Screen Resolution And Readability: What You Should Know

May 15, 2009

In one of his first posts since leaving the company, co-creator of Microsoft’s ClearType display technology, screen-readability expert, Bill Hill, explains on his blog The Future Of Reading why “high resolution” doesn’t necessarily mean a sharper, clearer, and more readable experience. (Disclosure: nudged into writing on the subject by me, Bill graciously sent an advance copy for comment and review.)
He writes:

Confusion over what’s commonly referred to as “screen resolution” causes headaches for computer users – literally. People all over the world are having a computing experience that’s nowhere near as good as it could or should be because their displays are wrongly set.

Wrongly set? How? What can I do about it? Well, Bill goes on, and with a little history lesson in computer display technology thrown in along the way, he explains the what, why, and how to fix. (Hint: If you’re using a flat-screen LCD display, set the screen resolution properties in Windows as close as possible to the “native resolution” of the screen.)
Changes in hardware – especially display technology like LCD and more recently, E-Ink or E-Paper, play a big role in making the web a more readable place. And it’s a topic we’ll be returning to time and time again.
It was only a few years ago that reading at the computer meant squinting in the glare of a blinky TV-like CRT display – “hulking brutes” as Bill calls them – brutes we all came to know, and now can’t wait to say goodbye to in favor of lighter-weight, low-power, Liquid Crystal Displays. But LCD is a very different technology from CRT – as Bill points out – and it will take a few more years for even those who consider themselves technically savvy to get the hang of tweaking their systems to take full advantage of these new screens. Operating System and software application design have some catching up to do, too.
But go get a jump on it now. If you’re not absolutely sure you’re getting the sharpness and clarity you thought you bought and paid for with that shiny new widescreen LCD, reading Bill’s article will be time well-spent.

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