How to Change Your Windows Display Settings

Q  The little buttons in the upper right corner of each window are so small that I can’t
see them very well, and I’m always hitting the wrong one. Is there a way to make them bigger?

— B. P.

A  Absolutely! In fact, you have more control over the appearance of your Windows
environment than you probably ever suspected. The quickest way to get to your display settings is to
right click over an area of your desktop that does not
have any icons. Select Properties from the pop-up
menu that appears. Windows then displays the
Display Properties dialog box. You can also get to this
dialog box by selecting Display in the Control Panel.

The Display Properties dialog box lets you
control most of the color and font characteristics of the
Windows user interface. There are so many options
that Microsoft had to break them up into separate tabs
to organize them. The Background tab controls the
pattern and wallpaper you use. The Screen Saver
tab lets you select and configure a screen saver. The
Appearance tab controls your color scheme and
window font attributes. The Settings tab lets you
control video driver properties like the depth of your
color palette and your screen resolution. You also
may have an Effects or Plus! tab that gives you access to
a few additional visual settings.

To change your window control icons, you click
on the Appearance tab. This tab shows you sample
windows that display the currently selected color scheme. You can experiment with your settings
and use the samples to get an idea of how your
changes will look before you commit them to your
desktop. You can also click on the various elements in
the samples to indicate which Item you want to

For example, clicking on the Close button (the
one with the "X") of a sample window sets the
currently selected Item to Caption Buttons. You can
then change the size of the caption buttons by typing in
a new Size number or by clicking the little
up/down buttons next to the number. Adjust the caption
button size up and down until the sample windows
look right to you. Then click the OK button to save
the change. Your windows should now have the
larger control buttons you wanted, and you can always
go back and change them again if you aren’t satisfied.

The Settings tab has another control that can
have a big impact on the usability of your computer:
the Desktop Area control. Your computer displays
information for you in a grid of discrete dots called
pixels. The Desktop Area control adjusts how many
pixels Windows crams into the physical space of your
monitor. Your range of choices depends upon your
monitor and the video driver software that is installed
on your computer.

Today’s monitors frequently support settings of 1024 by 768 or higher. Setting your Desktop Area
to the highest settings possible seems like a good
idea because you can then fit much more information
on the screen. However, the bigger you make your
desktop area, the smaller your icons and text become.
I call this the Chihuahua effect: A Saint Bernard
at 640 by 480 becomes a Chihuahua at 1024 by 768.

Your best bet is to match the Desktop Area to
the physical size of your monitor. I usually
recommend the following settings for people with
good vision: For a 14" monitor, use 640 by 480; 15" monitor, 800
by 600; 17" monitor, 1024 by 768; 19" monitor,
1152 by 864; and for you lucky folks with a 21"
monitor, 1280 by 1024. Everyone is different, so you
should feel free to adjust your desktop area until it feels
right for you.