A Beginner’s Guide to Mac Display Preferences

New Mac users may not have yet explored their display preferences. You can stick with the native resolution for your display or choose one that shows text and graphics larger or smaller. Which setting you use is a personal preference, and it is easy to switch between them when you need something different.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to Mac Display Preferences.

So if you're new to Mac you may not have yet played around with your Display Preferences. Let's go to System Preferences, I'll access it through the Apple menu here, System Preferences, and I'll look at Displays. Now what you're going to see here depends upon which Mac you've got and also what screen is connected to it.

Obviously, if you're using a MacBook the screen is built in. The same thing with an iMac. But a Mac Mini and a MacPro are going to have external screens. This is the case with me. So this is what I see. I see two options for Display Resolution. The Default for display and Scaled. So Default for display is going to basically read what type of display it is and actually display things, pixel for pixel, exactly what the display expects. But you can choose a scaled amount as well and one of these other resolutions.

The smaller the number the larger things are going to appear on the screen. So if you're having difficulty reading things on your screen you're going to want to choose numbers here that are smaller. For instance at a 1024 x 640 things are going to appear huge on the screen. The Menu Bar at the top, text, and everything like that is going to appear very large. At the size 2560 x 1600, which is the native resolution for this particular display, then the pixels are going to match the screen exactly and everything is going to be a lot smaller. So you can choose anyone of these or stick with the Default for display.

So let's look now on a MacBook. Here's my MacBook Pro and you can see it looks a little bit different. Here I've got Default for display just as before, which will put the display at perfect resolution except that it's a retina display so I'm actually going to get double the resolution on the display. It's not going to be super tiny. It's going to be normal size and you're going to get a nice well defined characters and really good resolution on images. Things like that. It's the default for the display and it's what most people are going to use.

But if you click Scaled then you have several different options here. It shows you here kind of a little example of what it looks like. So I've got Larger Text and something in the middle and the Default size and I can even get More Space. I can actually have everything be smaller but it's useful if you're doing something where you have windows or things like in Photoshop or something where you're taking up a lot of space for all the windows. You also have a Brightness control, here in Displays on MacBooks because there can detect the brightness in the room and adjust the brightness automatically as well as allowing you to basically drag this back and forth.

So what you're going to want to do when you see this, say with an iMac or a MacBook, is you're going to want to maybe play around with it. See which one you like better. Maybe you do have difficulty reading some of the text and menus and different options and apps you use and you want to use something like this size or all the way down to here. Maybe Default is fine for your or maybe you're doing things where you want the highest possible resolution and you don't care about how small the text and things look.

It's very easy just to go back into System Preferences anytime and change this. So try using one or the other and see what you like. Don't feel bad about changing every once in awhile depending upon how you're using your Mac. For instance, you may find that when using the MacBook sitting on your lap while traveling or on the sofa or something like that you'd like things to be larger text. Maybe on a desk where there's, you know, a good work environment you may want to go to the more space one as well. So you'll get each of these options here and you could just use the one that better suits your needs in general and at the specific time that you're using your Mac.

Comments: One Response to “A Beginner’s Guide to Mac Display Preferences”

    Bill Trussell
    11 months ago

    Users with late 2014 Mac Minis or Pros , as I discovered, can also press & hold the Option Key, click on the Scaled option and a small window opens to reveal every possible resolution that can be selected up to 5120x. This is very useful if you have the new LG 5K Thunderbolt 3 27″ or 34″ Monitor.

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