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I want my Macbook to be 1280x720 for a certain thing I need to do, yet all the programs that do this cost money.

Is there a free way to do within on Lion?

NO: SwitchResX or whatever is not free.

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2 Answers 2

Try this

http://osxdaily.com/2012/06/18/3-ways-to-run-a-retina-macbook-pro-at-2880x1800-native-resolution/

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Welcome to Super User! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. –  Oliver Salzburg Aug 13 '12 at 18:54
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Summary of link: the article links to four tools to use. SwitchResX; not free. SetResX; a menu bar resolution switcher (I tried it on Snow Leopard with a non-Retina display and it offered only the same resolutions as System Preferences). ScreenUtil (scrutil); site now down. ChangeResolution‌​; site now down. –  Rory O'Kane Jan 31 '13 at 5:02

I think I may have solved this problem, after a lot of experimentation, but I only have one system to test it on. http://youtu.be/6DxQm8xAy6M Basically, I'm editing the plist file that sets which resolutions are allowed. No software or money required. This is on OSX 10.6.8, though, so I don't know if it's applicable to Lion.

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Please can you explain what the video is showing here. –  ChrisF Jan 26 '13 at 23:37
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Sure. /System/Library/Displays/Overrides/ contains the .plist files with the resolution options OSX uses for displays. I'm running ioreg -lw0 | grep IODisplayPrefsKey to figure out which one is the primary display, and then adding an entry for the custom resolution. It's basically what switchresx does, but without all of the software. –  Marcus Chan Jan 26 '13 at 23:47

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