Photo of Jamie & Lion

The personal site of Jamie Knight, an autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

Retina MBP, low res and loving it.

I often struggle with reading onscreen text. For a few years now I have relied heavily on OS X inbuilt screen zooming and making everything bigger using HiDPI so that I can read comfortably.

Recently my work machine was replaced with a 15“ retina MacBook Pro, I may write a review for it as a whole in the future, but today I want to talk about my experiences using the retina screen as a tool to enhance my reading ability.

An upside of the retina screen is that it does not need to be run at the native resolution to look awesome. You can run the screen down at 1024 × 960 and it still looks about as sharp as a non retina display. Effectively, you can zoom the entire screen, without suffering from terrible text.

I have been using the rMBP in this mode for a few days, switching to other modes as required.

OS X at 1024 × 960

When you switch OS X to use a resolution of 1024 or less it pops up a warning that OS X may not work so well. However, so far it’s working fine.

I have not had any issues with my normal software * , some software occasionally places a button off screen, for example, the iTunes preferences screen will sometimes place the save button below the screen fold.

When this happens I have been using VoiceOver to find and click the button. Annoying, but not a total killer.

Other benefits.

Working at this low workspace size, has other upsides. Part of why I like using such a low resoltion is that it keeps all the various crap and distractions out of the way. For me, every line of text represents some sort of cognative load, so removing it and pushing focus to what I to want reduces my eye stress and makes me feel more effcient.

This distraction free enviroment is what appeals to be about working solely in the terminal and Vim. However, I have not found a command line only workflow which works for me yet.

Wait, there’s more.

If you want to give this a try and dont have a retina screen to hand. I have some good news. With a modern Mac with HiDPI support you can use this technique on any machine as long as the display is 1920 × 1200 or greater. If you enter the following terminal command:

sudo defaults write
DisplayResolutionEnabled -bool YES;

Then restart, you should see HiDPI settings appear in the display preferences screen. (more info in The Cocoa Manifest article)

Whats more, those HiDPI scalings are factors of 2, so everything will be lovely and sharp.

Wrap up.

I was excited about the retina MacBook Pro. Its replacing my need for an external display and giving new options to reduce my etestrain.


The following works: Coda 2, Virtual box, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Cornerstone

Published: 31 May 2013 | Categories: , Permalink

Commenting is closed for this article.