Microsoft

Save your eyes with DPI Scaling in Windows Vista

Greg Shultz shows you how to get the most out of your LCD monitor by taking advantage of the DPI Scaling tool in Microsoft Windows Vista.

Do you have an LCD monitor, either stand-alone or on a laptop, that has a native resolution that is so high that text and other graphical elements, such as icons, appear small? If so, you've probably lowered the resolution a couple of notches to make it a bit easier to see. However, chances are that isn't an ideal solution because most LCDs don't look all that great at a resolution that is lower than the native resolution.

However, with the DPI Scaling tool available in Microsoft Windows Vista, you can use your LCD monitor at its native resolution and still make the text more easily readable and other graphical elements larger. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to get the most out of your LCD monitor by taking advantage of the DPI Scaling tool.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic Download.

The deal with DPI

The default DPI (dots per inch) scale setting in Vista is 96 DPI, and it is an old standard. While this setting has served us well for a number of years, the higher resolutions now supported by newer LCD monitors, which typically have a native pixel density of 120 DPI and 144 DPI, mean that the default setting of 96 DPI is too small to display a good quality image. To overcome this problem, Vista incorporates a new DPI scaling engine that will allow you to bump up the size of text and other graphical elements, like icons, so that they better fit the native DPI on laptop and stand-alone LCD monitors and still look as good as they used to at 96 DPI.

Changing the DPI Scaling

To change the DPI Scaling setting, right-click on your desktop and choose Personalize from the context menu. When you see the Personalization window, as shown in Figure A, click the Adjust Font Size (DPI) link in the Tasks panel on the left side of the window. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly.

Figure A

You'll find the Adjust Font Size (DPI) link in the Tasks panel on the left side of the Personalization window.
Once you see the DPI Scaling dialog box, shown in Figure B, you can select the Larger Scale radio button to boost the scale immediately to 120 DPI. In most cases, going with the 120 DPI setting will yield satisfactory results. If you click OK, you'll be prompted to reboot the system before the new DPI setting will take effect.

Figure B

In most cases, switching to the 120 DPI setting will yield satisfactory results.

Using a custom DPI setting

If the 120 DPI setting doesn't yield satisfactory results or if you just want to experiment a little, you can click the Custom DPI button. When you do, you'll see the Custom DPI Setting dialog box, shown in Figure C.

Figure C

If the 120 DPI setting doesn't yield satisfactory results, you can experiment with a custom DPI setting.

There are several ways that you can create a custom DPI setting. First, you can click the drop-down arrow and select one of the preset percentages from the list, you can type a percentage value in the text box, or you can click and drag the ruler to increase the DPI to whatever percentage you want. Keep in mind that no matter which way you choose, changing the DPI setting and clicking OK will require a reboot.

As you can see, the default setting is 100 percent, which is 96 DPI. At the bottom of the ruler you'll see some example text that shows you what the 9-point Segoe UI font will look like at 96 pixels per inch — which essentially is 96 DPI. Table A list all the preset percentages in the drop-down list and the accompanying DPI setting.

Table A

Percentage DPI Setting
100 96
125 120
150 144
200 192

It's a good idea to give a couple of the preset percentages a try before you begin using the ruler method. Doing so will allow you to determine a baseline that you can then use to set your custom percentage.

To use the ruler method, just click on the number 1 and drag to the right. As you do, you'll see the percentage increase and the example text change to keep pace with the increase.

Keep in mind that if you use a DPI setting higher than 96 and you are running Windows Aero, the text and other graphical items in programs that are not designed to work with Vista's new DPI scaling engine might appear blurry. To compensate for those types of programs, Vista incorporates a backward-compatible DPI scaling feature that will kick in when you run those programs. As such, it is advisable that you leave the Windows XP style DPI scaling check box selected.

Checking for ClearType

If you're using an LCD, chances are good that the ClearType font technology is already enabled. But you may want to double-check. Right-click on your desktop and choose Personalize from the context menu. When you see the Personalization window, click the Window Color And Appearance link.

When you see the Window Color And Appearance window, click the Open Classic Appearance Properties For More Color Options link. In the Appearance Settings dialog box, click the Effects button to display the Effects dialog box. Then make sure that the check box is selected and ClearType is the selected option, as shown in Figure D. Finally, click OK twice to close the two dialog boxes.

Figure D

If you're using an LCD, you may want to make sure that the ClearType font technology is already enabled.

What's your DPI setting?

Do you have an LCD monitor on your desktop or laptop? If so, what is the monitor's native DPI rating? Will you experiment with changing Vista's DPI setting? If you have already changed your DPI setting, what value did you choose?

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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