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Issue #38: April 10, 2008

Q: I just bought a new laptop with a 17-in. widescreen.  I am a little disappointed in the 17-in. widescreen.  I had thought the bigger the screen, the bigger the type would be on the screen.  But it seems the type is smaller than on my old 15-in. laptop.  I am able to increase the size of the type by zooming to 125%, but I did not have to do that with the old computer.  Sometimes it seems the font is wider when I zoom up to a larger size.

Is there a way to adjust the screen in order to make the type bigger without zooming?

– Jerry A.
Fort Walton Beach, FL

A: It sounds like you’re confusing your screen’s size with its resolution, Jerry.  Size refers to physical dimensions (i.e. 17” diagonally) while resolution refers to the number of dots that make up the picture.  These dots are called picture elements, or pixels for short, and generally, the displays that come with newer computers have more of them than older models.  Cramming more pixels onto a display can make everything (including your letters) appear smaller, even though your screen is actually bigger.  If everything appears smaller than it did before, it’s because you are using a bigger resolution setting.  For example, perhaps you changed from 800×600 on your old system to 1024×768 on the new one.  The letters appear wider at some resolutions because your new display is a widescreen.  Your old display probably had an aspect ratio of 4:3, meaning for every 4 units wide, it was 3 units tall.  Your new display probably has an aspect ratio more like 16:9 or 16:10.  It sounds like your video card is stretching a 4:3 resolution to fill the wide monitor, which would cause everything to appear about 25% wider than it should.

(The following instructions are for WinXP.  If you need them forVista, please write again.)  To change screen resolutions, right-click anywhere on the desktop and choose “Properties” from the menu.  Go to the “Settings” tab.  There you’ll see a slider for adjusting the resolution.  Remember that the higher the resolution settings, the more room you have available, but the smaller your letters will look.  You should choose a resolution that works for you, preferably one where you can comfortably read all your text.

One other thing to keep in mind is that if you’re in Internet Explorer, you can adjust the size of most text independently of the rest of Windows.  On IE’s “View” menu, you’ll find a “Text Size” entry with multiple settings.  Note that web page authors can overridde your ability to select a font size, so this doesn’t work on every web page.  Also, keep in mind that if you’re running IE 7, there is a zoom control in the lower right corner that allows you to zoom in up to 400% for those really hard-to-read web pages.

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