Let's face it: the retina-burning startup animation on Chrome OS is incredibly annoying. Thanks to Chromebooks ramping up the brightness during boot, I find myself closing the lid to shield my eyes, especially at night. With Google working hard to bring a system-wide dark theme in the OS and its apps, many users hoped that the developers would also apply a dark background to the boot screen. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that Google is currently working on a dark startup animation, but it does look like the recovery mode UI on Chromebooks will soon get the dark mode treatment.

As discovered recently on the Chromium Gerrit, a couple of new commits suggest that Google is preparing to replace the traditional light recovery mode UI with a dark version.

chromiumos-asset: change boot message background to menu ui style

Change boot message background to dark color, and rename old *.png
to *_light.png for backup.

To clarify, the boot message is the text found in recovery mode. The commit above changes its background to black and its text to white. Since most of the files are animation frames, I compiled the assets into a GIF to help illustrate the theme changes.

dark recovery

Chrome OS recovery screen using a dark theme. 

The updated recovery screen is significantly darker than the way it currently looks, swapping the white with a muted grey color. To make them stand out against the background, the progress throbber and boot messages switch to white, contrasting nicely with the dark aesthetic. Overall, the new theme is a lot easier on the eyes than before, making the recovery mode experience a lot less painful.

Although bringing a dark UI to recovery mode is excellent news for those who use it, existing Chromebooks will not get it. As explained by a Chromium developer, the screen resides in a read-only space in Flash, meaning it can't be changed with a software update. However, on certain upcoming devices, the UI has been changed to use dark mode. The theme change isn't final yet, as the commits haven't been merged, but this gives us a good idea of what it will look like.

Some might look at the new dark theme and wonder why it's a big deal, especially if accessing the Chromebook's recovery screen is an edge-case for the majority of users. While bringing a dark theme to the recovery screen is a welcome change, it might hint that the startup screen may finally get the dark UI treatment. With recent efforts to bring a consistent system-wide dark theme to Chrome OS, it makes sense for Google to change the boot animation theme, which would be a big win for those of us tired of being blinded by the light.