How to cope with a high-resolution Mac monitor

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Reader Robin Huber seeks my help in order to offer his or her own help. Robin writes:

I finally got my brother to trade in his aging gooseneck iMac for a brand new one. The first thing he said was that the screen looked different. When I showed him the Displays system preference he tried a couple and found one that he said was “just like the old iMac.” It did make the icons bigger, but it also seemed to have terrible resolution. To me the text looked chunky and not as clear. Is there any way to increase the size of text and objects without losing the sharpness of the stock setting?

You’re fighting physics here. That new iMac has a large-ish screen and a lot of pixels per square inch. This results in icons and text smaller than you’d be accustomed to on a gooseneck iMac when you view the display at its native resolution. The problem—as you’ve both observed—is that when you dial down to a lower resolution in the Displays system preference, everything on the screen becomes less crisp.

Hope isn’t completely lost, but the solutions I offer are imperfect compromises. As for objects in the Finder, you always have Command-J at your disposal. While in the Finder press this helpful key combination and you find the option to increase the size of icons on the Desktop as well as in any windows where you’ve chosen to view entries as icons.

Next, when using Safari or Mail, press Command-+ (Plus). In Safari this will increase the size of objects on a Web page. In Mail, it increases the size of text in messages.

By default, the Universal Access system preference allows you to easily zoom the Mac’s screen. Hold the Control key and then use your mouse’s scroll wheel (or a laptop’s touchpad) to zoom the display in and out. Yes, when you do this objects on the screen become less distinct. Blame physics. Alternatively, you can zoom in and out in preset levels. Press Command-Option-= (Equals) to zoom in, and Command-Option- – (Minus) to zoom out.

Finally, time and a little vision-enhancement may help. When I moved to a larger monitor I had similar difficulties—everything got really small and I found myself leaning into the display more than I had in the past. After a week or so, I found I was able to pick out objects more easily. But what really turned the tide for me was getting some glasses designed for computer use. They focus at just around the distance to my monitor (three feet) and also add some magnification. Where once I squinted, I can now view everything on the monitor comfortably.

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