SetWindowTheme(hwnd, is_dark ? L"DarkMode_Explorer" : nullptr, nullptr);
    return 0;
    return 0;

Painting panel backgrounds

While many panels will automatically use the background colour configured in Columns UI, there are some additional considerations to avoid glitches e.g. when resizing panels.

If your panel uses a custom window class, it’s recommended to set the hbrBackground member of the WNDCLASS structure to nullptr when registering the window class, and to explicitly handle erasing of your window’s background. This is to avoid a non-dark system colour temporarily showing through when resizing panels with dark mode enabled.

If your entire client area is covered by e.g. a child common control, you can use the uie::win32::paint_background_using_parent() function to simply paint the parent window’s background in the window procedure for your custom window class.

Similarly, if:

  • you’re currently using uie::container_ui_extension (or any of its related variants)

  • want_transparent_background is set to false in your and container_window::get_class_data() implementation; and

  • your window procedure doesn’t handle WM_ERASEBKGRND explicitly

your panel is using COLOR_BTNFACE for its background (which is the same colour in both light and dark modes). If this applies, you should be able to migrate to uie::container_uie_window_v3_t with a transparent background to avoid COLOR_BTNFACE showing through when resizing panels.

Custom button images

If you have an implementation of uie::button_v2, you should generally make uie::button_v2::get_item_bitmap() vary the image returned according to the value returned by cui::colours::is_dark_mode_active(), so that a dark version of the image is returned when dark mode is active.