Raspberry Pi OS’ dark mode adds more coal to your stocking this year

A Raspberry Pi logo baked in demon dracula light. Text, in Gothic font: "you're not my real motherboard"
(Image credit: Future / Luke Hughes, Raspberry Pi)

Your sullen adopted teenaged chimp Raspberry Pi son resents you and spends day and night in his room playing online video games with weirdos who he claims 'understand' him.

Yes, haha, dark modes are for emos, The Register has already been there, but I (we?) think giving your Raspberry Pi 5 a theme that won't burn your eyes off, as you can now do, is… good? Provocative.

Dark mode on a Pi has been achievable for some time, but it’s worth getting the latest image of RPi OS (a patch to October’s Debian-based Bookworm release) as it makes this vital feature a simple settings toggle, so you can the arcane and black command-line arts for whatever tedious, niche use you’ve bought it for. 

Obey the Dark (Pi) Lord

Really, this is such a basic feature that any software developer that doesn’t include it at launch in their Pi distribution should be thrown in The Hague, but, per Senior Principal Software Engineer Simon Long in a blog post on the matter, it took prompting from Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton to bump it up the chain. 

‘A few weeks ago, Eben wandered past my desk, and he remarked, “wouldn’t it would be nice if we had a dark theme?”’, writes Long. 

This was followed by manual modifications to RPi OS’ PiXflat theme: the reason for the wait, as he tells it, is because colours in PiXflat are hard-coded in, rather than variables. Hindsight is 20-20, which you won’t have because light mode at 3AM has made you go blind.

“[...] it all interacts, so you find that if you tweak one colour, you then need to go in and tweak four or five others to keep all the contrast correct,” he continues, describing what, to be fair, sounds like a pain to address.

However, “‘there are a few applications, — Thonny [a popular Python IDE] is one —”, he warns, “which don’t use a theme, so cannot be given a dark appearance, but pretty much all our other standard applications will theme as intended.’

But in case you’re thinking ‘if there’s one app that needs a dark mode feature, it’s a goddamn-nabbit, sat-in-front-of-for-hours-usually, Python interpreter’, well, user ‘Kris’ below the line writes: ‘Thonny has dark themes too: Tools –> Options –> Themes & Fonts.’ So, some application developers will have to put in the extra work, but some already have.

The remainder of this update is dedicated to function over features: “improved connections in WayVMC” and Thonny, Mathematica and Scratch 3 all being updated to work on the Pi 5. Plus more byzantine release notes than you can, er - bake into a pie?

More from TechRadar Pro

Luke Hughes
Staff Writer

 Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.