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Resolution independence à la Apple

by werner on December 8th, 2007

Since Apple announced the resolution independence feature in Mac OS X 10.5 last year, I was wondering how they were going to implement it.

It turns out, that Apple has chosen a different approach than Microsoft. On Mac OS X, the user interface, as a whole, is scaled uniformly, whereas on Windows, fonts, artworks and spacings are scaled individually and then rounded to the next integer value.

I think Apple’s approach leads to better results, because the layout stays consistent, regardless of screen resolution. The experience is similar to zooming into a PDF document.

The approach that Microsoft took, is similar to the ‘Make text bigger’/’Make text smaller’ function that many browsers support for HTML. Unlike a browser, Windows also scales artworks and spacings, but we still get similar layout issues, because the rounding errors of each of the scaled components add up.

Apple’s implementation in Mac OS X 10.5.1 is not perfect yet, there appear to be some rounding errors in it too.

I attached the following screenshots for illustration:

72 dpi:
Screenshot of OS X at 72 DPI

144 dpi:
Screenshot of OS X at 144 DPI

I took the first screenshot at a resolution of 72 DPI, and the second one at 144 DPI. The windows are not exactly arranged in the same way, because I needed to close and reopen the applications to have them pick up new DPI settings.

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