Dark Mode Reaches Outlook for Office 365

Click-to-Run Version of Outlook Supports Office Black Theme

Office 365 notification MC187963 (roadmap item 49924) brings us news that the click-to-run version of Outlook desktop (aka Outlook for Office 365) joins the rest of the Office suite in supporting the “Black Theme,” which is how you get Office displayed in dark mode. The notification says: “We’ll be rolling this out to Monthly Channel (Targeted) customers in the coming days. The rollout is expected to be complete and available to all Monthly Channel customers with Version 1908. “

Support for black/dark mode was added to OWA in January 2019 and appeared in Office 2016 in 2018. It just takes longer to make UI changes in Outlook.

Selecting Black Mode

The latest updates installed version 1908 (build 11929.20114) on my PC, so I opened Outlook options to select the Black theme (Figure 1). You can also go to the backstage area (where information about your Office 365 account and updates are displayed) and select the theme there.

Selecting Black Mode from Outlook options
Figure 1: Selecting Black Mode from Outlook options

Using dark mode on screens has become popular for apps recently. White text on a dark background was the default in the old days of character-cell video terminals and black on white only became prevalent after the introduction of Windows and other GUIs in the 1990s, all of which goes to prove how trends can return in the IT industry.

The case for dark mode is supposedly that it is easier on the eye, but some articles debate this assertion. In any case, choosing to go dark is a personal preference. And after twenty or so odd years of using Outlook in “white mode,” I’m still uncertain if I like the darkened version of Outlook (Figure 2). Right now, my personal preference is the Office Colorful theme.

 Outlook in Black Mode
Figure 2: Outlook in Black Mode

Turning the Lights On to Read

Some people like to distinguish or highlight the contents of the message pane. Outlook offers the option to switch the message pane between dark (moon) and light (sun). In Figure 3 you can see how the text appears when the message pane is in light mode and the remainder of Outlook uses the dark background.

How to switch dark mode on or off for Outlook's message pane
Figure 3: How to switch dark mode on or off for Outlook’s message pane

This switch is for individual messages. Once you’ve established a preference for dark/light reading, you can check the “Never change the message background color” setting in Outlook Options to force the client to use the same color for all messages.

Remember that selecting an Office theme applies the same theme to all the Office apps. You can’t use the Black theme with Outlook and another theme with Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

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4 Replies to “Dark Mode Reaches Outlook for Office 365”

  1. In the latest PC version of Outlook 365, updated today, 10/25/19, older messages (via Search) are showing up with dark grey background and BLACK text. It is nearly impossible to read anything on those messages. Changing the Options to White or Colorful only changes the outer frame, does not change the colors in the message body, including where you attempt to Reply (which is black on black, so you can’t see what you type).
    There is no way to either read or reply to those emails. There IS no bar on the right showing a crescent moon at all. It’s a simple slider bar. There are a plethora of tabs at the top, none with a crescent moon icon. I’m a personal user, not an ITpro, I found this trying to google a solution so I could read my emails and reply. HOW to read those emails now?
    I am happy to upload an example of what I am looking at, not sure how here.

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