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X11: Using large print when in high resolution

On modern desktops the easiest way to do this is usually to set the software's DPI (dots per inch) value to something higher than the actual DPI. For example, if your real DPI is 96 and you say it is 160, you get a basic 167% zoom and can then make further adjustments to individual applications. (If the system-wide zoom is too big then the desktop manager might not fit on the screen, so it can be better not to set the DPI too high but to increase font sizes in applications. However, some increase of DPI can be useful.)

A very modern desktop may be using Wayland instead of X11: if that's the case, see my large print in Wayland page instead of this one.

Your desktop's setup options should have either a DPI option or a scale-factor option. The details depend on your desktop environment:

Recent Gnome 3 (e.g. 3.32)

Settings > Devices > Displays can scale up to 400%; Settings > Universal Access can change mouse cursor size; gnome-tweaks can set dark themes.

Earlier Gnome 3.x

Set the scaling factor from the command line as follows:
dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/interface/text-scaling-factor 1.67 (or whatever; maximum is 3.0)

Gnome 3 also has software magnification available under Universal Access / Zoom (or via keyboard shortcuts: hold down the Super "Windows" key and Alt, and 8 to toggle or +/-) but this can be unresponsive on some machines and can also make Gnome 3's top-left "Activities hotspot" more disorienting.

Gnome 2.x

Use System Preferences > Appearance > Fonts > Details > Resolution (DPI).

Cinnamon 3

try Menu > System Settings > Fonts > Text scaling factor (set it to 1.7 or whatever); takes effect on most parts of the desktop immediately, and the taskbar after a restart


Set the DPI from the command line as follows (you can put this in a shell script and set it to run on startup):

echo "Xft.dpi: 160" | xrdb + - &&
if killall -w -u $(whoami) lxpanel pcmanfm; then
lxpanel &
pcmanfm --desktop --profile LXDE &
openbox --replace &

You may wish to run obconf and set Openbox to put the Maximize button on the left, so it is more easily reachable when a window sizes itself larger than the screen and you want to bring it back to screen size.

For a larger mouse cursor in LXDE, try the crystal-cursors or crystalcursors package (you might need to select it in the "Appearance" or "Customise Look and Feel" settings). Also try qtconfig in qt4-qtconfig for setting the font size of Qt applications.


K menu > System settings > Display & Monitor > Scale Display.

Editor (for all the above)

FSF Emacs 23+ can use TrueType fonts with the DPI setting; my emacs configuration files might help. Alternatively try gedit, or leafpad for very lightweight situations.
All material © Silas S. Brown unless otherwise stated.