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Windows – Make your screen more readable

A client recently purchased a new computer with a wide screen monitor. She complained that she did not like the monitor and was going to return it and use her old monitor. Her reason was that the new screen was difficult to read. Her complaint was valid but her solution was an over-reaction. Once I adjusted the screen for her she thought it was great and decided she would keep it.

There are many things that affect the readability of a computer screen. Let’s examine a few of them.

Hardware
The monitor is the most basic item. Its hardware features determine the screen size, maximum resolution, available resolutions, and refresh rate. The video card or GPU on the motherboard is closely allied to the monitor and in conjunction with the vendor’s display drivers determines available resolutions and refresh rates. Both the monitor and the GPU can be replaced if you are not satisfied with your current display.

ClearType
If you have an LCD monitor make certain that ClearType is turned on. ClearType is a Microsoft technology that improves font display in Windows XP and Vista.

In Windows XP, right-click on the desktop and select Properties from the context menu. Select the Appearance tab in the Display Properties window. Click on the Effects… button. Make certain that the second checkbox is checked and that ClearType is selected.

If you have Vista, right-click on the desktop and select Personalize from the context menu. Then select Window Color and Appearance. Click on Open classic appearance properties for more color options. Click on the Effects… button. Make certain that the first checkbox is checked and that ClearType is selected.

Pixels
Screen resolution, expressed as horizontal pixels by vertical pixels, determines how much information displays on your screen. Typical lower resolutions for older-style screens are 800x600 or 1024x768. Newer wide screens typically run at 1680x1050, which is almost 3.7x the amount of pixels compared to 800x600. The benefit is that you can see more of a webpage, a spreadsheet, or more open windows at the same time. However, screen fonts shrink proportionally. This often makes text too tiny to read. In a browser application like Internet Explorer (IE) you can adjust text size. Some text will not scale upwards. You can override this by adjusting from Control Panel Internet Properties and clicking the Accessibility button. Then check the Ignore fonts sizes specified on web pages checkbox. This is a partial solution that only affects IE.

Dots Per Inch (DPI)
You can adjust the system DPI setting to scale text upwards. The Windows default is 96 DPI. This one setting accounts for the majority of tiny fonts at high screen resolutions.

In Windows XP, right-click on the desktop and select Properties from the context menu. Select the Settings tab in the Display Properties window. Click on the Advanced button. Then change the DPI from the dropdown list. Changing your DPI setting to 120 will increase tiny text to a readable size for most people. You need to reboot to see the effect.

If you have Vista, right-click on the desktop and select Personalize from the context menu. Then select Adjust font size (CPI) in the left-side panel. Selecting Larger scale (120 DPI) has an identical effect to this choice in XP. You need to reboot to see the effect.

NB: A few software developers did not write their applications to take into account the higher 120 DPI and so their fixed window applications will not display correctly. This is the exception rather than the rule.


       

 

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