Virtually Increase Resolution in MacOS

I’m running Mac OS X Snow Leopard from my eeePC 1005HA and as you know, eeePC has a very low screen resolution (1024×600) Ambivalent.png . This make some applications window/interface not visible thus making some options or buttons unusable/unclickable VeryAngry.png . An example is the Print window from Microsoft Office as shown in the picture below.

To be able to view the whole window I need to increase my screen resolution to a higher resolution, but it’s not possible to further increase the screen resolution in my eeePC since 1024×600 is the max resolution that I can get LargeGasp.png .

But thankfully, you can edit plist files in MacOS to simulate a higher resolution view for certain apps or the whole system Hot.png (I do not recommend using this method as a way to increase the resolution for the whole system or permanently since some apps won’t render correctly using this method, ex. misplaced input box). This trick can be done through the Terminal command, but I’m going to explain how to this using a 3rd party application Sticking Out Tongue.png .

  1. First you need to download Pref Setter, grab it from the homepage (It’s Free! ohnoes.png ). After you’ve downloaded the file, extract and drag the Pref Setter applications to your Applications Folder. Open Pref Setter app.
  2. In the application window you’ll see a list of plist files grouped into 3 group: System Preferences, Registration Domain, and User Preferences. These plist files are files that store the preferences for specific applications or system configuration (well, sort of Sticking Out Tongue.png ).
    Pref Setter Main Window
  3. Now what we gonna do is edit a specific application plist file to set a virtual resolution for that application. Ex, I’m going to edit Microsoft Word plist file, what I’m gonna do is to search for “word” from the application search bar. Plist files with keyword “word” will be listed in the windows, in my Mac there are two plist files with keyword “word”: com.microsoft.Word and ws.agile.1Password. Since I’m going to edit the Microsoft Word plist file, I’m going to double click on the com.microsoft.Word entry.
    Search for Specific Plist file
    A new window will appear with a list of stored keys inside that plist file along with the values.
    Plist File
  4. We’re going to add a new key, go to the ‘Actions’ menu and select ‘Add New Key’ or simply press  ⌘K. A new line will be added to the list.
    Pref Setter plist Keys
    Change the key value to “AppleDisplayScaleFactor” and choose “String” for the class type. Change the value to 0.8 or 0.9 (should be enough to make the whole window visible, you can set the value to a lower value but it’s not recommended). Hit ⌘S to save the plist file.
    com.microsoft.Word.plist
  5. ReLaunch Microsoft Word and voila!  Grin.png Microsoft Word windows will look smaller / zoomed out thus I will be able to view the whole Print window. Remember, you can add “AppleDisplayScaleFactor” key to any applications plist of your choice Wink.png .
    Microsoft Word

If you want to return the application view back to normal, simply delete the ‘AppDisplayScaleFactor’ key Naughty.png .

Gasp.png Setting Virtual Resolution Globally
To set the virtual resolution for all apps or globally, search for ‘NSGlobalDomain’ and add ‘AppleDisplayScaleFactor’ key to that plist file.

  • Frank

    Unfortunately, with Lion, Apple saw fit to remove this functionality.  Now screens can only be scaled UP and not down.  Guess it’s time for the Retina Display.

    • Thanks for the info Frank, I have no idea that this trick does not work with Lion since I don’t have the chance to try it out myself with Lion.

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