Microsoft May Never Fix the High DPI Issues in Windows 10

Microsoft May Never Fix the High DPI Issues in Windows 10
After a year of effort, they finally fixed Notepad. Partially.

With my wife struggling to use a modern Windows 10 laptop with an external display, I’m reminded of how Microsoft has never fixed the issues with high DPI displays.

And in one of life’s many small coincidences, Microsoft may have literally just explained why it will likely never do so.

The issue is simple enough for the majority of us who use Windows 10 with a single display. (Portable or desktop, it doesn’t matter.) If the resolution of the display on that PC is high enough, and the physical size of that display is small enough, then you’ve got what’s called a high DPI display. And you will need to scale the UI in order to make commonly-used interfaces—icons, buttons, text, whatever—readable and usable.

Windows 10 of course handles this in a fairly elegant way, assuming you’re only talking about the OS itself and modern Windows Store apps: Using Display settings (Settings, System, Display), you can scale the UI from 100 percent—the default on “normal” (non-high-DPI) displays—to 125 percent to 250 percent, or even more, depending on the display. Surface Book and other PCs with high-DPI displays will ship with this setting enabled somewhere in that range. Otherwise, the icons and other onscreen items would be too small to see or use.

Where this functionality falls apart is legacy apps, especially older desktop applications that have never been updated for these modern display types. For example, my well-worn copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 still works just fine on my desktop PC, where the display scaling on the 27-inch 1080p display is set to 100 percent. But on modern portable computers, like Surface Book, the menus and other onscreen interfaces are too tiny to read or accurately select because this app doesn’t scale. I had to buy a more modern version, Photoshop Elements 14, to use on these devices. That version does scale.

In my own usage, I still run into desktop applications that work poorly on high DPI displays. Android Studio is a great example: It’s poorly made and designed, and aside from the rampant performance and reliability problems, its inability to handle high DPI displays remains my major stumbling block. Learning Java and Android software development has been an easier task than just getting the development environment to look and work correctly on my portable PCs. (That is almost not an exaggeration.)

But back to my wife, who I often offer up as a so-called normal user. She doesn’t care about anything I just described, and she just wants to get work done. I recently switched her from a 2015-era HP Spectre x360 to the 2016-era HP Spectre laptop that I reviewed back in July. (It’s a little more complicated than that; she was also using an HP Stream 11 at a standing desk and was hoping to find one thin and light machine she could use both at her normal desk and the standing desktop. But I digress.)

For the past several years, my wife’s “desktop” PC setup has included a portable PC of some kind (a 13-inch Samsung Series-9 Ultrabook for a while, then that HP Spectre x360) connected to a 27-inch display, keyboard, and mouse using a USB-based hub and a tangle of wires. With the new HP Spectre, I wanted to get her going with a more elegant solution, perhaps involving a single cable. (This would make it easier to move between the “docked” desktop setup and the portable mode at the standing desk.) So I grabbed a Plugable USB-C Docking Station from Amazon, and the results have been pretty great: She actually uses two USB-C cables (one for power, one for the dock), but it’s a much less tangly experience than before. That one cable drives the display, the mouse, the keyboard, whatever USB storage she needs, and her Ethernet connection.

Less elegant, however, is the experience of moving between docked and non-docked usage. And anyone using Windows 10 who has done such a thing can see where this is going: Because she mirrors the display between the laptop and the desktop display, it’s never right. At the desk, she needs the display configured for 100 percent scaling. But using just the laptop, she needs it set to 125 or 150 percent (I can’t recall) so she can actually see and use the on-screen items. Windows won’t elegantly move between the two, in fact won’t do so at all. And so she is stuck. She can either learn to span the displays while docked. Or deal with manually changing the scaling every single time she docks/undocks the PC.

In other words, this is broken. Has been for years. Still is.

I mention a coincidence. Just yesterday, Microsoft published yet another lengthy blog post describing the challenges of high DPI displays and how it is continually improving the OS to make it better. Speaking of challenges, I challenge you to actually read it. It’s dense, and tough-going. But if you slog through all of it, the conclusion is obvious enough: Microsoft will never really fix this problem. Not really.

And you can see why in this post’s lengthy explanation about how Microsoft, over multiple releases of Windows 10, attempted to fix just one legacy desktop application that’s built into Windows, Notepad, to work correctly on high-DPI displays in a very specific scenario: You have two displays, each with its own display scaling setting. You couldn’t pick a simpler application. And yet, this was a huge challenge to fix.

“During the first Windows 10 release we developed functionality that would enable non-client area to scale dynamically, but it wasn’t ready for prime-time and wasn’t released publicly until we released the Anniversary Update,” the post explains. That’s right. It took Microsoft three releases of Windows 10 to get one app—one very simple app—to work properly with high DPI. In one scenario.

Seriously. Read that post, just the part about Notepad. And then wonder to yourself: How on earth will this ever just work? For me. For my wife. For you. For anyone. And the conclusion is clear: It won’t, not really.

“We recognize that there are still gaps in the DPI-scaling functionality that Windows offers desktop application developers and the importance of fully unblocking developers in this space,” the post concludes. “Stay tuned for more goodness to come.”

I could use some goodness right now, to be frank. So could a lot of other people.


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Conversation 61 comments

  • 131

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 7:22 am

    <p>I’m looking at you, VLC.</p>

  • 127

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 7:26 am

    <p>Though scaling is an issue, I am having issues blaming solely&nbsp;Microsoft for this. What are (legacy) app builders doing to bring their software in to the 21st century? Sure, MS needs to provide the right API’s. But then its up to ie. Adobe to provide first class software, that runs on a modern platform.</p>

  • 4610

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 7:30 am

    <p>I dock and undock my SB daily. I find it easier to just sign out and back in each time i dock or undock and Windows automatically adjusts the scaling. If I go to the display settings to adjust ther scaling I need to sign out anyway for a lot of legacy apps to scale properly.</p>

    • 3098

      25 October, 2016 - 8:04 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22318">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/wspaw">wspaw</a><a href="#22318">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>Yeah, that’s the procedure around most users in my copany perform. But one would still wish it wouldn’t be necessary. Maybe it should be possible to enable some kind of legacy mode for these Apps that does the same (simulate user session restart or what ever is the key point) as actually sign out and in does.</p>

      • 268

        Premium Member
        25 October, 2016 - 8:46 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#22326">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/the_zeni">the_zeni</a><a href="#22326">:</a></em></blockquote>
        <p>My configuration is either a Surface Pro 4 or a Lenovo X1 tablet. I connect to the dock and to two external screens – one 27 inch 2560×1440 and one in portrait mode at 1080p. I find that the scaling is fine as long as I set the internal screen to OFF in this config and ALWAYS boot up docked. Then it works both docked and undocked. But as soon as I boot up undocked – using the internal screen – damn, it is screwed up when re-docking. Definitely this is a pain as Paul calls out. As long as I avoid rebooting or signing out and in while undocked I am pretty much OK.</p>

      • 4802

        26 October, 2016 - 7:19 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#22326">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/the_zeni">the_zeni</a><a href="#22326">:</a>&nbsp; Thx for the feedback.&nbsp; </em></blockquote>
        <blockquote><em>James [MSFT High DPI team]</em></blockquote>

  • 6190

    25 October, 2016 - 7:35 am

    <p>So, is the issue that you just want the Caption and Menu Bar to scale, or do you want the whole application inside the window to scale too? &nbsp;It seems to me that if the application has its own controls, then you probably want them to scale too.</p>

  • 4325

    25 October, 2016 - 7:36 am

    <p>Perhaps a good argument for UWP over win32 apps? I mean on the off chance anybody actually develops anything new for the windows platform..&nbsp;</p>
    <p>Do macs have a similar problem or is this windows specific?</p>
    <p>I’ve never used a mac</p>

    • 3098

      25 October, 2016 - 7:58 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22320">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/adamcorbally">adamcorbally</a><a href="#22320">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>Mostly windows specific because Macs only doubles resolution (so you never have like 125% scaling… only 200%). And then just scales up old UIs (but there aren’t that much left of these since Mac never had this legacy problem with 15yo software in the first place).</p>
      <p>But you’re correct, UWP is REALLY easy to code against any scaling as the OS/Environment takes care of most the stuff. It just isn’t always that easy to port the apps (well, good written business logic would be… but the UI is not) and many of them aren’t updated anymore or are specific to some old hardware.</p>

    • 413

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 8:32 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22320">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/adamcorbally">adamcorbally</a><a href="#22320">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>I have never head the problem on the MAC. &nbsp;The have a slidebar to adjust the size you would like, and it just works 100% of the time for me.</p>

  • 6676

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 7:45 am

    <p>Poor High-DPI support was the last straw that made we switch from Windows to OSX. Apple solved the problem years ago, and every thing just works.</p>
    <p>All you need to do is set the scaling factor you want for each display. Then you can mix, match, dock and undock all you want. I routinely switch from my internal retina display, an external 4K display, an external 1080p display, and everything just work. I can even drag windows from high-DPI monitors to low-DPI monitors, and everything works as you would expect.&nbsp;</p>
    <p>For the increasingly fewer times I need Windows, I can make it behave by running it in a Parallels VM that has been fixed to low DPI mode.</p>

    • 5842

      25 October, 2016 - 10:02 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22321">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/thalter">thalter</a><a href="#22321">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>Can you connect multiple monitors to a mac and used different DPIs for each monitor? I work on windows for now but I am tired of all the whining that is going on in windows land. </p>

      • 6676

        Premium Member
        25 October, 2016 - 10:58 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#22363">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/illuminated">illuminated</a><a href="#22363">:</a></em></blockquote>
        <p>Absolutely. I currently have three different monitors on my MacBook Pro, each with different DPI (internal Retina, External 1080P, External 4K). I can drag windows from one display to another, and everything scales (and sizes) correctly. No windows with too big (or small) elements, no blurry text. Everything just works.</p>
        <p>Indeed, I often use this capability to test my web pages on low and high dpi screens to make sure my multiple-resolution image sourcesets load correctly for low and high dpi.</p>
        <p>The only thing you can’t do is have windows that are split between two different monitors (effectively running two different DPI for the same window.)</p>

      • David Navarrete

        17 August, 2017 - 12:19 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#22363"><em>In reply to illuminated:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>You can, but not quite. Apple made an elegant solution. Everything is still rendered at 200%, but then it scales back after rendering</p><p><br></p><p>Pros:</p><ol><li>It is fully compatible as the OS only needs to handle either 100% or 200% (Legacy Apps, which are quite rare, show up as having pixels being 2×2 on your display, and it doesn't mess with cursor coordinates as it is an integer scaling).</li><li>It allows for multiple displays to have different scaling settings, as it still renders everything internally at the same scaling factor (200%)</li></ol><p>Cons:</p><ol><li>You can't get a 1:1 pixel-to-display picture on a scaled resolution</li></ol><p><br></p><p>You could also do that on Windows, but sometimes your monitor have horrible scaling. MacOS handles all the scaling internally, which is a pretty darn good scaling, and still feeds your monitors with their native resolutions. Windows can't feed your 4K (2160p) monitor with a 3200p picture internally scaled back to fit the 2160p resolution</p><p><br></p><p>Windows would send the full 3200p picture (which also consumes bandwidth, which could cost you FPS) and the 2160p monitor would handle all the scaling</p>

  • 1080

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 7:50 am

    <p>In order to scale properly Win10 would need to know&nbsp;the DPI of the screen (this wouldn’t solve all problems but would solve some I would hope).&nbsp;Thus this information would have to be passed on to the OS when an external display&nbsp;is connected. &nbsp;</p>
    <p>Does that info get passed on when an external display is connected?</p>

    • 3098

      25 October, 2016 - 8:06 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22322">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/Finley">Finley</a><a href="#22322">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>For all modern screens, yes. Windows chooses the proper scaling for me on a wide variety of screens. It’s just the legacy Apps that can’t adapt to it (sometimes lazy devs, sometimes its a 15 year old software… no one really to blame there).</p>

      • 4259

        25 October, 2016 - 9:34 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#22328">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/the_zeni">the_zeni</a><a href="#22328">:</a></em></blockquote>
        <p>It’s not lazy devs. That blog post proves it. They had to dogfood this themselves before they realized how broken it was, in spite of years of devs complaining.</p>

    • 1377

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 1:34 pm

      <p><em><a href="#22322">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/Finley">Finley</a><a href="#22322">:</a></em></p>
      <p>Don’t PnP peripherals pass Windows enough info that their specs could be found with a web search? That won’t help if you connect a 30-year-old VGA CRT to a new PC, but I figure every monitor sold in the last decade gives Windows enough info that it wouldn’t be difficult to determine its physical dimensions.</p>

  • 742

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 8:03 am

    <p>I didn’t interpret that article quite the same way you did Paul.</p>
    <p>The bit that took Microsoft a year to get working correctly isn’t something that is Notepad specific. It’s something that affects Notepad, but what they developed was an API that can automatically handle the scaling of the title bar,&nbsp;menu bar, status bar, scroll bars and other common parts of many many classic desktop applications. They would have had to develop&nbsp;this&nbsp;for&nbsp;and test this on thousands of different Windows applications, not just Notepad. So it’s not going to be a case of "well&nbsp;getting this bit of UI to scale properly took 1 year to do on Notepad, so it’ll take 5 years to do on a complex application like Photoshop", that&nbsp;work is done for everyone now (provided developers go in and take advantage of that API in an update to their application).</p>
    <p>You are right though about this probably never being properly fixed, but it won’t be due to Microsoft not providing the tools to developers to fix this problem, it’ll be developers making the decision that it’s not worth doing it (whether that be time, money, complexity etc.).</p>

  • 5477

    25 October, 2016 - 8:03 am

    <p>It is worth adding, Microsoft has fixed the scaling in setup up screen when installing windows. Before, when I clean installed Windows 10 on my Thinkpad X1 carbon with the 2560×1440 display. The dialog box for the partition sizing, was crunched together and the curser was large. Now the dialog box is perfectly sized. I think Windows overall has much improved in scaling, and is much better than like Linux, but not compared to like OSX. Microsoft has gotten the desktop elements like the taskbar and startmenu right, with scaling also. Longterm, I think Microsoft is likely going to replace all the commonly used Win32 apps with modern apps, which will solve scaling problems like Notepad.</p>

  • 1561

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 8:05 am

    <p>As a recent owner of a Surface Pro 4 coming from an older Lenovo ThinkPad, I totally understand this frustration. The older laptop’s display was only 1440×900, and when docked it was connected to a pair of 27" 1920×1080 monitors, so I almost never had any scaling issues at all. However I’m now using the SP4 with those same monitors, and every time I redock after a meeting, the device spends 10 minutes trying to put the disjointed pieces back together. And it’s not just Win32 apps; oftentimes the task bar, icons, and captions on the lower resolution desktops are all wacky, too. If I have to slog through it to get an important task done, then I will, but it’s often easier just to restart the device and let everything sync properly. This was an issue when I owned the original Surface Pro years ago, and I recall Paul complaining about this a long while back, but I’d assumed/hoped it would be fixed by now. Guess not. But still, nice to know I’m not alone here.</p>

  • 5981

    25 October, 2016 - 8:13 am

    <p>The problem I have with this is Microsoft has issued so many press releases and blogs posts saying that they have finally fixed it. Sites like Thurrot then pick up the news and again reinforce that it&rsquo;s once again fixed. I have lost count of how many times this has happened over the last six years and people just keep blaming ISVs. The real deal is it&rsquo;s fundamentally broken at API level and all the work they do to can&rsquo;t fix that. It gets a bit better over time with MS adding fudges and ISVs working around limitations but it&rsquo;s still never go to work properly.</p>
    <p>UWP apps have a far better experience but you just can&rsquo;t use UWP to create most of the popular applications we all rely on. UWP just doesn&rsquo;t contain the features we need to create our range of applications aimed at professional creatives. This list of missing features is long but the most obvious is the inability to create additional windows. Yes, in a OS called windows you can&rsquo;t actually create another window. This prevents the user from having floating tabs outside of the application frame and even showing multiple documents in separate windows that share the same toolbars and chrome.</p>
    <p>Until UWP is finished and Windows 10 is prolific then the HiDPI story will always be a painful one on Windows.</p>
    <p>Office and Adobe to a limited extent get an easier ride as they effectively developed their own UI frameworks that sit on top of the core Win32 API. Both companies have hundreds of people working of these frameworks and never share them with other Windows developers.</p>
    <p>Our applications on OSX only took a few weeks to update for HiDPI and works perfectly even in complex mixed DPI setups. It&rsquo;s an API thing.</p>

  • 442

    25 October, 2016 - 8:15 am

    <p>This again?&nbsp; Come on, this is not a Microsoft issue, it’s an open system allowing developers to write piss-poor software issue.&nbsp; Yet, if they "closed" the OS, everyone would gripe then too.&nbsp; You can’t have your cake and eat it too, right?</p>

    • 1377

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 1:29 pm

      <p><em><a href="#22334">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/Narg">Narg</a><a href="#22334">:</a></em></p>
      <p>If it’s really difficult for MSFT to rewrite Notepad to scale differently under different screen resolutions, wouldn’t that imply it may be rather difficult for 3rd party developers to modify their software to handle scaling automatically? Or was Notepad an especially poor piece of MSFT software?</p>

  • 2330

    25 October, 2016 - 8:16 am

    <p>I have the same issues with my Surface Book (1080p UltraSharp monitors). I’ve discovered that the legacy applications that don’t scale right (like Skype For Business for some dumb reason) end up having to have an app compatibility flag LOCKED in the registry to prevent the High DPI scaling from screwing with things going from monitor to monitor.</p>

  • 124

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 8:26 am

    <p>"I could use some goodness right now, to be frank. So could a lot of other people."</p>
    <p>No I think you are like most people.&nbsp; We only see the bad and are not thankful for the good we overlook.</p>

  • 265

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 8:49 am

    <p>I suppose there are diminishing returns at some point, in pursuing ever higher resolutions, given the limits of vision and dexterity.&nbsp;&nbsp; I was initially frustrated by scaling issues at every turn, when I went from Surface Pro to a larger monitor, whenever I increased the font size or tweaked the display settings on my phones.&nbsp; Over time, however, I have gravitated towards apps and settings that fit and utilize the enhanced resolutions, and don’t grieve for legacy apps whose developers don’t bother to update or upgrade.&nbsp; I wouldn’t want to define future development by the limitations of legacy apps and devices.&nbsp;</p>

  • 5184

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 9:05 am

    <p>I struggle with this scaling issue every single day&nbsp;with my SP4 connected to an external display.&nbsp;</p>
    <p>I’ll add that&nbsp;even the UWP apps scale incorrectly at times.&nbsp;&nbsp;I have problems with UWP apps&nbsp;nearly every morning I sit down and unlock the machine.&nbsp; The&nbsp;Mail app or Edge will be huge on the external monitor.&nbsp; I have to unplug&nbsp;from the Surface Dock&nbsp;and then plug back up to correct.&nbsp; I’ve had similar issues with undocking to go to meetings.</p>
    <p>I originally had two external&nbsp;displays, same resolution with slightly different physical sizes,&nbsp;connected through the Surface Dock.&nbsp; Got so annoyed with the issues that I disconnected one of them.</p>
    <p>This is so fun.</p>

  • 1753

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 9:08 am

    <p>I did get the problem of moving from the internal (high dpi) to external dispaly (extended desktop), where the window would appear huge, until the whole window transitions to the external display.</p>
    <p>That said, I just bought a new 34" Dell ultra wide display and I tend to use that as the only display (internal turned off), when docked. Switching between the external and the internal display doesn’t seem to have any scaling issues. Mirroring is another matter, but that is never going to work, if you have different DPI on the two displays.</p>

  • 5234

    25 October, 2016 - 9:12 am

    <p>The problem is: Microsoft can’t decide whether or not to kill off Win32 in favour of UWP, or actually implement new features into the classic API for a change.</p>
    <p>If there is enough demand for the feature, there’s no reason why they can’t do the latter.</p>

    • 1377

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 1:05 pm

      <p><em><a href="#22347">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/Waethorn">Waethorn</a><a href="#22347">:</a></em></p>
      <p>MSFT’s problem is that its enterprise customers account for more than 2/3 of its total revenues and likely an even higher % of its profits, so MSFT can’t afford to annoy those customers. Today those customers depend on Win32 software for most of what they do, so MSFT dropping support for Win32 would force those customers into seeking alternatives to Windows.</p>
      <p>UWP isn’t ready to replace Win32. If it were, where’s the UWP Visual Studio? Or the UWP Office with DCOM add-ins, full VBA and scripting support including UWP equivalents for Win32 system calls, e.g., checking whether a spawned process is still running, full Automation?</p>
      <p>Total annual 3rd party enterprise/workplace software revenues may exceed MSFT’s anual reveunes. If MSFT killed off Win32, which would be the more economical path for such 3rd party developers? Using UWP as it currently exists or moving to macOS and/or Linux? Also, just think what a US$25 million contribution to the wine project could produce, or IBM, SAP or Siemens buying CodeWeavers and making CrossOver a major product? [‘Course if Oracle bought it, it’d effectively die.] These are implausibles as long as MSFT supports Win32, but they become serious threats to MSFT if MSFT were to kill Win32.</p>

  • 7114

    25 October, 2016 - 9:19 am

    <blockquote><em><a href="#22323">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/the_zeni">the_zeni</a><a href="#22323">:</a>&nbsp;It’s not correct that Mac only scales 200%. Retina Macbook Pros can scale to "Retina" mode (strictly 2x) or to "Scaled" mode which gives fractional scaling with no issue at all. Scaling is also really fast and immediate, and with an external display you can have, say, scaled to 200% on your laptop screen and 100% on external screen. Hint: that’s one of the reason why I switched to a Mac</em></blockquote>

    • David Navarrete

      17 August, 2017 - 12:03 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#22349"><em>In reply to zpaolo:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>You're wrong. It is TRUE that macOS only scales at 200%. The scaling you're talking about is a post-rendering scaling.</p><p><br></p><p>When you select one of those "Scaled" resolutions, MacOS still renders everything at 200%, but with a higher (or lower) resolution, and AFTER that it scales the image to fit your display resolution. You can NEVER get a 1:1 pixel-to-display image on a scaled resolution</p><p><br></p><p>Don't believe me? Just go to System Preferences –&gt; Accessibility –&gt;&nbsp;Zoom and enable it. If you zoom, you can clearly see everything is still rendered at 200%, at a higher resolution than your display</p><p><br></p><p>It is fast and reliable because it is just changing the resolution, and NOT the scaling factor. I even use scaled resolutions on my 2012 13" non-retina Macbook Pro when I need more screen area (Try Retina Display Menu, by the way. It let's you Switch to even more resolutions than the ones available on System Preferences</p><p><br></p><p>Of course, Apple only enabled it on the Retina Macs because on a non-retina Mac, a post-rendering scaling looks awful (but it gets the job done, which is good enough for me). Retina Macs have such a high pixel density that scaling looks great on those</p>

  • 5187

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 9:36 am

    <p>It’s also terrible with Remote Desktop.&nbsp; Just about completely unusable connecting to remote sessions like servers and&nbsp;VMs&nbsp;with a Surface or other laptop with a High-Def display.&nbsp; No problem with Windows 8.1 or 7 so I blame Windows 10.</p>

    • 5234

      25 October, 2016 - 9:41 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22352">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/rejohnson">rejohnson</a><a href="#22352">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>A lot can be blamed on Windows 10 lately.</p>
      <p>I can only imagine what next year’s double upgrades will be like. &nbsp;2 AU-like disasters in a single year? &nbsp;Care to place your bets? &nbsp;I’m calling it early: we’ll see more customer revolts in 2017.</p>

  • 7112

    25 October, 2016 - 9:39 am

    <p>Instead of wasting *years* on the WinRT/UWP folly, MSFT should have introduced a native Scalable UI Win32 API in Windows 8 and made it backwards compatible with Windows 7. That way ISVs could have switched to it and still have a huge userbase to sell into. Now they’re half-assing stuff into Win32, creating a fragmented HiDPI mess.</p>

  • 1669

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 10:04 am

    <p>Can we end this madness and just get laptops with reasonable resolutions?&nbsp; How many poeople REALLY need a high DPI monitor?&nbsp; How many people actually want it? (Less battery life, scaling issues&nbsp;while docked and undocked).&nbsp;&nbsp;I hate that my Surface Pro 4 has a high DPI so much that I have hacked the driver to allow&nbsp;it to run&nbsp;at 1600 x 1066 with 100% scaling instead of the crazy high (and worthless to me) 2736 x 1824.&nbsp; I am not alone in this desire.&nbsp; The high DPI and scaling issues it causes when docked is the #1 complaint I have heard with companies when they evaluate the Surface Pro 4/Book.</p>

  • 6913

    25 October, 2016 - 10:54 am

    <p>I have this problem using the Surface Book with the Mirosoft Dock and my high DPI Viewsonic monitor. &nbsp;Many times the pc boots up in "narrow" mode (as if using the laptop display even though in the dock), but then changes to "wide" mode once I open and close the top of the pc while still docked.</p>

  • 3229

    25 October, 2016 - 11:09 am

    <p>Fixing this problem is as simple as settiing the displays to extended when they have different dot pitches. I would go so far as to disable mirroring in that case, because mirroring between two displays have that have drastically&nbsp;different dot pitches makes no sense. I never set my secondary display to mirrored; I always have to Windows+P or something to set it to extended.</p>

  • 1377

    Premium Member
    25 October, 2016 - 12:41 pm

    <p>So Macs lead PCs in this area?</p>

  • 5281

    25 October, 2016 - 1:54 pm

    <p>As a high-DPS laptop user and an Android Studio user, I agree the DPI problem is a big one. &nbsp;But it’s not just a Windows issue — every application must be rewritten (sometimes from the ground up) to account for this new "retina" world. &nbsp;That’s apparently going to take a VERY long time. &nbsp;Heck, even my Adobe suite still uses icons &amp; menus designed for 1990’s monitors.</p>
    <p>On a related note, something that I believe Windows SHOULD fix (and ASAP) is keeping track of desktop icon locations during screen resolution changes. &nbsp;Whether you change resolution to fit a projector for your conference presentation or lower your resolution to get more FPS out of your video game, when you return to native resolution your desktop icons are all screwed up. &nbsp;EVERY TIME.</p>
    <p>Yes, explaining it to your wife who doesn’t really care or want to deal with it is an issue. &nbsp;But heck even for me this is unacceptable. &nbsp;And try explaining it to an 8 or 10 year old who thinks they broke the computer every time they leave their video game.</p>
    <p>Oh, and Macs have this same problem. Adobe apps are even harder to read on a 5K iMac.</p>

    • 1513

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 6:32 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22431">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/alf">alf</a><a href="#22431">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <p>This!!! Almost every day, I have to reboot my Surface twice to get the mouse to be scaled properly accross the Pro 4’s display and the external 4K display (100% scaling). So even the OS borks regularly on the scaling issue. </p>

    • 1377

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 8:10 pm

      <p><em><a href="#22431">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/alf">alf</a><a href="#22431">:</a></em></p>
      <p>There are 3rd party utilities for storing and restoring desktop icon positions on desktops with different screen resolutions. Maybe nice if MSFT bundled that into Windows, but not really necessary.</p>

      • 5281

        27 October, 2016 - 12:10 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#22504">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/hrlngrv">hrlngrv</a><a href="#22504">:</a></em></blockquote>
        <p>A lot of things aren’t strictly necessary. For example an accurate estimate for how long a file copy will take.&nbsp; But it’s certainly something an OS SHOULD do.&nbsp; Which third party icon organizer is worth installing?&nbsp; I’ve looked at a couple but they were more trouble than they were worth.</p>
        <p>My solution on Windows 10 at least has been to lean heavily into the new start menu and put as little as possible on my desktop. Unfortunately all my relatives are users who like to save every document to their desktop because otherwise everything "gets lost".&nbsp; {{{shudder}}}</p>

        • 1377

          Premium Member
          28 October, 2016 - 7:12 pm

          <p><em><a href="#23029">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/alf">alf</a><a href="#23029">:</a></em></p>
          <p>I use something called DesktopOK from I haven’t had any problems with it, though it helps that I can read German.</p>

  • 2851

    25 October, 2016 - 1:58 pm

    <p>This is why the WinRT architecture is so important. It fixes things that are inherently wrong with legacy Win32 apps. Not only this sort of thing but also security, power management, portability and touch input. The indifference towards WinRT apps by developers has always left me scratching my head. For years, Microsoft got hammered for poor performance of Windows and security holes so they try and fix it and everyone simply ignores WinRT. These problems were mostly caused by poorly written Win32 apps and the legacy subsystems needed to run them.</p>
    <p>Paul might want to write articles aimed at companies like Adobe asking them why they haven’t shifted to WinRT for their programs rather than asking why Microsoft isn’t fixing display issues that affect 15-year old programs.</p>

    • 1377

      Premium Member
      25 October, 2016 - 7:53 pm

      <p><em><a href="#22432">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/plettza">plettza</a><a href="#22432">:</a></em></p>
      <blockquote><em>indifference towards WinRT apps by developers has always left me scratching my head</em></blockquote>
      <p>It’s not that mysterious. Including phones and PCs, at it’s usage height, there were 5 times more PCs running Windows 7 and older than Windows 8.x PCs, tablets and phones. Further, Windows Phone 8.x and Windows 8.x PCs couldn’t share apps. Finally, PCs running Windows 8.x could run Win32 software, and there were 7 times as many PCs running every Windows version through Windows 8.1 than there were phones running Windows Phone 7.x and 8.x.</p>
      <p>Windows 8.x failed to catch on with PC users, and developers remained where their PC customers were. Adobe, for example, isn’t willing to go out of business switching to WinRT or UWP.</p>
      <p>Also, today UWP can’t do everything Win32 can.</p>

  • 5714

    25 October, 2016 - 4:12 pm

    <p>I gave up on High DPI displays. &nbsp;Instead I got a 4K 40" TV and now I’m Liv’n Large. &nbsp;Games are more fun and immersive, and the extra screen space is like have multiple-montors without all the cables. &nbsp;And TV’s have something monitors do not… a remote, Wifi with builtin apps, and speakers. &nbsp;The remote is nice…monitor butons are TORTURED interfaces to say the least.</p>

  • 7161

    25 October, 2016 - 11:56 pm

    <p>The big problem is very rarely raised, the applications which specifically declare themselves as ‘DPI aware’ in the applications manifest within the .exe resources, when they clearly are not!</p>
    <p>If the developers corrected this simple attribute windows 10 does a great job</p>
    <p>To fix this, you need to add a key to the registry to enable windows to prioritize external manifests and then create .manifest files for each affected application in which you declare DPIaware as false.</p>
    <p>If the developers used high DPI displays, they would understand straight away.</p>

    • 5981

      26 October, 2016 - 1:36 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#22517">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/ddex">ddex</a><a href="#22517">:</a></em></blockquote>
      <blockquote>This is simply not true. If you don’t declare your app as ‘DPI aware’ then Windows will just use a terrible bitmap resampler to upscale your contents. The result is not only visually terrible but can also introduce bugs to do with mouse coordinates.</blockquote>

      • 7161

        26 October, 2016 - 10:25 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#22533">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/TonyB">TonyB</a><a href="#22533">:</a></em></blockquote>
        <p>Windows 10 does an excellent job with the upscaling, I&rsquo;m looking at three examples now on my surface book, and the re-scaling when dragging to my desktop monitor connected by my dock works well.</p>
        <p><br />As an example the latest 64 bit desktop version of vlc declares its self as dpi aware however the play controls are too small they are unusable. clearly the developers did not test this on a high dpi display.</p>
        <p>I&nbsp;have applied the fix I described above and windows does a excellent&nbsp;job of re-scaling the whole app looks crisp and clear.</p>
        <p>I have several daily driver desktop apps with the exact same problem, a mixed bag of windows elements which scale incorrectly because the developer has not tested the app in a high dpi scenario.</p>
        <p>Once the highdpi declaration has been removed all is good.</p>
        <p>This is my experience.</p>

      • David Navarrete

        17 August, 2017 - 11:49 am

        <blockquote><a href="#22533"><em>In reply to TonyB:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I think the real problema is that most computers have screens with pixel-densities for 125% or 150%</p><p><br></p><p>I have a Macbook. MacOS has only 100% or 200%, so Apple literally doubled the pixel density on their displays. I still have the same work-space as the previous, Non-Retina, model</p><p><br></p><p>When I use Windows 10, of course I use it at 200%. When I use a legacy App that does not support HDPI, it just shows at the regular size, with each pixel being 2×2 on the display (the real problem is that you no longer can disable sub-pixel anti-aliasing on Windows). It doesn't look as good as HDPI-compatible Apps, but it still looks crisp instead of blurry. It also doesn't break mouse coordinates as it is an integer scale factor</p>

  • 5530

    26 October, 2016 - 12:05 am

    <p>if it took so much to just get Notepad, f*cking Notepad, to work well with HiDPI displays, then is it any wonder than developers are having a difficult time with thier often more complex apps?&nbsp;Heck even WPF apps need to deal with this rubbish, and WPF was supposed to be the thing that would work well in these scenarios!</p>

  • 459

    Premium Member
    27 October, 2016 - 5:47 am

    <p>I wanted to install my old copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5 on my new Surface Pro 4 (ran out of installs for Photoshop CC) and, of course, at full resolution it was completely unusable. I stumbled onto this site that gave a simple registry hack that fixed the problem in 2 minutes.</p>
    <p>It appears that Windows polls an app before it runs asking if it is HiDpi compliant or not. Depending on the response Windows handles the scaling. Old copies of Photoshop apparently lie and say they are HiDpi aware when they are truly not. This registry hack will tell Windows to ignore that answer and handle the scaling properly.</p>
    <p>Photoshop CS5 works fine on my Surface Pro 4 now at full 2736×1824 resolution. I haven’t tried it, but this may work for other legacy apps as well.</p>
    <p>See the fix here: <a href=""></a></p&gt;

  • 514

    13 November, 2016 - 3:57 pm

    <p>My only current issue with the high dpi problem is with the Chrome browser (latest version 54, and every version before) on a Samsung ATIV Book 9+ — 3200×1800); no external monitor — just the laptop on Windows 8.1.&nbsp; The scaling of the non-client areas of Chrome (tabs, menus, favorites, etc) is abominable.&nbsp; There are many suggestions in the community bulletin boards — none of which work conclusively, and most are rather obscure.&nbsp; I’ve got something that marginally works, but it sure is ugly, and it runs the risk of breaking whenever Google releases a new version.</p>
    <p>On my W10 machines (most of them these days) I decided to grit my teeth and stick with Edge.&nbsp;Chrome is not installed on these machines — so I have no idea whether things&nbsp;would be any better under W10. &nbsp;Right now on the anniversary update Edge is good not great (with the LastPass &amp; Pocket extensions), and there are NO high dpi issues.&nbsp;</p>
    <p>I’ve been harping on this issue at the past few Build conferences with the MS display guys.&nbsp; They’ve got a real problem going back to the original GDI design.&nbsp; At first they said it couldn’t be fixed, then gradually they’ve added some "improvements" that give you some "manual" control, but as you say not much help when you have two or more display devices with widely varying resolutions.&nbsp; I can’t see any automatic way of fixing this for legacy apps short of putting code in those apps to detect the resolution of the device the app is running on, and (more difficultly) detect when the app is moved among screens each with different resolutions.&nbsp;</p>
    <p>The legacy app universe (the win32 API and all its minions)&nbsp;is in stasis — very few developers are going to do much with these.&nbsp; They are certainly not going to convert them to UWP — there’s no economic justification for that.&nbsp; What happens with legacy LOB apps is also problematical.</p>

  • 7849

    01 December, 2016 - 3:55 pm

    <p>I’m a moderately savvy user, but I discovered that this problem plagues people vastly more knowledgeable than myself. It’s really one of those things that makes one think Windows in not a proper operating system. If Windows does not take care of that, what good is it at ?</p>
    <p>My own predicament is much more trivial than the one explained here. I’m under Windows 7, with a single desktop PC, and one display that I would have thought is fairly standard and not especially "high DPI" : 24",&nbsp; 1920 x 1200. I have set Windows display at 150 % (because anything less is too small), and I’ve checked XP Style DPI Scaling, in order to prevent some legacy software to appear fuzzy.</p>
    <p>I keep stumbling upon software that’s unusable because their UI are way too small. Sometimes it’s only icons, sometimes it’s also interface fonts, sometimes text is partly cropped out of menus or whatever.</p>
    <p>No tinkering with Windows display settings can produce a usable UI, and the software’s own Preferences menu don’t offer any solution either. Inquiries to publishers are generally ignored. There are several otherwise good programs I have given up on using because of this.</p>
    <p>I stopped thinking my own unsufficient geekiness was to blame when I read those posts :</p>
    <p>Notice they are from 2011 and 2012. Still not solved in Windows 7, and now the problem crops up again in Windows 10. Why do we have new versions of Windows, again ?</p>

    • John Scott

      22 March, 2017 - 8:14 am

      <blockquote><a href="#28225"><em>In reply to Clairvaux:</em></a><em> No it's more of a mess then it should be given how quickly smaller HD screens and high DPI have come into play in hardware. This was understandable in Windows 7 given its development way back before we even had many high resolution desktop monitors. But not Windows 10 or even 8 and because its still a problem for Microsoft its also a bigger problem for older software. Yea, I'm still trying to figure out why I upgraded to Windows 10. The fixes I wanted never happened and all I got was more stuff I never wanted. </em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • John Scott

    22 March, 2017 - 7:59 am

    <p>Didn't realize high DPI was such an issue until I bought my first HD notebook. What a wake up to a world of cobbled togetherness which never showed its face on my 24" desktop with 100% DPI. I thought by now Microsoft would have gotten its stuff together on high DPI given that its Surface line has matured enough to have required good DPI support. When even some basic Windows 10 OS menu's still look blurry in higher DPI settings. This is disturbing given the maturity of Windows 10. I have to wonder now how long it will take if something as simple and basic as One Note takes so long to work correctly. I agree with Mac users, what Apple did to support retina displays with its native apps and OS was the right path to take. Everything looks great and was ready when hardware was ready. Microsoft should have had this fixed by Windows 8.1 and some in fact think Windows 8.1 did high DPI better than Windows 10. I tend to agree with them. </p>


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