Thursday, August 7, 2014

Managing the size of Screen Artifacts for High Resolution Displays

Most Windows users set the size of their screen artifacts (text and other displayed items) to small. For the case of a high resolution display, the icons on the screen (for example) would appear to be microscopic if a size of small were specified.  The article addresses how to manage the size of displayed elements.

Evolution: from a Behemoth CRT to 4K 39-inch LCD

A large number of developer remember paying $2000 for a 21-inch CRT style monitor. This leviathan of a tube-based monitor weighed eighty pounds and sported a resolution of 1600x1200. Within a few years, a large number of developers shelled out $2000 for a 1920x1200 24-inch LCD.

Comparatively, monitors are so cheap now they are almost free. The norm for a monitor now is a twenty-four inch LCD running at 1920x1080 albeit at about a 7% of the cost originally paid for such a monitor. If we take this resolution and double both the horizontal and vertical dimension we get 3840x2160 or a 4K monitor. A quality 39-inch 4K monitor is actually quite reasonably priced $339.

NewEgg, Walmart and Amazon (along with other merchants) sell Seiki’s SE39UY04 39-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz LED TV at $339:

Seiki’s SE39UY04 is an excellent development monitor. I cannot critique it as a “gaming monitor” as I write code and rarely play games.

A 39-inch monitor 4K is not the only trend in high resolution displays. Microsoft’s Surface 3 Pro is a 12-inch screen at a resolution of 2160x1440. Both of these displays require that screen artifacts be set to larger versus small.

Managing the Size of Screen Artifacts

Windows is designed to handle this resolution by changing Control Panel | Appearance and Personalization:

From the Appearance and Personalization dialog select Make text and other items larger or smaller:

Clicking on Make text and other items larger or smaller shows the Display dialog:

For a standard 1920x1080 monitor, the value for “Change the size of all items” is typically set to Smaller. For the Microsoft Surface 3 Pro, the value for “Change the size of all items” is set as demonstrated above. For a monitor such as 39-inch 4K monitor. The value of “Change the size of all items” should be set to Larger.

The Caveat: You must logout for settings to take affect

On Windows 8.1 and Windows 8, changing the value of “the size of all items” requires a user to log in and log out in order to have the change in setting be recognized. This seems like an innocuous requirement, but consider a developer with a 39-inch 4K monitor at home running a half dozen applications (currently set to display large text). When he arrives at work, he uses remote desktop to log in to his home machine. His work monitor is 1920x1080. Under this level of resolution the text appears gargantuan. In order to make the screen readable, he has to change “the size of all items” which requires a log out and a re-log in. All the currently running applications will be exited (such as a long running debugging session that cannot easily be saved).

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