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OS X Mavericks has numerous features and settings that make text and images more visible. In this article, I will discuss many options and methods to take advantage of those features in different ways. In pointing out many different ways, I hope to help you find a method that will be a good fit for you.

Use System Preferences, Displays Settings:
Access System Preferences from the dock or the Apple on the menu bar, and click on Displays. Then click on the Display tab. Choose Scaled, and the different resolution settings available are displayed. The options available vary, depending upon what resolution your model of the computer is capable of displaying. Adjust the settings by choosing different options—the lower the numbers are in the setting, the larger objects will be displayed. Below are examples of the display setting options you will see on a white MacBook, an older iMac, and a MacBook Pro with Retina display … 

If you change the display settings to use the largest font possible on MacBooks and older iMacs, it causes an issue where the buttons at the bottom of some apps cannot be seen on the screen. In the image below for example the Edit and Share buttons at bottom of iPhoto aren’t visible, even by scrolling down. This issue does not occur on recent iMacs without the DVD drive.

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Because of this, I suggest opening iPhoto and System Preferences at the same time. Then adjust the resolution to the largest size (lowest numbers) you prefer, and confirm the Share button at the bottom of iPhoto is still visible. That way, you choose the display setting that works best for you without any loss of functionality. On a MacBook Pro with Retina display, the resolution setting image at the beginning of this article results in the largest object size possible with no loss of functionality.

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The MacBook Pro with Retina display increases the size of objects with no loss of clarity when resolution settings are changed. This should be considered when making new purchases if it’s important to you. When changing the resolution on other Macs, there is a loss of clarity as the resolution settings are changed from the default. The exception to that is resolution settings that end with HiDPI. However that setting seems to consistently cause the display issue described above with iPhoto. 

Use app Preferences settings:
Many apps have a setting in Preferences that effectively increases the size of the text it displays. iPhoto has a setting on the Appearance Tab called Source Text that can be set to Large.  iTunes has a setting on the General tab, in the Views section called “Use large text for list views”.

Messages has a setting on the Viewing tab that allows you to choose any size font and the colors for incoming and outgoing messages separately.  Safari has a similar setting on the Advanced tab in the Accessibility section that lets you set a minimum font size of up to 24.

In Mail preferences, the settings are on the Fonts & Colors tab. You can adjust the “Message list font” and “Message font” separately. (The Message list font changes your inbox appearance, the Message font changes the body of emails.)  Using the Select buttons, you can set these to any font size. However, the Message list font size is only truly customizable if you select “Use classic layout” on the Viewing tab.

Increasing the font size in certain apps may be done as a function of preference, rather than necessity. For example, check out the image below, that reflects iTunes with the “Large text for list views” setting.

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Use various forms of Zoom:
Because zooming requires at least some work, I recommend trying all of the above settings first. OS X does really well in this area, providing a multitude of methods.

Using the Command & + and Command & – keys
This is an effective way to increase font size when you are in an app that involves text, such as Safari, Mail or Calendar. Below is an image of of the Calendar app with event name sizes increased using Command & +. 

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Using Control & Scroll
This is a simple, powerful way to zoom. Access System Preferences, click on Accessibility on the right, and choose Zoom on the left. Then check “Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom”. The default modifier key is Control, but can also be set to Command or Option. Then, hold down the modifier key and scroll up and down with a mouse, or on a trackpad (with two fingers) to zoom in and out. 

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Custom Zoom Levels
For people who use zoom frequently, you can avoid the need to keep adjusting the zoom level by setting custom zoom levels. To do this, choose “Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom”. Then, click the More Options button at the bottom right and set a minimum and maximum zoom level.

When using this setting:
Command, Option & + zooms in to your maximum level
Command, Option & – zooms out to your minimum level
Command, Option & 8 zooms into and out of whatever zoom level you are currently at.

Magnifying Glass style zoom
Instead of having the entire screen zoom in, you can zoom in on a small rectangular area of the screen. When using this setting, the magnified area of the screen moves around with the cursor and has the look and feel of a magnifying glass. To do this, set Zoom Style to Picture in Picture.

Trackpad and mouse gestures
Both the Apple Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse have settings that allow zooming, but it is limited to browsers. To enable it on the trackpad, access System Preferences, Trackpad, and click on the Scroll & Zoom tab at the top center. There are two gestures that can be enabled for zooming with the trackpad. “Zoom in or out” by pinching with two fingers is the first one listed, and works in any browser. “Smart zoom” by double tapping with two fingers is the second one listed works only in Safari. The Magic Mouse preferences features only one zoom method, “Smart zoom” by double-tapping with one finger.

Other related features:
When using Safari, the Reader feature becomes active if Safari detects the content being displayed is an article. When the Reader button at the top right is active, clicking it isolates articles from their surrounding ads and increases the font size. Clicking on the small and large A icon at the top right, or using Command & + can make the font even larger when in Reader mode.

In Safari, text can be read aloud easily by highlighting it, and choosing Speech, then Start Speaking.
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You can use the Reader and Start Speaking in combination to have an entire article read aloud with no ads.

  • Click on the Reader button to remove any ads from displaying.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Command & A to select all of the article.
  • Control & click, or right-click on the highlighted text and choose Speech, then Start Speaking.

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Knowing about the different settings that increase font size and methods that can be used to zoom can help you and your loved ones have a more enjoyable computing experience.

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One Response to “How-to: Take advantage of Zoom and Large Text in OS X Mavericks”

  1. Haven’t given Mavericks a try, but I use the Control + Scroll zoom feature a LOT at work. I’m visually impaired and it just works perfectly for when I need to zoom in and read some small print. Totally love it.

    Liked by 1 person