Screen Magnifier Software

Simple magnifiers are built into all operating systems.

">Screen magnifier software enlarges text and other elements on the monitor.  Simple versions are built into all operating systems, and on some smartphones and other portable devices

This article covers both free and third-party AT solutions.

Try it yourself:

Windows XP: Go to "Start", "All Programs", "Accessories", "Accessibility", "Magnifier".  The top of the screen will show a magnified view of where the mouse is or where you are typing.  Experiment with settings like "Magnification level" and "Invert colors".  Click on "Exit" to close the Magnifier.

Windows Vista and 7: Go to "Start", "All Programs", "Accessories", "Ease of Access", "Magnifier". Here's a video of the Windows 7 built-in magnifier.

Macintosh OS X: Go to "Apple menu", "System Preferences", "Universal Access", "Seeing", "Turn Zoom On (or Turn Zoom Off)".  

Third-Party Options

Popular programs, such as Microsoft Word (and other Office programs), Adobe Reader, and browsers have built-in Zoom options for enlarging text. However, these do not enlarge system text such as menus and dialog boxes. The other programs described here magnify the entire screen. Add-on screen magnifiers, both free and commercial, usually have extra features  like improved color contrast, pointer/cursor tracking, and even speech output. Commercial products include:

A demonstration version of commercial magnifier software is usually available, so that you can test it for appropriateness and system compatibility.

Some of these products are now available on a flash drive, so that individuals in public labs can use magnification without being tied to using a particular computer. However, installation of free driver software may still be necessary on any computer where the magnifier program will be used.

There are hardware magnifying glasses that fit over a monitor, but these may cause distortion and cannot be adjusted to meet specific user needs.
 
In most cases, the text will be unmagnified when it is printed.

Limitations

Magnification software generally does not work well with anything that is animated, such as video games and videos. Magnification makes some graphics look blurry, so it's not ideal for enlarging pictures, including pictures that contain text.

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