Configuring VS Code for CS50

Welcome! Looking to set up VS Code for your section or lab?


Tools needed

Before the Semester Begins

You should only need to complete these steps once.

Prepare your Computer

  • Mac
    • Create a new user strictly for teaching. You’ll log in as this user every time you teach.
      • Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. Click Add Account... add a user.
      • Name your user something fun, like “yourname50”!
    • Log in to your new user and update their display settings.
      • Go to System Preferences > Displays. display_settings.png
      • Click “Night Shift…” and ensure Schedule is set to “Off”. This avoids an orange haze during presentations. night_shift.png
      • Ensure True Tone is always disabled (unchecked). This avoids tinting your screen during presentations.
    • Clean your top-right menu bar to avoid visual clutter.
      • Hold Cmd and drag all non-essential icons from the top-right menu bar. This might include apps that are running in the background, such as Zoom, Adobe Creative Cloud, etc.
    • Adjust your power settings. Ensure that your display is set to never go to sleep (at least while logged in as your teaching user!). battery.png
  • Windows
    • Create a new user strictly for teaching. You’ll log in as this user every time you each.
      • Go to Settings > Add, edit or remove other users.
      • Under “Other users” click “Add someone else to this PC”
      • If prompted to login with or create a Microsoft account, skip by indicating “I don’t have this person’s sign-in information” and “Add a user without a Microsoft account”.
      • Name your user something fun, like “yourname50”!
    • Go to Settings > System > Display
      • Ensure Night light is turned off.

Prepare VS Code

  • Log in to your computer as your user for section/lab.
  • Open Google Chrome.
  • Log in to
  • Set your workspace theme to GitHub Light Default.
    • Click the gear icon, your settings, in the bottom-left corner.
    • Search for “theme” in settings.
    • Ensure Workbench: Color Theme is set to “GitHub Light Default”. If you don’t have this theme installed, go to the Extension menu, then search for and install for “GitHub Theme”. theme.png
  • Update your settings.json to remove unnecessary scrollbars and terminal buttons.
    • To open your setting.json, first open your settings. You can switch to a settings.json view by clicking the top-right file button with an arrow in the top-left.
    • With your settings.json open, copy and paste the following configurations.
        "editor.scrollbar.verticalScrollbarSize": 0,
        "editor.scrollbar.horizontalScrollbarSize": 0,
        "terminal.integrated.tabs.showActions": "never",
        "terminal.integrated.tabs.showActiveTerminal": "never",
        "workbench.colorCustomizations": {
          "editor.lineHighlightBackground": "#ffffff"
    • You should see that your file scrollbar is invisible, your terminal buttons have been simplified, and that line highlighting is disabled.
  • On Mac, hide Chrome’s URL bar in Full Screen. This is not necessary for Windows.
    • Find View > Always Show Toolbar in Full Screen. Uncheck the setting.
  • Set magnification to between 200 and 300 percent.
    • Use Cmd or Ctrl and +.

Pre-Class Checklist

These steps help ensure VS Code is ready to go for your class.

  • Open Google Chrome.
  • Log into
  • Check that your theme is set to GitHub Light Default.
  • Ensure only the Terminal tab is showing in bottom window (not Ports, Problems, Debug Console, etc.).
    • Right click on the terminal title bar
    • Uncheck all but “Terminal”
  • Ensure your Activity Bar and File Explorer are closed.
    • Drag the File Explorer’s edge to the very far left to close the File Explorer file_explorer_line.png
    • Open the Command Pallette using the settings gear or your system’s shortcut
    • Search for “Toggle Activity Bar Visibility…” and activate the setting.
  • Ensure magnification is set between 200 and 300 percent.
  • Ensure VS Code is in full screen.
    • Use F11 on Windows, or the green full-screen button on Mac.
  • Ensure the URL bar is hidden.
  • Hide all previous code files in a . folder, such as .tmp