Enlarging Text & Icons

vision/eyearrow80.jpgHow to Adjust Your Computer for Your Eyes
Have you ever been frustrated with your computer while trying to click your mouse on those tiny little scroll bars? Do your tired eyes strain trying to see the small type on your monitor? Have you simply avoided the computer because of vision problems? Don't suffer anymore. Everything that you need to increase the size of the type and the icons is built right into the Windows operating system. Instead of stressing your eyes to adjust to your computer, you can adjust your computer to suit your eyes.

Making Text and Elements Larger
To start, right-click your mouse on any blank area of the Windows desktop. When the pop-up menu appears, click on the word Properties. A window titled Display Properties will appear. This is where we will work our magic. At the top of the Display Properties Window, you will see several tabs. Click on the tab labeled Appearance. You may think this screen looks very complicated, but don't get discouraged. The upper half of the screen is simply a crowded-looking display of what the changes will look like.

Concentrate on the bottom of the screen where you will see three items listed - Scheme, Item, and Font. Scheme is a package that controls the appearance of all the elements that you view on your screen. Each Scheme controls the size of the icons, the size and design of the lettering (called the font), the size of the scrollbars, and several other design elements.

If this is your first visit to the Appearance location and you have never changed the display settings before, the box under Scheme will probably say "Windows Standard." Click the down arrow next to Windows Standard; you can choose a different scheme by clicking on it. To enlarge items, you will want to choose a scheme that has the word "Large" next to it. I suggest that you try the Windows Standard (Large) or the Windows Standard (Extra Large). After you make your choice, you will immediately see a sample of the newly sized item on the upper part of the Display Properties window. Try out as many of these Schemes as you like. When you find a new Scheme that both you and your eyes like, simply click OK and you're done. Additional changes can be made at any time by reentering the Display Properties area.

If you feel adventuresome, you can change each desktop item and font individually. Be forewarned that there are a lot of complex choices here.  It is much easier to change an entire Scheme. However if you want to change individual items, simply use the down arrow under Item to choose the item, then change the size of the item or the size of each font. If you have a newer version of Windows, you can also click on the item that you want to change in the upper portion of the Display. The item that you click on will then be automatically listed in the bottom box under the word Item. This helps you to navigate this screen even if you don't happen to know the names of the various items. By working in this window, you can change the colors, menu fonts, icon spacing, size of scrollbars, and many other elements.

The Display Properties control every Windows program on your computer. After you change these settings, you will want to start your Web browser or your word processing program to see the appearance changes that were made. If you have chosen a Scheme like Lilac or Rose, you will see purple or pink in every Windows program that you use.

Make It Even Larger
If you use Windows 98 and have increased the size of your icons but would like to make them even larger, you can go one step father. Go back to the Display Properties window and click on the tab labeled Effects. Click the box next to the words "Use Large Icons". A checkmark will appear in the box and will further increase the size of the icons.

Another method of increasing the size of icons is through My Computer or Windows Explorer. Just double-click on My Computer, click on View, and choose Large Icons. As a word of caution, displaying large icons requires more memory than displaying small icons. Most users will not notice any affect on the computer's performance, but if you do, revert to smaller icons or be ready to purchase more memory for your computer.

Web Browsers
When you increase the size of the icons and other screen elements, they will also appear larger when you are working within a program like an Internet browser.  By contrast, the text size of the page usually remains small. To increase text size in the current versions of Internet Explorer, click on View from the menu at the top of the screen and choose Text size from five options ranging from smallest to largest.  In Netscape Navigator, click on View from the menu at the top of the screen and then click on Increase Font. Repeated clicking will continue to increase the size.  Or better yet, use the keyboard shortcut. Press and hold down the CTRL key while pressing the key with the right bracket that looks like this: ]. Every time you press these two keys together, the text will get larger. To make the text smaller, press CTRL and the left bracket ( [ ) together. In Netscape Navigator, you can make the text much larger than you can in Internet Explorer, so if you have a vision problem that requires larger size text, you may want to select Navigator as your Internet browser.

AOL has limited options for increasing the size of their displays.  However, you can increase the text size by clicking on My AOL and choosing General Preferences, then Display Text.

Remember that most Web sites are created assuming that the viewer will be using a fairly small text size. If you increase the size of the text, you may adversely affect the design of the page. Increasing the size of the text will also force you to scroll up and down the page more often. However, these are small inconveniences for increasing the readability of the pages.

If you are using an older version of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, the menu choices to change the text size may not be located exactly as I have described for the newer versions. If that is the case, you have two choices.Click on Help and type in a keyword that describes what you want to do. For instance, if you want to change the size of the icons, type in "icon size". Your second option is to simply look through the menus at the top of the page until you find a place to change the size of the text. These choices are usually under the View option of the menu bar; in older versions they were occasionally found under the Edit or Tools choices. Sometimes they are hidden in the Preferences or Internet Options. If you do have to look hard for these options, just pretend that you are on a quest for the Holy Grail. When you finally find the location to make these changes, the increased text size will make the search worthwhile. Also, while you are searching, you are sure to find other interesting opportunities to customize your computer programs.

Other Software
Most computer programs allow you to increase the size of text and icons from within their programs. Unfortunately, these controls can sometimes be difficult to find. However, with a little searching you can customize the size of many screen icons. For instance, in the current version of Microsoft Word, you can enlarge the icons on a toolbar by clicking View from the menu at the top of the screen, choosing Toolbars, then Customize. Click the Options tab, and you will find a box where you can select large icons. Again, use the above options to find out how to change and customize the program to suit your needs.

Mac Users
Macintosh computers also have built-in screen magnification. However, this is turned on through a control panel that is seldom installed. The Close View control panel can magnify your screen two to sixteen times as well as invert the displayed colors. If you do not find Close View on your hard disk, get out your Operating System disk and perform a custom installation. Start the installation by inserting the CD-ROM disk. Find the Mac OS Install program and double-click its icon.  Follow the on-screen instructions and defaults. In the last step select the Mac OS module and click Start. When the Mac OS Installer window appears, choose Custom Install from the pop-up menu. Then select the Universal Access component group and click Install.

Changing the Screen Resolution
Another way to make things appear larger is to change the screen resolution.  Right-click on any blank area of the Windows 95/98 desktop and choose Properties. Then click on the tab labeled Settings. On the right side of the window that appears, you will see an area labeled either Desktop Area or Screen Area. Moving the slider to the left side (labeled "Less") will make everything on the screen larger. Moving the slider to the right side (labeled "More") will make everything smaller. Under the slider you will see a label giving the number of pixels.  640 by 480 pixels will result in items appearing larger. As the number of pixels increases, the size of the items decreases. So using a screen resolution like 1024 by 768 will result in smaller text and icons on your screen. Sometimes you will be asked to restart the computer after you change the resolution. Sometimes you will be given a chance to see what the new resolution looks like and to then either accept or reject it.

While changing your screen resolution is an easy task, it can have some fairly dramatic ramifications. If you are very new to computers, you may want to have someone with computer experience by your side when you do this, just as an added insurance policy. If you do not have such a person handy, simply write down each step that you take so that you can return your screen to its original resolution if any problems occur.

Let Your Computer Be An Ounce of Prevention
Yes, the computer is the culprit that strains our eyes, blurs our vision, and leaves us with neck aches. This same culprit can offer us an "ounce of prevention" in looking after our eyes. Everything needed to increase the size of the type and icons is built right into your Windows operating system. Instead of stressing your eyes to adjust to your computer, now you know how to adjust your computer to suit and soothe your eyes.