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I much prefer reading white text on a black background. Is it possible for me to configure so that messages are displayed white-on-black instead of the other way around?

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Yup. Go to preferences -> Fonts & Colors -> click "Select" on "Message font" -> do your thing. :)

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I can use this to change the font, but the "Text Color" and "Document Color" options don't actually seem to do anything. – Nick Hawes Oct 12 '10 at 22:39
My bad. Seems like you're right. I've tried Google but all results seem to point to the fact that you're stuck with the default colour. Sorry. – jon2512chua Oct 13 '10 at 17:31

The more universal way to do this is to turn the entire screen opposite (White on Black).

System Preferences > Accessibility > Display > Invert Colors

You can assign a hotkey in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Accessibility > Invert colors

Default shortcut is: ctrl + option + cmd + 8

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