Changing the effective screen resolution

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Mac OS X Tiger

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The effective screen resolution can be changed using the Quartz Debug application include with the Xcode Tools. This allows you to make applications larger so that they are easier to see, or make them smaller to increase your effective screen real estate.

Unfortunately, this feature is not fully functional as of Tiger. While text scales perfectly, most other user interface elements do not; they look fuzzy if they are enlarged (since they are not vector images). There are also a variety of other visual anomalies, such as dark borders appearing around some text fields. Additionally, some applications are less stable after changing the user interface resolution.

It is rumored that Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) will be resolution independent, so will fully support this feature.

Changing the resolution

To change the user interface resolution, follow these steps.

  1. Open Quartz Debug (install the Xcode Tools first if you haven't already).
  2. Choose Tools > Show User Interface Resolution.
  3. Select a new scaling factor. A smaller factor makes applications appear smaller than normal, while a larger factor makes them appear larger than normal.
  4. Open/relaunch applications for the change to take effect.
  5. To make permanent changes, uncheck the "Restore scale factor to default (1.0) on quit" checkbox (not recommended).


The first screenshot shows a TextEdit window with a scaling factor of 1.5. The second shows a similar window with a scaling factor of 0.5.