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How do I change DPI setting on OSX so that everything looks larger? Lowering the resolution makes everything look crappy so it's not an option.

Related question: DPI setting on OSX

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up vote 28 down vote accepted

I'm not sure why people are giving answers about how to change the DPI setting for X11. Yes, Mac OS X includes a port of the X Window System, but I'm assuming since you didn't mention it in your question, it's not what you're asking about.

Unfortunately, the real answer to your question probably won't make you happy. Resolution independence has been "coming soon" to Mac OS X for years. Here's how it looked in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger in 2005, and here's how things stand now in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. And not to talk out of school, but things aren't looking much better in the upcoming Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

All of that said, if you want to give it a try, install the Mac OS X developer tools (they're on the Mac OS X installation DVD) and then launch the Quartz Debug application that you'll find in a subfolder of the Developer folder on the top level of your hard drive. Then select User Interface Resolution from the Tools menu and you'll see a window like this:

User Interface Resolution

Move the slider and see just how awful everything looks. Note: you'll have to re-launch most applications before they'll use the new DPI setting. (The Dock and a few other things auto-re-launch when you move the slider.) Overall, I think you'll be disappointed. The wait continues...

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For anyone thinking about changing DPI, here's my result on OSX 10.5: It's horribly broken. Even Finder's icons are all over the place. XCode looks fine but crashes after I do anything with it, which is the deal breaker for me. – David Lin Jul 28 '09 at 4:36
Have you tried on Snow Leopard ? Is it better ? – Laurent Etiemble Dec 17 '09 at 8:44
FWIW, MacOS Lion has a new HiDPI mode that's basically 2x DPI density, like iOS Retina. It's not an end-user feature yet but the underpinnings are there. – Nelson Aug 21 '11 at 15:08
just to update, it still s*xx in Lion too. – csadam Apr 19 '12 at 16:31

This is slightly less hackish than modifying startx, and it does the same thing. You may need to run it as root.

defaults write org.x.X11 dpi -int 100
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protected by nhinkle Oct 24 '11 at 5:02

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