Bigger text wanted on mid 2012 MacBook Pro / Lion

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by MacOnline, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. MacOnline, Jul 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2012

    MacOnline macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    The text is too small on my MacBook Pro! :mad:

    I want larger text for better readability and I'm confounded as to why it should be so difficult to achieve.

    I am happy with the text size (and quality) on my old 2008 MacBook Pro running Tiger, but not that on my new (late June 2012) HiRes matt MBP running Lion. I have both machines next to each other and the small text appears to have decreased about 2 point sizes over 4 years.

    I know that font size is adjustable in individual apps, but that doesn’t usually change the size in the menu bars. I guess that 70% of my apps cannot be adjusted. Besides, I also run Windows under Parallels and many Windows apps also have tiny text.

    TinkerTool System and Quartz utilities don't work for me.

    Does anybody have or is anybody working on a user-friendly solution for this please? I guess a system-wide font increase of approx 20% would be OK.

    I still have the option to return my new HiRes MacBook Pro or exchange it for a Retina. However, I would prefer to keep mine because I want a matt screen and a DVD drive. Also, I'm uncertain whether I could achieve my goal even with a Retina display.

    To avoid digression, I would appreciate on-topic responses and not persuaders as to why I should buy eyeglasses, accept a glossy screen (or add a matt film) or do without a DVD.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. steve-p macrumors 68000


    Oct 14, 2008
    Newbury, UK
    When I found the text on my 17" a little smaller than was comfortable, I went to the optician and it turned out I needed reading glasses. Now it's crystal clear. I know this doesn't answer your question but maybe it's something to consider :)
  3. MacOnline thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    No, it doesn't help, but thanks anyway. My eye inspection with special computer glasses cost about $500, so that is not the problem. I have modified my posting.
  4. Stetrain, Jul 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2012

    Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    The Retina MBP has 5 settings in the display preferences that let you scale everything on screen, going from "Larger Text" at one end to "More Space" on the other. Because of the high pixel density it can do that with better results than simply setting a non-native resolution on a non-retina MBP.


    I don't know of another way to universally increase text size on OSX. You could set the display to a lower non-native resolution like 1440x900 or 1280x800 but this will probably produce blurry results.
  5. MacOnline thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    Many thanks. Let me answer part 2 first please.

    Setting to a lower resolution does exactly as you say. It produces blurry results.

    If I set the new MBP to 1440 x 852, which is the closest setting to my old MBPs 1440 x 900, it becomes decidedly fuzzier. With smaller letters, that becomes entirely unacceptable.

    The Retina MBP
    I tried this in the store, but the page then enlarges and goes off screen.

    By my understanding of optics, if you increase the number of pixels, then theoretically:
    1. You can show the same image in the same quality on a larger screen.
    2. Alternatively, by increasing the number of pixels, as in old MBP against new MBP, the same image could be displayed in a higher quality.

    Apple has done this and the quality of the on screen image is superb. However, they have also made the letters smaller, which IMHO was unnecessary and for me (and others) undesirable. Moreover (and very atypical for -Apple) they appear to have left no means for adjustment.

    I have read that the Retina does not actually display at its maximum resolution and that it can be tweaked to show 2880 x 1800 (mentioned in another thread here) or even 3840 x 2400. With that number of pixels available, it puzzles me that there appears no way to increase the size of the font and at the same time keep everything on the screen.

    I am no expert; that is why I am posting here. However, I do know that the sales pitch in the store that higher resolution means smaller fonts is not scientifically correct.
  6. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    Which page enlarges and goes off screen?

    If you mean that you can fit fewer things on screen with larger font/UI sizes, then that's correct. If font sizes are larger, then by definition you can fit less total text on screen if the screen size doesn't change.

    The scaling options on the Retina MBP should behave exactly the same workspace-wise as using a lower or higher resolutions screen. The largest text setting is equivalent to a 1024x600 screen in workspace. However it renders with higher detail and less blurriness than simply setting a 15" display to 1024x600.

    On the default "Best for Retina" setting, it is rendering at a full 2880x1800. However, there is an internal option called HiDPI mode enabled, which makes everything render at double dimensions, making things the same size as they would be on a 1440x900 display but with more detail (in the case of retina-ready apps).
  7. MacOnline, Jul 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2012

    MacOnline thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    Thanks again.

    So you mean I don’t need a 15” machine, as it will not be using all the workspace?

    It was 10 days ago since I was in the store and I was not concentrating so much on the Retina, due to the glossy screen and no DVD. It is only since reading the other thread, that I have seen a glimmer of hope with the Retina and I would still prefer to stick with the HiRes matt screen, if a solution can be found. I will return to the store to verify whether this can be achieved on the Retina, albeit a second choice.

    One app (Aperture or iPhoto) that I did try on all available resolutions on the Retina did not impress. The text field for the photos remained tiny, as did the text in the “About this Mac” which I took as a standard to see how the fonts in my apps which were unavailable on the machine in the store would actually render. That may or may not be a good guideline, but I considered it to be indicative of the system font size.
  8. Stetrain, Jul 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2012

    Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    Well, there are three factors.

    1) Screen size
    2) Information density (text/UI size)
    3) Amount of stuff you can fit on screen

    For a given screen size, if you increase the text size you will be able to fit less total stuff on screen. You can see more words at a time in a document at 12pt text than at 40pt text.

    The Retina MBP gives you the advantage of being able to switch quickly between different system wide scaling options.

    If you want to have large text for easy reading you could set it to the "Looks like 1440x900" mode, which should make things look the same size as your old MBP, or the "Looks like 1280x800", or "Looks like 1024x600" modes for even larger text.

    If you want to be able to fit more total stuff on screen, like to see how a whole printed document is going to look with two pages side-by-side, you could switch to "Looks like 1680x1050" mode, which should make things the same size as your current high-res MBP, or "Looks like 1920x1200" mode, which lets you fit as much stuff on screen as you could on the old 17" MBP, at the cost of smaller text sizes.

    This link has screenshots of what the different modes look like:

    You could view those images full screen on your 15" MBP to get an idea of what the different text sizes will be, or of course you could check it out in store yourself. :)
  9. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    so let me get this right...

    your old MBP had a 1440x900 panel and you liked it. Instead of buying a new one that was also 1440x900, you spend the extra money to get the hi res 1680x1050 version, but now you don't like it because its a higher res?

    Well you could just try to go in all the main apps you use and increase Font sizes...
  10. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    It seems that the main motivator was glossy vs matte. The antiglare display option is only available in high res.
  11. MacOnline thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    Correct. I chose the matte screen, which happened to be high resolution. I did not choose smaller system-wide fonts, however. This came as a complete surprise and especially that they could not be adjusted. The smaller fonts have occured since my old MBP (2008), so I did not anticipate this because higher res does not automatically equate to smaller fonts, or should not...

    I know that font size is adjustable in individual apps, but that doesn’t usually change the size in the menu bars. I guess that 70% of my apps cannot be adjusted. Besides, I also run Windows under Parallels and many Windows apps also have tiny text.

    I will indeed visit the shop and do some more testing on the Retina.

    Grateful for all hints though, to ensure I don't leave any stones unturned.
  12. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    you didn't get smaller system wide fonts, they are the same amount of pixels they were on your old machine, but since you have a screen that has more pixels packed into the same area, they are going to look smaller.... because your pixels are physically smaller than your old machine. take the same 1680x1050 and stretch it out to say a 17" size, and they'd be bigger than your old screen.
  13. MacOnline thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    2008msMBP 15” 2008 – matte screen- max resolution 1440x900 - my existing machine
    gsMBP 15“ Mid 2012 – glossy screen – max resolution 1440x900
    msMBP 15“ Mid 2012 - matte screen – max resolution 1680x1080
    retinaMBP 15” Mid 2012 – retina screen – max resolution 2880x1800 normally set at 1920x1200(?)

    I visited the store for testing.

    gsMBP appears at first glance to be the same as 2008mxMBP, but if you open Numbers, Pages or Keynote, you discover that the menus are tiny Presumably if I could put my other applications on the machine in the store, I would discover that same. So that model is ruled out.

    This test so far disproves to me that the resolution is (or needs to be) directly related to the size of the letters. (By letters I mean menus, etc, as previously stated). The letters on my 2008msMBP are larger when using the same versions of Numbers, Pages and Keynote.

    msMBP is what I have and the letters are tiny. (The reason for this thread.)

    retinaMBP would be the next hopeful.
    It has been stated elsewhere that the resolution currently set is 1920x1200(?), but that by using a utility, this can be boosted up to the max possible for the screen, which is said to be 2880x1800.

    That suggests that at the lower resolution of 1920x1200(?) several pixels are being used to portray each letter, thus making them appear bigger.

    By that token, would it not be possible to use several more pixels to boost the letter size even further? The only way I saw was selecting a “lower HiRes resolution” in the System Preferences, but that created ridiculously large letters. Is there nothing in between?

    I have found my previous Macs to be great, but for me they are tools with which I need to spend a lot of time every day. The tiny letters would restrict that to a few hours.
  14. NMF, Jul 19, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 20, 2012

    NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    OP, you are sounding really silly here. Of course the resolution has everything to to do with "the size of the letters." That's exactly how resolution works. You are looking at a screen that is the same physical size as your old one, but with more pixels. Do you not understand what's happening here? To fit more pixels into the same physical space, the pixels have to be smaller. It's simple to understand. There is no magic setting for "the size of the letters." LOL.

    Unlike Windows, OSX doesn't have a setting for scaling the DPI of the UI. Meaning you cannot make your letters bigger without lowering the resolution. As everyone knows, LCD screens have one "native" resolution, and running at anything other than that will result in a blurry image. You purchased a display with a 1680x1050 native resolution. That means that you have more desktop real estate for your apps, but yes, the "words are smaller" (I'm still chuckling here).

    The bottom line is you purchased a screen that was the same physical size as your old one, but with a higher native resolution. Anyone who's used a computer over the last 20 years should be able to understand what that meant. For some reason you were clueless, which is mind blowing to me but whatever. If you want to view your desktop as it was before, you need to get the machine with the 1440x900 native resolution. Obviously.

    The genius of the Retina MBP is that its 2880x1800 is exactly twice that of 1440x900, so Apple uses special "pixel doubling" to display a resolution that appears the same size as 1440x900 but with much sharper quality. In simple terms, the Retina uses 4 pixels (in a square shape) for every 1 pixel of normal resolution (hence the vertical/horizontal "doubling"), and since the pixels are so incredibly small the image appears magically crisp and detailed, while retaining the same physical appearance of 1440x900. Apple did the exact same thing with the latest iPad's retina screen. The native resolution is exactly double that of the iPad 2.

    So you have 3 options. 1. Keep your current machine and chalk up the "small letters" to ignorance on your part. 2. Return current machine and buy a Retina MBP. 3. Return current machine and buy a 1440x900 unibody MBP.

    It's that simple.
  15. MacOnline thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2012
    Please read this thread again very clearly so that you understand what I said.
  16. NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    I did. There are some simple concepts that you did not understand, so I gave you a brief explanation. You say it "puzzles" you that if you set a Retina at native 2880x1800 that it doesn't increase the size of the fonts on the screen. Well... that is why we've never had 2880x1800 panels before, LOL (well, aside from not yet having the technology to make such panels relatively inexpensive). The tech industry was previously in a stalemate with regard to resolution until Apple starting pushing "Retina" screens that use ingenious scaling and pixel-doubling algorithms.

    There is no magic setting to increase the UI scaling at the system level. It surprised me too when I first bought my 27" iMac. I wasn't used to the (to me) massive 2560x1440 resolution, so I searched frantically for a way to increase the UI scaling like I could in Windows. That setting does not exist in OSX. Individual apps might have their own font setting, but there is ABSOLUTELY NO POSSIBLE WAY for you to change that at the system level. It's impossible. Does not exist. Nothing you can do.

    So again, you have 3 choices.
  17. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    You also have the choice to just run your new 1680x1050 panel at 1440x900. Some parts might look slightly fuzzier, but it would be the same size as your old machine.... it would just draw things like 1,400 pixels across and 900 pixels down even if there are more pixels in the screen, so it won't be perfect since at times depending on the graphics some things will be slightly off on pixels, but you can try it and see if its ok.
  18. buddyspencer macrumors 6502

    Oct 4, 2005
    Same problem for me...

    I'm getting problems with my eyes with the new 1680 x 1050 resolution. But I wanna have a matte screen.

    So? No choice?

    I'm thinking about buying a MBA 13". Looks a little bit better.

    What do you think? Maybe I have to buy a MBP 13"?
  19. buddyspencer macrumors 6502

    Oct 4, 2005
    So you all don't have any problems with the small fonts on a HiRes screen?
  20. Lightnin Rick macrumors member

    Oct 18, 2007
    BCC AZ
    And I think its funny how most go out of there way to explain technically that they are smaller. With out saying they are smaller and can't be adjusted.
    Yes went from a 15" to 17" and now have to put 17" closer to read(with Glasses) the menu fonts, ect.

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