I am a very hesitant user of e-mail and the internet; but for bank stuff and
keeping in touch with things I have to. My eyes are not good, so I have to make
things larger. So far I have been able to visit most of the desired web pages
without scrolling to the right – my laptop has an almost square screen (800 x
600) – now lots of sites are so wide, that I can’t read the contents without
scrolling to the right for ever and ever. I forget what it said at the
beginning of the row. How can I make those pages narrower without making the
This is a real problem that more and more people are facing.
Some things can be adjusted, while others cannot. I’ve touched on some of
these concepts before, but your scenario is interesting because it presents
perhaps the most inflexible of situations.
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First, I have to point out that some websites are simply designed to a
certain width, and they will not automatically resize to a smaller sized screen.
Ask Leo! attempts to be flexible, resizing to
whatever the window size happens to be. Even then there are limits where
scrolling will kick in, and there are ways for comments to also break the
ability to resize below a certain width.
More common lately are websites which are specifically designed to be
displayed at a specific width. My own Taming Email is such a site. The content portion fits
within an 800 pixel width screen, but the site actually assumes a 1024 pixel
width, placing the navigation off to the right on smaller screens.
The problem is two fold: web design is extremely difficult when you can’t
make assumptions about the width of the screen, and web designers can take all
sorts of shortcuts if they do make the assumption. With 800 pixel wide screens
representing around 6% of Ask Leo! visitors, and 93% being 1024 or wider, you
can see that if an assumption is going to be made; it’ll probably not be
If you’re stuck with hardware that only supports a maximum of 800×600,
there’s little that can be done.
On the other hand, one of the mistakes I see many people doing in situations
such as yours is to attempt to enlarge things by selecting a resolution much
smaller than their hardware could actually handle. For example I’ve seen people
with hardware capable of 1280×1024 select 800×600 instead as a way to magnify
what’s displayed on the screen.
It works, but as you can imagine, there are problems. Like websites that
assume you have a larger screen.
My preferred approach works like this:
Configure your display to the highest resolution possible. In the
long run this will give you the most flexibility among the other options we
have to increase the size.
Use your browser’s magnify function to make websites bigger. Experiment with
both IE7 and Firefox, as their approaches to magnification are different. There
are also several zooming / magnification extensions for Firefox that may prove
useful. The same applies to other applications that you might use, by the way.
Many have zoom or font selection options.
If the text used by Windows itself is too small, then there are two
DPI or “dots per inch” setting. This setting will make everything
larger, including images (which may appear somewhat blurred as a result,
depending on the exact setting used). This is perhaps the simplest and most
Change the Windows font size. Right click on an empty region on your
desktop, click on Properties, then the
Appearance tab, and select Large Fonts or
Extra Large Fonts for “Font Size”. This will affect only
Windows fonts. Many if not most applications, like your browser, will be
Use the Magnify utility. Most people aren’t aware that Windows comes with a
simple screen magnifying utility. Typically it’s in All
Accessibility. When used, Magnifier displays a resizable and
dockable window that contains a magnified image of wherever your cursor happens
to be. Both mouse or keyboard editing cursor will be used depending on which
was moved last. Here’s an example using the magnifier to view a portion of the
Ask Leo! homepage:
Magnifier is simple, yet it has several options to make it quick and easy to
use. While it takes a little getting used to, the bottom line is that it works