Everything on my Macbook Pro's screen is so tiny. How can I make it easier to see?
October 24, 2007 4:44 PM   Subscribe

I'd really like to switch to Mac, and just got a MacBook Pro. Because of my vision, I really need everything to be larger in order to see the screen comfortably. (I previously used a 15" ThinkPad at 1024x768, and a 19" monitor at 1280x1024) On the Mac, the screen's set at 1440x800, and everything appears incredibly tiny. I really need it to be at 1152x720 to feel comfortable using it, but everything becomes fuzzy since this is a non-native resolution of the LCD. I've also tried everything else I can think of to make things larger, including adjusting browser text sizes, playing with the settings in System Preferences, and hacks in the Terminal such as adjusting adjusting the display factor, which nearly does it but is quite buggy. Has anyone else had this problem? Is there anything else worth trying? Is it possible to hire someone to replace the LCD in the MacBook Pro with a one that has a lower native resolution? Or am I stuck with my ThinkPad for the forseeable future?
posted by lsemel to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
Replacing the LCD panel seems like the most extreme and hazard-prone option here. I'd suggest:

1. Getting an external monitor and running off that as much as possible. Your MBP can drive a great big monitor. A TV with DVI-in would probably work well for you, as that would have low-ish resolution and be as big as you can afford.

2. Hold out a few days for Leopard, which is widely rumored to have resolution scaling (the display factor you linked to) as a full-fledged feature.
posted by adamrice at 4:50 PM on October 24, 2007

Upgrade to Leopard when it comes out this Friday, and I believe you'll find that the display factor adjustment will work a lot more reliably.
posted by chrismear at 4:50 PM on October 24, 2007

It may be what you mean by system preferences, but have you tried zooming the screen? Command-option-8 turns it on and off, command-option-minus and -equals zooms in and out. Command-option-backslash toggles anti-aliasing. The visible area of your screen follows your cursor.

I don't think I could use it constantly, but when I read something long, I tend to zoom in on it.
posted by Plug Dub In at 4:52 PM on October 24, 2007

Similar to what Plug Dub In says, you also can do the same thing by holding Control and scrolling (on the scroll wheel if you have an external mouse, or if you are using the trackpad, just put two fingers next to each other and move them together up/down the trackpad). I believe it has the same effect, but you don't have to turn it on and off first.

Hope that helps!
posted by stilly at 4:56 PM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: Has anyone actually tried Leopard? I read that the display factor wasn't working reliably in Leopard either, and continues to be buggy.
posted by lsemel at 5:04 PM on October 24, 2007

I've had this problem before also and is one of the primary reasons I haven't considered switching to a Mac. There are some great text resizing add-ons for Firefox. I use No Squint. Hopefully, that'll help with your web reading. Sorry I can't help with the rest.
posted by Craig at 5:23 PM on October 24, 2007

You can increase your Finder font and icon sizes in the Finder's view menu by selecting Show View Options. Some applications allow you to increase font sizes or zoom levels, as well.
posted by pmbuko at 5:43 PM on October 24, 2007

System Preferences -> keyboard & mouse

Universal access is below the section on screen shots. Click the triangle next to "zoom" and then set whatever keys you want. I'm sure you're used to Windows "Universal Access" which is sucktastic. The Mac equivalent is quite usable. I use it to look at websites where the font was set to "readable only by ants." Ok, that's just my opinion, but I never used the Windows equivalent other than just the once to decide I hated it.

(I believe the zoom defaults are command-alt + / -)
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:02 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

And if you just want to change the display resolution, System Preferences -> displays has what you're looking for.

And if you followed my directions above and didn't see universal access, it's because I forgot to note that "keyboard and mouse" is a tabbed dialog, and you need to click on "keyboard shortcuts" to see it.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:04 PM on October 24, 2007

Why don't you use a software like Onyx and change the default font size to be much bigger. Then it will be slightly better to use. I would also get Leopard as it is supposed to have much better Universal Access.
posted by ooklala at 6:05 PM on October 24, 2007

In case it hasn't been posted yet, Leopard is *free* as in beer if you just barely bought that Mac. This is an upgrade that you shouldn't be without!
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:14 PM on October 24, 2007

For zooming, you can also hold down ctrl and use the 2-finger scroll on the trackpad to zoom in to where the cursor is. (Make sure that option is checked in the System Prefs). I think that's easier and has more control than the keyboard shortcut. Also, once zoomed in, release the ctrl key and you can scroll around the screen by moving your finger on the trackpad.
posted by The Deej at 6:28 PM on October 24, 2007

The ctrl-zoom using the trackpad is one of my favourite things.

In fact, I just used it to read this thread. Full-screen green is very soothing.
posted by blacklite at 7:21 PM on October 24, 2007

Google Unsanity Silk. Costs 10 bucks, helped a little i think with some system fonts. Otherwise a lot of the fonts can be increased in the individual apps such as in the finder, and desktop, etc. I am hoping this improves in Leopard, and that Onyx mentioned above looks interesting.
posted by dino terror at 7:57 PM on October 24, 2007

In case it hasn't been posted yet, Leopard is *free* as in beer if you just barely bought that Mac. This is an upgrade that you shouldn't be without!

They charged me $10 at apple.com for my order, but the sentiment is there. The offer is called Up-To-Date. I don't know whether Leopard offers what you're looking for in terms of screen scaling, but you ought to at least try it before you give your shiny Macbook to your six year old niece.
posted by Netzapper at 8:29 PM on October 24, 2007

Apple backpedaled on the resolution-indepent GUI that was so hyped last year. I doubt we'll see it in 10.5.0. It wasn't in recent developer releases.
posted by pmbuko at 10:01 PM on October 24, 2007

I'm not sure how it runs on OS X, but Opera can enlarge text properly.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 11:40 PM on October 24, 2007

To make the entire computer accessible, as opposed to just zooming the text on Web pages, there is no real option but to use an external monitor.
posted by joeclark at 6:31 PM on October 25, 2007

Response by poster: None of these options is feasible for day to day use. I'm going to have to return it and hopefully buy a new one when they come out with resolution independence.
posted by lsemel at 9:20 PM on October 25, 2007

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