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ITsVISTA Tip 29: Use Vista’s DPI Support to Scale Your User Interface

TipsDo you sometimes have a hard time reading the text on your screen, especially on laptop computers? This may be because of something called DPI. DPI (dots per inch) refers to pixel density, or the number of pixels displayed in an inch. On standard desktop monitors, this has generally been 96dpi, but many laptop screens are more dense, displaying up to 144dpi. This has the effect of making everything look smaller. For a few more details on DPI in Vista, see Greg Schechter’s Blog.

One way to get around this is to change your screen resolution. By lowering the resolution, everything will look bigger, but you won’t be able to see as much (less real estate) and the image quality will suffer. To combat this problem, Vista allows you to instead adjust the DPI, and has been designed to be more intelligent in the way it then displays the interface. You can adjust the DPI from 96dpi (100%) to 480dpi (500%), though 96dpi and 120dpi are the most common settings. To see what your screen looks like at 500% (unusable), take a look at this post.

Here’s how to change your DPI:

  1. Right-click on your desktop and choose Personalize.
  2. Choose Adjust font size (DPI) from the left column of the Personalization window. If UAC is on, you’ll be prompted to approve your escalation of privileges.
    Adjust font size (DPI)
  3. In the DPI Scaling window you can choose to increase the dpi to 120 just by clicking the radio button. If you want a different setting, click the Custom DPI… button.
    DPI Scaling
  4. In the DPI Scaling Settings window, you can choose from a few percentages from the drop down menu, or you can simply click on the ruler and drag your cursor to the right, which will ‘stretch’ the ruler out, increasing the dpi.
    Custom DPI Setting
  5. The Use Windows XP style DPI scaling box is useful if you are running applications that are not ‘DPI aware’. As mentioned here, it is checked by default for sizes <=120 DPI and unchecked by default for sizes >120DPI.
    XP Style DPI scaling
  6. Once you’ve chosen the scale you want, click OK and you’ll see your custom size listed in the DPI scaling window. Click OK again and you’ll be prompted that restart is required for the change to take effect. After restarting, you’re screen will be displayed at the chosen dpi. Be careful about choosing to large a scale, if you get it to large, it will be very difficult to navigate back to the screen to change it back since everything might not fit on the screen properly.
    DPI Scaling

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