Useless Solutions: Windows 3.1 Hot Dog Stand Theme – Power BI style

On occasion, useless solutions like this will be posted as they may not be directly useful in production, but they are educational in value and can lead to useful work.

Oh goodness, what have you done?

This post originally started as a joke at dinner with Adam Saxton of Guy in a Cube and Jason Himmelstein of the BiFocal podcast. It was worth it to see the look on their face when I mentioned I was bringing the Hot Dog Stand Theme to Power BI. And now I have.

What is “Hot Dog Stand?”

For those who have no idea what this is about, Windows 3.1 shipped with a theme called Hot Dog Stand. Coding Horror has a nice write up with screen shots here. It was hideous and no one knew why it was there. It became a joke to change someone’s theme to Hot Dog Stand if they left their workstation unlocked. Hot Dog Stand never made it into Windows 95 and faded, for the most part into history.

An opportunity arose

As luck and work would have it, clients were asking for custom themes and a deep dive into the Power BI themes format was necessary. Hence, the idea to combine wacky fun with learning the ins and outs of theme JSON descriptors by recreating Hot Dog Stand.

Getting Started

I started where likely most people start, the Microsoft docs on Power BI themes here. It’s a helpful document but wow, there’s a lot of potential coding to do here. I needed to get rolling more quickly.

Cool, a theme generator

Next stop was the PowerBI.Tips theme generator. This tool is fairly easy to use to generate a quick theme file. it creates the JSON but has limited options on what can and can’t be changed. The results were ok, but I wasn’t feeling the serious ugly of Hot Dog Stand yet.

Even cooler, a GitHub repository!

After some web searches, I can across this GitHub repository of Power BI theme snippets. David Eldersveld put this repository together, probably due to the same reasons that brought me here. I needed to do more customization but I didn’t want or was able to hand code all of the particulars.

The free VS Code made this pretty easy to assemble. You will likely want to use a JSON formatter as you are doing this. Code may have one but in the interest of moving fast, I found this site that did the job well.


One tip is that if you are going to merge many of the snippets into a theme file, ignore the first three and last two lines of every snippet. Otherwise, you’ll get errors importing it.

The Result

To reiterate, Hot Dog Stand started as a theme generator generated file that I edited in VS Code and augmented with snippets from GitHub. The result is this.

Isn’t it hideous?

If you would like a copy of the theme file, to do your own terrible things with, download it here. If you have questions or comments, please post them below. Check out our Twitter feed at @tumbleroad.

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