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Fine-Tuning the Windows Display

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Is this the Right Tutorial?

This document is intended for Windows XP. I have an older tutorial for Windows 98 and ME users. Windows Vista Coming soon.

You can improve visual access to Windows using the following three methods:

 

evf

 

Screen Tinter Lite

Allows you to change the text and background in colour in three clicks. Applies to Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer. Does not enlarge fonts.

Windows Control Panel Built-in Schemes

Allows you to select from a list of pre-made schemes, including large fonts. Applies to the whole of Windows, including Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word.

Windows Control Panel Fine-Tuning

Allows you to fine-tune each aspect of Windows to suit your exact needs. This includes setting exact font sizes and colour schemes across all programs including Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer.

About the Windows Display

Top Tip 1

Since you are fine-tuning the display you might want to read my background on How Screens Work and How Windows Displays Itself. Both these articles are very short and easy to read.

This tutorial shows you how to fine-tune the Windows display to get it to appear just how you would like it.

As with most of Windows' free accessibility options there are some limitations as to which areas can be adjusted and to what length. For example although you can change the font style, size and colour of the menus in most programs, you cannot usually adjust the font size in dialog boxes and message boxes (things like the "Do you want to save your work?" message). If Windows' built-in accessibility options fail to meet your needs then you may need to consider trialing some specialist software.

Visual 'Items'

As explained in How Windows Displays Itself, Microsoft Windows is made up of visual 'items'.

Any changes made to any particular item in the Control Panel should be effective across the whole of Windows. Unfortunately some programs choose either to ignore these settings or interpret them incorrectly. I have a separate list of Windows' Graphical Items that gives a good overview of each item and its idiosyncrasies.

This is the list of Windows' common visual components or 'items' and the properties that can be adjusted for each one:

ITEM (Click item for further information)
GRAPHIC
TEXT
 
Size
Color1
Color2
Font
Size
Color
Bold
Italic
3D Objects
X
X
Active Title Bar
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Active Window Border
X
X
Application Background
X
Caption Buttons
X
Desktop
X
Icon
X
X
X
X
X
Icon Spacing (Horizontal)
X
Icon Spacing (Vertical)
X
Inactive Title Bar
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Inactive Window Border
X
X
Menu
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Message Box
X
X
X
X
X
Palette Title
X
X
X
X
X
Scroll Bar
X
Selected Items
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Tooltip
X
X
X
X
X
X
Window
X
X

Fine-Tuning the Display

Now that you hopefully have an understanding of the situation let's have a go at fine-tuning the Windows display

Select Control Panel from the Start Menu

Open up the Windows Control Panel by going to Start and selecting Control Panel from the menu.

If there is no Control Panel in your Start Menu then your school's technician or network administrator has stopped you from being able to access it!

Windows Key, Arrow Keys (to select Control Panel), Enter

Control Panel

In the Control Panel, double-click the display Display icon.

D (until Display is highlighted), Enter

If your Control Panel is shown in Category View then click the link that reads 'Switch to Classic View'.

F6 (until the task pane is highlighted)

TAB (until 'Switch to Classic View' is highlighted)

ENTER

Display Properties Dialog

The Display Properties window should pop up. Choose the Appearance tab.

CTRL + TAB (until Appearance is highlighted)

Under Windows and Buttons you be able to see whether your computer is in Windows XP Style or Windows Classic.

The former is the slick, modern, usually rather blue interface that was born alongside Windows XP. The latter looks more like the Windows 98 interface.

For the benefits of accessibility we need to stick with the Classic interface. Change it if you have to.

ALT + W, Up Arrow

The quickest way of adjusting the sizes and colours of your Windows components is to select a pre-made theme from the list. If you haven't already experimented with these then although I have a separate and easier tutorial it's much the same as the following:

Click on the Color Scheme drop-down box. As you select different schemes you should notice the preview box updating.

ALT + C, Up/Down Arrow

You may notice that the schemes don't only affect colours as the label might suggest but also font sizes and styles. Click on Rose and you'll notice it uses a larger font with a Times New Roman style. Move up to Pumpkin and the font is larger still, and if you look at the Font Size drop-down box below you'll notice it says 'Large' where previously it probably said 'Normal'.

Click on the Font-Size drop-down box while Pumpkin is still selected and you'll notice that you have no choice but to use the large fonts.

ALT + F, Up/Down Arrow (there are no other options)

This is quite common throughout the entire list with the exception of the High Contrast and Windows Standard/Classic schemes. For some reason the Rose and Lilac schemes also have a Large Fonts option.

Now what happens if you find that the Pumpkin scheme suits you the best (it's nice and calm - good for photophobia) but the font sizes are too large? Or you like the Rose colours but don't like that horrid Serif font? Maybe you want a whole new colour scheme? Fortunately it's relatively easy to make you own scheme from one of the templates. This way you can get the exact colours and sizes of all the different components across the screen.

Choose a scheme that goes some way to suiting your needs and the click the Advanced button to open a new (but very similar-looking) dialog.

ALT + D

Now click on the Items drop-down box. This contains 18 'items' that control the look of Microsoft Windows. If you haven't already familiarized yourself then now's a good time to read through my article on How Windows Displays Itself and maybe have to hand my descriptive List of Windows' Graphical Items.

Have a flick through the list of Items and see what options are available for each one. For most of the items you can also click on the widgets in the preview window.

ALT + I, Up/Down Arrows

Case Study

This case study is a good example of how the Windows display can be fine-tuned to suit a struggling user. Steven has photophobia and struggles to use computer for any reasonable length of time. He can work for longer on a modern TFT screen than on the older CRT types. He also has low visual acuity and finds has to lean in to see many of the screen fonts.

Adjusting the Internet

Once you have established your theme you should see that Windows and its programs change to reflect your new colour scheme and font sizes. The greatest exception is Microsoft Internet Explorer for which a couple of extra steps are required... [more]

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