Living a High-DPI desktop lifestyle can be painful
I've been using this Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro for the last few weeks, and lemme tell you, it's lovely. It's the perfect size, it weighs nothing, touch screen, fast SSD, it's thinner than the X1 Carbon Touch that is my primary machine, and it just feels right.
It also has about the nicest screen I've ever seen on a Windows Laptop.
Except. This thing runs at 3200x1800. That's FOUR of my 1600x900 ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch screens.
To be clear, full screen apps (Windows Store apps) almost universally look great. The text is clear, there's nary a pixel in sight. The whole full-screen Windows Store ecosystem seems to work nicely with high-DPI displays. And that makes sense, as it appears they've put a LOT of thought into high-dpi with Windows 8.1. I've changed a few settings on my 1080p Surface 2 in order to take better advantage of High-DPI and run a more apps simultaneously, in fact.
Also, note the checkbox that lets you set different scaling levels for different displays, so you can keep your laptop at high-res and an external monitor at another for example.
It's the Desktop where I get into trouble. First, let's look at the display at "small fonts."
NOTE: This is NOT the Default setting. The default is smart about the size of your screen and DPI and always tries to get the fonts looking the right size. I've changed the default to 100% to illustrate the massive number of pixels here.
3200x1800 is SO high res, that when you're running it at Small Fonts, well, a picture is worth a million pixels, right? Go ahead, click it, I'll wait. And you will also, it's 3 megs.
Many, if not most apps work fine in the High-DPI desktop world. It's a little hard to get the point across in a blog post of screenshots because you, Dear Reader, are going to be reading this on a variety of displays. But I'll try.
Problems happen when applications either totally don't think about High-DPI displays, or more commonly, they kind of think about them.
You can say all this talk of High-DPI is a problem with Windows, but I think it's a problem with the app developers. The documentation is clear on High-DPI and developers need to test, include appropriate resources or don't claim to support high-dpi. I have a number of older Windows apps that look great on this display. They are simply scaled at 2x. Sure, they may be a little blurry (they have been scaled 2x) but they are all 100% useable.
NOTE: There's a very technical session on getting high-dpi to look good in Windows Desktop apps at BUILD. The Video is here.
Here's a few examples that have caused me pain in just the last week, as well as some Good Citizen apps that look great at High-DPI.
Examples of Poor High-DPI behavior
Let's start with Windows Live Writer, one of my favorite apps and the app I'm using to write this post. It almost looks great, presumably because it's a WPF application and WPF is pretty good about DPI things. However, note the pictures. They are exactly half the size of reality. Well, let me be more clear. They are exactly pixel-sized. They are the size they are, rather than scaled to 200%. This has caused me to upload either giant pics or too-small pics because WLW scales text at one size and images at another, within the same document!
Adobe everything. I am shocked at how bad Adobe stuff looks on a high-dpi display. Just flip a coin, chances are it's gonna be a mix of small and large. Here's Adobe Reader.
Here's the Flash installer.
Here's a great example - Dropbox.
Dropbox gets worse the deeper you get into the menus.
SQL Server Management Studio is a bad example.
Here's an easy fix, just add high-res arrow resources, or draw them with a vector.
Examples of Good High-DPI behavior
Visual Studio 2013 looks great. Fonts are well-sized, and while the icons aren't high-res (retina) they still look ok. All the Dialog boxes and menus work as they should.
Word 2013 and all of Office look great at High-DPI. They've got great icons, great fonts and generally are awesome.
Paint.NET 4.0 Alpha also looks great. There's some scaled icons, but the app is smart and there's pixel perfect editing.
GitHub for Windows looks awesome at High-DPI.
Do you have any examples of high-DPI frustration on the Desktop? Upload them to ImgUr.com and link to them in the comments!