How To Zoom In On Your Mac’s Screen

Using a trick hidden in the Accessibility features of your Mac you can zoom in to a portion of your Mac's screen. With El Capitan you can use this zoom feature as a magnifying glass, allowing you to see the screen normally while also seeing a zoomed view in a corner. This can be useful for artists or anyone who needs to focus on a portion of their screen. But it isn't useful for revealing more detail in an image.

Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: How To Zoom In On Your Mac’s Screen.

Hi, this is Gary with On today's episode let's look at how to use the Zoom feature to zoom in on a part of your screen.

So today I'm going to tell you about one of the many tips that I have in my new book 101 Mac Tips. It's available starting today. Go to this URL to read more about it.

To zoom in on your screen go to System Preferences, Accessibility, it's one of the accessibility functions here. Click on Zoom and you can enable it one of two ways or both. You can use the keyboard shortcuts, Option Command 8 to turn it on and Option Command and then the plus and minus keys on the keyboard to zoom in and out.

Or you can Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom. Let's do both.

So now I'll turn it on by Option Command 8 and you can see I zoom in. In order to zoom in more I'll use Option Command +, Option Command - or I can use the Control key, you can see I've set it for Control key here, and then two fingers on my trackpad to zoom in and out really smoothly.

Under More Options we have the ability to have the screen move continuously with the pointer which I think is a better way to do it. So we'll turn on Zoom here with Option Command 8 and now you can see as I move my cursor around it is always basically showing me where my cursor is as close as it can get to the middle of the screen. Obviously as I get to the edge it's not going to be able to center it that well. So I think this is a very natural way to view it. Also notice under View Options you can set a minimum and maximum zoom if you wish which is kind of a nice way to do it.

They are the basic functions there. They've been around for quite a while in OS X. But there are some things that have appeared recently that I think are cooler.

Go to Zoom Style and set a full screen to Picture-in-Picture. Now when I do Option Command 8 you see I get this kind of rectangular magnifying glass that follows the cursor around. I think this is really interesting because it allows me to really focus on a certain part of the screen. It is very easy to turn on and off with Command Option 8. In addition to that I can still zoom in more and zoom out on it. So I like this ability.

If I go into More Options here you can see the More Options changed quite a bit. I can set the window position to be stationary for instance. So I do Command Option 8 and now you see it stays in the center of the screen and I can click this button here to Adjust Size and Location. Now I can actually move it around. So I can put it in the bottom left hand corner, for instance, and I can kind of resize it by pulling in the edges. Now I have this cool magnifier here at the bottom left corner of the screen where probably I don't have much going to. I can probably work as normal but if there is something I need to see a little clearer, as I move my cursor over it, I can look at the bottom left and see it a little better. You can still zoom in more on it and zoom out.

You have a lot of ability to do things with this. Like, for instance, you can do a temporary zoom which is to hold down the Control and Option key to zoom when needed. So let's do Command Option 8 so now it's turned off. If I just hold down the Control and Option key it appears. It only appears when I have those two keys held down. So I can just be going about my business doing something and when I want to read something I hold the Command Option down and the window appears there. I think that's extremely useful.

You can also change the style of the cursor to a crosshair. Now it's a regular cursor on the screen here but it's a crosshair here inside the magnified area. I think this is really useful for graphic artists. For instance if you wanted to work with pixels inside of a graphics app, I turn off Smooth images here which is important to do when you go down to the pixel level, and go into a graphics app, Acorn. You can see now I can clearly see the individual pixels that are there and I can actually edit them. It's tough because the cursor doesn't always seem to be exactly where it is. That seems to be consistent with what I'm seeing on the main part of the screen. So different apps are going to work differently but at least I can see really well where the pixels are where it is hard to see when it's a one to one ratio in the main part of the screen.

So I think this works great if you need to focus on a part of the screen, if you can't read something because it is too small or if you want to do some pixel editing in graphics. But here is where it doesn't work great. You have to realize that it's just showing you the same pixels you see on the main part of your screen. It's just enlarging those pixels. It's not actually giving you more detail in there.

So in a situation where you have a photo like this it's a high res photo. If you zoom in using this technique you're not going to get anything more in the lower left there, in the window, than you are in the main image. It may be easier for your eyes to see but it's not actually more detail.

However the photo does have more detail. So if I were to zoom in using Preview's Zoom, actually zoom in on the photo itself, you can see I can much better read these license plates here now and it's still reflecting the same exact thing as the bottom left as I'm seeing here but there is more detail in the photos. You just got to realize that the zooming in is just zooming in on the pixels on the screen, not actually interpreting the pixels inside of a photo. You've got to do that inside the app like inside of Preview or inside of PhotoShop or whatever it is. Then you can actually zoom in and enlarge the photo itself. So don't use it for that. Use it for the other reasons.

There is one other style of zooming. You can go into More Options and instead of Stationary do Tiled along edge. It is like Stationary except it is going to give you an entire edge to the screen. If you do Adjust Size and Location for that you actually can just expand this. You can take half the screen zoomed and the other half normal. You can also drag to the other side of the screen or down below or up above. So you put it to any edge that you want.

Check out my new book: 101 Mac Tips: OS X & Safari

Comments: One Response to “How To Zoom In On Your Mac’s Screen”

    3 years ago

    This is a great tip. I will be using it a lot.
    It motivated me to check my iPhone/iPad for the same kind of functionality.
    Life with my ‘i’ devices is better already.

Comments Closed.