A resolution to keep? Or a resolution to end?

For many, many years, I have enjoyed my screen resolution the way it is, which is 800 by 600. I'm one of those people who can get by without reading glasses, but if I change the settings to the next highest level (1024 x 768), reading text (I'm using a Dell 17 19" LCD monitor) becomes uncomfortable. I can still read it, but I have to hold back my head and squint.

So what's the big deal? No one is forcing me to change anything, right?

Wrong. Not only do a growing number of software programs (especially video editing) refuse to work at all in 800 x 600, but a growing number of blogs (more and more all the time, it seems) force me to scroll from left to right in order to view the entire page. It makes for uncomfortable reading, and often makes it impossible to see a paragraph in its entirety. Worse, some blogs have advertising and sidebars which are in conflict with the lower resolution, causing untold amounts of garbage to be overlaid on what I want to read.

As if that's not enough, the latest phenomenon consists of annoying popup advertisements which cannot be closed, no matter what I do, because there is no little "X" box for me to click. Even if I scroll it will not appear, because it is rendered beyond the resolution. Which means that if I really, really wanted to read that bloody blog post (trust me, that sometimes happens), I have to close the browser, go to my screen settings, change it to 1024 x 768, then reopen the post, read it, then go back and reset the damned settings!

I realize this is a very petty annoyance, but I find myself wondering not only whether I am alone, but whether there is a growing, um, "conspiracy" to force people like me to change their screen resolution. I don't mean to be facetious, as am quite serious. Web designers seem condescending at best, and intolerant at worst. But even if they grudgingly "allow" 800 by 600, what about those ghastly individuals who design deliberately sadistic popups that cannot be closed?

(I try to be reasonable and I'm willing to scroll left and right to read a post, but sorry, there is something about having to change my resolution simply to close a popup that is so beneath my dignity as to be degrading.) 

If you think I am exaggerating about the condescending attitude, think again. An older geek discussion titled "What about the 800 x 600 resolution people?" sounds almost Culture Warrish... A more recent discussion noted that  "more than a handful of developers at GAWDS feel that 800×600 support is a bit out-dated and no longer needed as it once was", yet advocated keeping 800 x 600 support for the stubbornly backward handful. Another geek post titled "Is it time to ignore 800 by 600 resolution yet? seems to gloat with anticipation of the final demise of 800 by 600. Ditto this Wordpress geek forum: "Do we really care about 800x600 people?" Another site notes sourly that "the 800x600 screen resolution just refuses to die." You'd almost think that these avaricious web developers think people who like 800x600 are some kind of assholes who are holding back progress. 

Why might that be? Who benefits? It's like, I really don't think I am doing anything wrong here; I only want to be allowed to continue to do what I have done for at least as long as I have been blogging, which is to enjoy my computer's screen resolution in the privacy of my own home. I only want to be able to easily read text that other people have written. Is that really so bad? Am I asking too much of the damned world?  

Or is it time for me to consider a New Year's resolution to end my favorite resolution?

The problem is, I'd like to be able to have my resolution and keep it too...

AFTERTHOUGHT: As an experiment in self torture, I just now changed my resolution to 1024 x 768, and it is so annoying I can't wait to change it back.

So much for that resolution.

posted by Eric on 12.30.10 at 10:32 AM


You could use larger fonts on 1024x768, that helps with reading text. I typically set the resolution to the max my laptop LCD supports and then change the font to make it readable, because I dislike the blurring due to using lower than the best resolution.

MetaThought   ·  December 30, 2010 11:34 AM

I have tried precisely that. The trouble is that when I enlarge the fonts, they are not the same. They get skinnier and harder to read. The default character -- size and dimensions -- rendered in 800x600 is perfect for me, and in 1024x768 the default looks normal but small. But when I either change it in the settings or use the zoom feature in the browser, it changes and looks wrong.

It seems to me that if I wanted to enjoy 1024x768 in its normal settings without eye fatigue or abnormal-looking characters, I would have to buy a larger monitor.

Eric Scheie   ·  December 30, 2010 11:46 AM

Not everyone likes it, but have you tried enabling cleartype ?


MetaThought   ·  December 30, 2010 12:18 PM

I'm a web developer, I take web designer product and tie it to data and code. There are always 3 factors being balanced:
1) more space = more content = more money
2) fluid-width layouts are time consuming to develop and support
3) There is a long-tail of browsers and sizes, but it is not cost-effective to support anything with

You may consider using the mobile site, if provided. You can set your browser user-agent to spoof that it is a mobile device, and some websites will redirect you to the mobile site, which will be optimized for small space (like the iphone and droid browsers), which is 480px. As a bonus they usually use fewer images, no pop-overs, et cetera and may re-size to 800 in a usable manner.

hoof_in_mouth   ·  December 30, 2010 12:34 PM

You need a larger monitor - getting a cheap 24+ inch monitor means you can use a higher resolution but get the same larger size you're used to.

Michael Heinz   ·  December 30, 2010 12:53 PM

You are absolutely correct about a larger monitor fixing things.

What matters most for readability in this context is the physical size of the pixels; 800x600 on a 17" monitor gives you comparatively giant pixels.

So would, eg. 1280x720 on a 24" monitor (since it's nearly impossible to get a 4:3 monitor these days, but trivial to get a 16:9 one).

(Also, if you have an LCD monitor that's capable of 1024x768 and you're using 800x600 that's probably killing sharpness. They don't like to scale the way CRTs did.

Likewise, it's also very hard to get a large monitor that ONLY does 1280x720 or so; they're almost all natively 1920x1080 or larger.)

[As a programmer, I have to side with the web designers; the data I could find quickly suggests that 1 or 2 percent of people are using an 800x600 display, and 76% are using larger than 1024x768 - and the numbers are just going to keep dropping.

Phones have higher resolutions than 800x600 these days.

800x600 is horribly limiting, and the fraction of users who require it is only going to decrease.

Designers have limited resources, and thus dropping Very Small Display support is the reasonable outcome.]

(You could also try configuring the browser to pretend to be a "mobile" browser, which should get you content optimized for a tiny screen, if any exists.)

Sigivald   ·  December 30, 2010 1:27 PM

Sorry, there. I am not using a 17 inch monitor. It's 19 inches! But for me it's perfect with 800 x 600, the larger resolution making the print too small.

Eric Scheie   ·  December 30, 2010 2:07 PM

I run my 19" monitor at 1280x1024, but I use NoSquint for Firefox that remembers a custom zoom level for each site. Ctrl + the scroll wheel zooms the text size.

On your site I have the page zoomed to 160%. For the most part properly designed websites remember their boundaries and just reshuffle the words around so no need to move the page back and forth.

guy   ·  December 30, 2010 5:01 PM

Those web designers forget that even a lot of us who run wider screens don't run (or want to run) our browsers full-screen. My site is a kind of compromise - it runs over 800 (but not by that much) and anyone on 800 will only have to scroll over if they want to see the sidebar.

I actually find very wide sites very annoying - it's much easier to read if you don't have to drag your eyes across the whole blooming screen for each sentence.

Umm - and get a popup blocker. Anyone who puts popup ads on websites deserves to be ignored.

Kathy Kinsley   ·  December 30, 2010 6:17 PM

Highly recommend Firefox for easy adjustment of viewing. I have a 22" LCD monitor (very cheap these days) and use the embedded Zoom feature to enlarge your site, and it also remembers the setting for each site you choose to adjust this way.

For ad control, try Adblock Plus and NoScript for simpler web viewing!

Atomic   ·  January 1, 2011 10:28 PM

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