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Mac Screen Readability
January 26, 2005 12:41 PM   Subscribe

MacFilter: How do you make the screen fonts bigger in OS X? I've just upgraded my grandmother from a virus-infested WinME box to a 17" iMac G5. Unfortunately, the text is much too small for her to read clearly, and she wants her WinMe box back. I've changed the resolution down to 1024x768. Other than seriously degrading the image quality, it doesn't make the fonts much larger.

I'm comfortable working with the command line and editing plists, so don't hold anything back.
posted by b1tr0t to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
 
TinkerTool
posted by kindall at 12:51 PM on January 26, 2005


I believe that there is an option in System Preferences < accesibility... also, the easy way to change font sizes the desktop/finder is in either preferences (command+,) or view options (command + j). br>
(Sorry, I'm on my Windows machine and work and not in front of my PB. )
posted by moxyberry at 1:00 PM on January 26, 2005


I believe that there is an option in System Preferences < accesibility...

That's what I thought and went looking (it's actually Universal Access) and would you believe that changing the system font size isn't an option there? You'll probably have better luck with TinkerTool.
posted by jperkins at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2005


If your grandmother has poor eyesight, she may benefit from the options available in the "Universal Access" section of the System Preferences.

The "Zoom" option makes everything on the screen bigger.
posted by Mwongozi at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2005


System Preferences > Universal Access has some zoom options.

In Finder, View > Show View Options for Finder Windows

In Safari, command+"+" for HTML text

but I can't find something that would increase the font sizes for all applications that's part of the OS. For a CRT monitor, the solution would be a lower res, but as you say, LCDs tend to look crappy at resolutions smaller than max.
posted by gwint at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2005


I took a look at Universal Access, and words fail me. I find the zoom-follows mousepointer mode of operation *extremely* disorienting, I'm sure it would disorient my grandmother. I have a hard time believing that anyone actually uses this "feature."

TinkerTool does roughly what I want, but doesn't seem to be respected by many applications. Fortunately, she tends to use Mail, Word, and Excel, and those seem to have their own settings.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2005


she wants her WinMe box back

You could do that.
posted by sageleaf at 1:36 PM on January 26, 2005


Note also that you can Apple-Shift-+ (plus) to increase document text size in Mail as well as Safari.

(Apple really should put in a system font size preference. I'd probably use such a function on my tiny pixeled iBook if it was consistent.)
posted by teg at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2005


teg - unfortunately, apple-shift-+ is both obscure and only increases the font size of the message currently being displayed.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:48 PM on January 26, 2005


I use the Zoom feature regularly, but I agree, mousing with more than a little zoom is obnoxious. It helps to tell Universal Access not to follow the mouse until it gets to the edge of the (zoomed) screen.

Almost every Mac-native application can be customized to have a text-size tool displayed in its window toolbar, and I highly recommend this. In Safari, for instance, the option is View: Text Size.

Put the monitor resolution back on the native number. Changing it will only make things harder to read - never easier.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:10 PM on January 26, 2005


I took a look at Universal Access, and words fail me. I find the zoom-follows mousepointer mode of operation *extremely* disorienting, I'm sure it would disorient my grandmother. I have a hard time believing that anyone actually uses this "feature."

Sadly, it probably gets used more for porn than for helping visually impaired folks.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:20 PM on January 26, 2005


Setting the default font for menus is one thing; setting the "reading" font for apps is another. You can set the font and size for Mail, Safari, etc, in the preferences so that rather than needing to size everything up, everything would be sized up by default. There are also several different font sizes to set in mail (the message font, list font, etc). See how (say) 18 pt Lucida Grande works as a reading font.

I agree with Ikkyu2 that you should run the monitor at its native resolution--LCDs don't display well at anything other than their native resolution.
posted by adamrice at 2:53 PM on January 26, 2005


Individually changing fonts is a reasonably workaround for now. Any apple usability engineers that may be reading, take note: there needs to be a global font-scaling option. Individually changing all the fonts in all of the applications is not a reasonable solution for the typical user.

Regarding native screen resolution, I agree that flat panels work best at their native res, but my grandmother has a hard time with the tiny scrollbars and other small UI elements, so we may have to go back to a lower resolution. With the PDF display model, you would think this would be an easy feature for the OS to include.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:04 PM on January 26, 2005


In the finder menu View->Show View Options

If you click onto the desktop first you'll be able to increase the font size for the desktop.

If you've got a folder open and active then you'll be able to increase the font size for that (or optionally all) folders.

The human interface guys failed here! I never noticed because I like itty bitty fonts but man, this is convoluted (and I still didn't figure out how to increase finder font size)
posted by substrate at 4:28 PM on January 26, 2005


Yeah, as everyone else said, there's no good way to do this. The next OS (Tiger) features the beginning steps of what Apple calls "Resolution-independent UI" and they've showed a tool where you can scale up and down the native DPI of individual applications (including their menu bar.) The point is that there will be much higher dpi screens in the future and they'll want to keep the fonts and UI components looking sharp and readable. It has the added benefit of making the fonts readable by people with poor eyesight. Unfortunately they never saw the latter need as something to work on.

Windows is better at this, but not much-- there's still a lot of apps that don't pay attention to the global font size setting.

I was always wondering if there was a hack where you could actually change the fonts and replace the small size fonts with bigger versions, so that no app has access to small fonts. But I imagine that the way fonts work that isn't possible.
posted by neustile at 8:12 PM on January 26, 2005


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