Notes in Passing

Screen Zoom


Enabling the ability to magnify any part of your screen, at the level of your window manager (or operating system), is a key piece of functionality that you should figure out today.


Zooming into any part of your screen is something you can use every day:

  • When you are working by yourself you can reduce eye fatigue.
  • When you are working with one other person, you can make it easier for them to “look over your shoulder.”
  • When you are projecting your computer’s display in a small conference room with 3 or 4 other people or even a huge conference room filled with hundreds of people, someone is going to call out (or silently suffering while thinking), “Can you please make this larger?”

And when you want to zoom, you’ll find yourself saying,

Oh, just one second– let me try to make this bigger.

And if you’ve got this figured out— it just takes a moment’s notice— less than a second— and you can make any text huge.

But if you don’t have it figured out, you’ll start thinking, “How do I increase the text in <whatever-application-I-am-in>?” It might be easy or it might not. You might have it fixed in a bit or you might have to give up and risk people tuning out. Either way— you’ll get off topic.

If you allow “zoom” to be done on an application-by-application basis, you are guaranteed to have inconsistent results. Your trusty browser might be just fine, but maybe your editor or a spreadsheet application will not be.

Perhaps the person you’re working with has left her glasses at her desk. Perhaps you’re giving a talk and you see people squinting in the back row.

Whatever the case, Zach Holman is right when he says,

I have yet to see a talk that made me think: ‘goddamn I can’t read
this because the text is too big’

The Solution

In most cases, 15 minutes of research can provide a solution.

I first used this feature on Ubuntu, but now I use MacOS. If you’re using MacOS— you can easily make it so that pressing CONTROL and then using a two-finger gesture on the track pad magnifies content in the neighborhood of the mouse.

Here are the instructions from bkbeachlabs that I followed.

It takes 5 minutes to implement and you won’t look back.