HTML Colors: Introduction

HTML Colors is an application that can help create and determine the suitability of a color scheme for a page of HTML, the mark-up language of the World Wide Web.

HTML allows web authors to override the browser's default colors for the background color, text color, and various link colors. There are several problems in creating a color scheme. Some color schemes yield unreadable text: for example, light text on a white background is difficult to read. Also, the syntax for the color scheme is rather confusing, and it forces HTML authors to work with hexadecimal numbers and RGB channels rather than simply choosing colors.

HTML Colors simplifies the color scheme creation process in several ways. It presents a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) sample of the color schemes so you can instantly determine legibility. It uses the Macintosh standard color picker package (which allows users to choose colors from the color wheel, for example), freeing the user from having to convert numbers to their hexadecimal RGB equivalents. It builds the necessary BODY HTML tags, and allows you to copy and paste them, freeing users from concern of their exact structure. It also optionally allows colors to be restricted to "safe" web colors which will display exactly as expected on Macintoshes and Windows machines set to 256 colors.

What it Does and How to Use It

The easiest way to determine how HTML Colors works is to try it out, as it's quite easy to use. So go ahead and launch it.

When you launch HTML Colors, it opens a window containing a sample set of HTML colors. Five small color swatches appear on the right next to check-boxes indicating what HTML element each color corresponds to.

Here's a quick elaboration of what each color description means.

Browsers determine which links are visited and which are unvisited using an internal history buffer. The maximum count of links and the age of the links that appear in this buffer is browser-dependent, and usually depends upon user settings.

To change a color, click on the small color swatch. The standard Mac OS color picker dialog will appear, and you may choose a new color for that item. You may also click on the sample text or the background color to bring up the color picker dialog for that item.

You can choose which colors are being overridden using the check-boxes by each colorable item. You don't need to override colors for all items. For example, you may choose to override only the text and background color for a page that has few or no links.

However, it may be safest to override all colors if you override any, since the default colors may vary from browser to browser, and overriding the background color may be visually incompatible with the default text colors.

The current HTML that corresponds to the color scheme is displayed in a small area underneath the sample color scheme. You can copy this to the clipboard with the Copy button, or by choosing Copy HTML from the Edit menu. Then, switch into your HTML editor, position the blinking caret in an appropriate place near the beginning of the document, and select Paste. The BODY tag will automatically appear, filled in to override the colors as you chose in HTML Colors.

Note that there should only be one instance of the BODY tag on an HTML page. You should make sure all other instances are removed.

Web-safe Colors

A web-safe color is one of 216 colors where each of the red, green and blue components is one of the six values 00, 33, 66, 99, CC or FF (for example, #0066CC is safe but #0660FF is not because the red component is 06). A web-safe color displays without dithering on a Macintosh and on a Windows machine, even when set to 256 colors. Often, it's best to choose a web-safe color so you can be assured that your text and backgrounds will not be dithered, which can reduce legibility.

If the "Keep colors web-safe" checkbox is selected, colors will be automatically remapped to safe colors in the sample text area and in the generated HTML. You can still select and paste unsafe colors, and unsafe colors may appear in the small color swatches, but only safe colors will be displayed in the sample text area.

Non-Obvious Features

You can import HTML color schemes from existing documents with the clipboard. In a text editor, select the HTML color scheme, and copy it to the clipboard (usually by selecting Copy from the Edit menu). Switch to HTML colors, and select Paste HTML from the Edit menu. HTML Colors will try to parse the HTML looking for color scheme modifiers, and will update the color scheme in that window.

For example, if you cut

<body bgcolor="#7b09bb" text="#f86468" link="#02b3fd" vlink="#e3f807" alink="#2df33b">

and paste it to HTML Colors, it would show the corresponding nasty rainbow scheme. This color scheme is not recommended for real content; it's rather ugly.

Possible Future Features:

The author would be very pleased to hear your ideas for future versions of HTML Colors -- especially if you have registered.

Shareware Statement

HTML Colors is shareware. If you use HTML Colors to create commercial web pages, you may use it out for 30 days to see if it suits your needs. If you continue to use it beyond that time period, you are obliged to register. You may register using the Register program that came with the HTML Colors distribution. You may also register HTML Colors on the World Wide Web. Point your browser to and follow the instructions there.

HTML Colors is free for personal use. That is, if you use HTML Colors to build your own personal web pages with no intention of making a profit by reselling your work, or selling products or services on web pages, you may use it at no charge for as long as you like. If you ever begin using it to build commercial web pages, you must then register it.

If you are so obliged, please register HTML Colors. HTML Colors cost US$10 for a single user license. Site licenses ($100) and world-wide licenses ($400) are also available. A site license covers all machines in the organization which are within 100 miles of a central point.

Registering shareware software that you find useful encourages authors to continue to produce inexpensive, high quality programs. Double-click on the Register program for more information on how to register.


Thanks to Scott Stevenson for the icon and for (indirectly) giving me the idea for HTML Colors when he complained about the illegibility of one of my web pages. Thanks to Michele Meyer for moral support. And thanks to Metrowerks Corporation for providing excellent development tools.

Contact Information

To register HTML Colors, use the Register program that came with the distribution, or register online at:

Please send questions, suggestions & bug reports to:

Richard Kiss

Bug reports & suggestions are particularly welcome, even if you have not registered. Please include your e-mail address with all correspondence.

To make sure you have the latest version of HTML Colors, or to view other softwareOB written by Richard Kiss, please visit on the web.

Technical Issues

Unlike many modern programs, HTML Colors is not PowerPC native. This carefully measured choice was made to reduce the size of the program, since 68K code is more compact than native PowerPC code. Since HTML Colors is not computation intensive, the reduced performance should not be a concern to virtually all users. Even in emulated 68K form, HTML Colors requires very little CPU attention.

HTML Colors was written using Metrowerks CodeWarrior 11 using the Metrowerks PowerPlant application framework.


The HTML Colors distribution package may be distributed in any way as long as you do not charge for it, beyond reasonable download charges on systems that charge for connect time.

If you wish to distribute the HTML Colors package on disk or CD-ROM, please contact the author.

Richard Kiss ("the author") hereby disclaims all warranties relating to this software, whether express or implied, including without limitation any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. The author will not be liable for any special, incidental, consequential, indirect or similar damages due to loss of data or any other reason, even if the author or an agent of his has been advised of the possibility of such damages. In no event shall the author be liable for any damages, regardless of the form of the claim. The person using the software bears all risk as to the quality and performance of the software.