High DPI (HiRes) and Applications

2 minute read

Recently upgraded to Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 for my development and research activities.  With an excellent ultrabook that runs like a beast, you can spend good time writing code and presenting tech-talks. This ultrabook has an excellent resolution 3200x1800 (HiRes /HD+) which sometimes gives strain to eyes, especially when you are working on applications that are not built for high resolution laptops. 

The application icons and text become extremely small to read and some applications fail in rendering the UI correctly. I tried my usual tools like SQL Management Studio, Visual Studio, GIMP, Citrix, Command Console and Powershell.  SQL Management Studio, GIMP and Citrix failed to show controls correctly. This has been also highlighted in Scot Hanselman's blog – Living a High-DPI desktop lifestyle can be painful

This post aims at providing a solution to the problems described in Scot's post.

Fixing the Size at OS level

So as a first step, in Windows 8.1 is to increase your text display size in the Control Panel [Control Panel\Appearance and Personalization\Display]. You can try one of the 2 combiinations

  1. Change the size of all items to Larger size where we are dealing with relative size (Smaller – Larger)


  1. Change the size of all items in the terms of percentage

Choose one that appears the best as per your need. I chose to keep the size as Larger.

Legacy Application Support

Before we go to the solution, for the context of this article I have termed applications that do not scale with resolutions as 'legacy'. These applications may be designed using latest frameworks but since they are not scalable for higher resolutions, I am terming them as legacy.

Even with the above settings, it is not guaranteed that all the applications will continue to display correctly. An example of this is Citrix application. When you remotely connect using Citrix, your remote desktop icons and text will continue to appear small and unreadable on HiRes. So you need a way to quickly switch back to smaller resolution.

One of the applications that I really liked for this purpose is HRC – High Resolution Changer. The application allows you to add multiple resolutions and also assign hot-keys to it.

When logging through Citrix remote connection, I switch back to 1600x900 resolution which is half of the HiRes resolution. This makes the desktop icons and text appear accurately sized for human eye to read.

If you are a developer

If you are a developer, think about it and start refactoring your code to use technology that scales with resolution in any form-factor.

With increasing form-factors in the market, we as developers, designers, architects need to think on the right technology set to choose to give our customers the best experience they deserve.