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date 12.May.2013

■ Text gets jumbled in DPI-unaware programs

Every now and then I get some xplorer² user complaining that this or that display element (usually the menu bar) is drawn incorrectly. Sometimes the program fonts are changed growing bigger or smaller and other weird manifestations. In the beginning I thought it must be the freak work of a passing comet but as it turns out all these people have one thing in common: they tweaked their system text size to be larger than normal, technically known as high DPI setting.

As monitors and display resolutions grow bigger, and people grow older and presbyopic, they are likely to increase the system text size and make screens more readable. Writing code for DPI aware programs, that look good in any display resolution is a tricky business. Microsoft isn't helping by off-loading the drawing burden on individual developers so I doubt any complex program is really DPI aware. Most apps rely on automatic scaling to look decent on high DPI situations.

Scaling the display of all the toolbars and dialogs isn't easy, and one would expect the odd glitch. But why should auto-scaling make the menu bar intermittently illegible? — I wondered in vain. Thankfully the solution is simple: use the Compatibility properties of the misbehaving program and tick "disable display scaling on high DPI settings". To access this page, right click on the xplorer² program icon on your desktop and pick the Properties command.
Later xplorer² versions (v3.4+) automatically take care of DPI compatibility through the program manifest, so you can ignore all the above tweaks.
disable display scaling

Now xplorer² will look nice even in large size text. You can make xplorer² fonts larger using Tools > Options menu, Window page. If you use very high screen resolutions make sure all your toolbars are switched to large icons (right click on a toolbar for its menu). This will also make the addressbar input fields taller. Finally if your toolbar button labels look funny, you can see more text by either reducing the toolbar font factor to 80% or make the buttons wider (using Tools > Advanced Options menu)

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