Microsoft has been very transparent with their updates to Visual Studio 11. It includes a huge change to the UI design of the entire IDE, most notably colour themes, icons and capitlization. In their original announcement post with screenshots, many users hated the design and cried for them to bring back colour and to not use all-caps in the menus/panels.

Today, they posted screenshots of the release candidate which has some of these requests implementted, but they also chose to uppercase the main menu.

As a programmer (i.e. not a UX expert) I am wondering what their thought process might be on choosing these design options. To me it does look clean, but to many other developers (as noted in the comments) they reject it entirely. What are considerations in designing a complex UI such as this and are there any studies/examples that indicate these are good choices?

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    Two notes. A) All caps is probably not as usable as mixed case, except for one notable factor: Underlines (keyboard accelerators) can be easier to pick out under the more uniform width of capital letters. B) Users, even savvy users, are whiners. Look at what they do, not what they say. It's quite possible the changes are uniformly good; testing matters, forum complainers probably don't. May 8, 2012 at 21:23
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    "Another area of requested change relating to user interface controls/chrome has been for us to improve the overall sense of Metro styling" (my bold) This might have something to do with it.
    – ChrisF
    May 8, 2012 at 21:44
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    A note on capitalisation: webstyleguide.com/wsg3/8-typography/5-typographic-emphasis.html We read primarily by recognizing the overall shape of words, not by parsing each letter and then assembling a recognizable word. Words formed with capital letters are monotonous rectangles that offer few distinctive shapes to catch the eye (fig. 8.11). Illustrative images on link.
    – PhillipW
    May 8, 2012 at 22:53
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    As a forum whiner, it looks like a big step backwards to me. Will be interested to try it out for real though to see. It's easy to be proven wrong on these things once trying them live.
    – Kris C
    May 8, 2012 at 23:00
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    It's probably to clearly separate the menu items (the only things uppercase now, that I saw) from all the other text
    – Ben Brocka
    May 9, 2012 at 2:41

1 Answer 1


When it comes to paragraphs or big blocks of text, capitalized text is indeed much harder to read. In a book "Letting Go of the Words" by Janice Redish she sais "Don't write in all capitals ALL CAPITALS TAKE UP 30 PERCENT MORE SPACE ON THE PAGE.THEY SLOW READING SPEED BY ABOUT 15 PERCENT" - http://books.google.com/books?id=GHwSP_3khccC

But using caps for menu is a different case. Here's a quote from the same book - "Use all capitals only for a single word or short frase in specific circumstances where people expect it". Using caps in the menus/panels doesn't hurt readability and can be good from graphic perspective as well as to create some visual diversity.

Here's also a good article discussing how capitalising menu can even reduce the focus on it, helping readability of the main text http://www.digitalcookie.com.au/blog/writing-readable-content-and-why-all-caps-is-so-hard-to-read.html

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    Interesting - thank you. Perhaps MS wanted to reduce focus of the menus? They say one of their goals is to 'focus on the code'. Do you think it's executed well in this case?
    – Morgan T.
    May 9, 2012 at 11:15
  • Not sure until I try working with the app, but it looks like this was their intention
    – Ardine
    May 9, 2012 at 15:47
  • From the first glance of VS 2011, it doesn't hurt my eyes. Great Answer +1 May 9, 2012 at 18:36
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    Sorry, but the quote says "Use all capitals only for a single word or short frase in specific circumstances where people expect it" That's quite different from a menu bar with 12-17 menu items. There's already too much stuff on the screen, with toolboxes, toolbars, etc. I'll need a 30" screen to fit it all!
    – John T
    Aug 16, 2012 at 19:59

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