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A better way to set an LCD's resolution to make the screen bigger

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Rob Hutchinson
Current strengths are Lotus Notes, and Dell laptops: 7450, 7470, 7490
A better way to set an LCD's resolution to make the screen bigger.

For older people or those people with vision problems, a very common way to increase the screen size both with old CRT's( does anyone even still use these?) and newer LCD's is to right click the desktop to bring up the popup menu choosing the Settings tab grabbing the slider arrow to lower the resolution which makes the screen larger and easier to see.

With older CRT's this worked great! With newer LCD's this does not, umm, work so great because LCD's typically have an 'optimum' resolution which is usually printed on the foam packaging when you first buy the LCD.

What happens when you lower the screen resolution this way is that you actually change the default optimum resolution which does a few annoying things. One, the screen sharpness is not nearly as good as when using the LCD's default resolution. The second thing is some open application windows at full screen viewing will 'jump' around a little almost like they are vibrating.

So what do you do--instead of moving the slider from the default resolution--to make the screen bigger? You click the Advanced button on the same Settings tab and look closely at the General tab where you possibly ignored the text here since Windows XP first came out =) Read the text at the top of the General tab:

"If your screen resolution makes screen items too small to view comfortably, you can increase the DPI to compensate." So what you do now is to click the drop down menu below this text and change the "Normal size (96 DPI)" to "Large size (120 DPI)" That's it!

For the most part, the default choice will help all those end users with vision problems see the screen and it will be sharper--and the open windows will no longer jump around or vibrate anymore!

Exception: some users will need another value slightly different from the default DPI choices of 96 or 120. For these users, just choose Custom DPI Setting and type in the new value instead of choosing the default.
Note here: when typing in the new value, you have to sometimes delete the percent symbol as the new value field auto-fills itself with usually the wrong choice.

After you have made your changes, some of the screen text will become larger, but you really need to restart Windows to have this change apply to all the applications.

Another tip here as well:
some users will complain that the text appears broken or too digital looking. All you need to do to change this is to right click the desktop to bring up the display properties choosing the Appearance tab and then click the Effects button. From here, click the second drop down menu changing it from Standard to ClearType which smoothes out those jagged text characters!

Hope this info helps!
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LVL 74

Expert Comment

Changing DPI values will often break buttons text, menus, and in particular self-coded GUI elements, as no Windows OS up to now considers the values as dynamic. Changing to a custom DPI might completely distort your Windows layout. E.g. buttons are not big enough to contain all text, text is not wrapped at the correct margin, aso.

Thus changes for DPI should be done careful. If you reduce resolution, fine lines will still "jump around". It is useful to change individual font and widget sizes by going into the Advances options of the Display Applet, and change Window Title font size aso. manually, to improve the experience.
LVL 58

Expert Comment

I think the user *should* be allowed to change DPI values freely, in an ideal world. But I still remember how horrified I was the first time I saw one of my own applications on a monitor with a DPI different from 96: ugly and almost unusable. I had stupidly assumed that one pixel is always equal to 15 twips.

I'm now trying to systematically use the WinAPI function GetDeviceCaps when I need to convert between inches and pixel, but there is only so much you can do. Icons on buttons will never look quite the same with a different DPI.

It's great for users, it's terrible for GUI developers.... I still voted 'yes' above, if only to remind me!

LVL 19

Author Comment

by:Rob Hutchinson
Exactly harfang,

If you read the first part of the information regarding the article, "For older people or those people with vision problems..."

I agree with Qlemo, that his technical description describes the pitfalls; but most of the user's I've set this up for( older users with vision problems) are happy with the DPI change in the settings as most of these user's just want the text to be bigger without the maxium opened window vibration.
LVL 58

Expert Comment

And we developers should acknowledge vision problems and the fundamental truth that the user's environment is the user's. That would be the topic of another article, however. I was just throwing in the GetDeviceCaps idea...



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