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Screen Magnifiers: Who and How They Help

Jul 24, 2017

Being able to comfortably see the words on your computer screen is important. If you're dealing with reduced vision, you might have a hard time reading text and seeing images clearly. Even if you use a large monitor, some regular website text is too small for those with impaired eyesight to comfortably read.

A screen magnifier is a software application that increases the size of text and graphics on your computer screen. When installed on your computer, a screen magnifier is like having a magnifying glass hovering over your screen, enlarging everything around your cursor for easy reading. You can use the mouse or keyboard shortcuts to position your cursor where you want to increase the text or image size for better visibility. Or you can set a preset speed for the screen magnifier to move the cursor automatically across and down a page.

The Benefits of a Screen Magnifier

A basic screen magnifier can enlarge text, icons, and graphics up to 20 times their original size. Let's say you're typing an email to a customer or business associate. A screen magnifier enlarges the words as you type them to make it easier to read. Whether you're typing characters, using keyboard shortcuts, or moving your cursor, the screen magnifier switches views to keep up with what you're doing and where on the screen you're focused.

It can be difficult to find the cursor on a busy computer screen. A screen magnifier can enlarge and enhance your cursor so you can more easily track where you are on the page.

Mac and Windows Compatibility

Both Mac and Windows operating systems have built-in screen magnifiers. The Windows system includes the "Magnifier" app that integrates with your mouse button to make it easy to enlarge. Mac's built-in screen magnifying system is accessible by keyboard shortcuts or scrolling with a mouse or trackpad. Apple's iOS devices have screen magnification built-in as well.

Screen Magnifier Features

In addition to enlarging areas of your display, screen magnifiers can also emphasize an area on your screen with color and shading for those who easily lose their place. You can also customize your cursor to make it easier to locate on your screen, such as circling it to make it more visible.

Text can appear blocky and hard to read when enlarged, but a screen magnifier application smooths the edges and makes it readable. A screen magnifier application offers the ability to invert the colors on your screen from black-on-white to white-on-black, which can reduce glare and is helpful for those suffering from macular degeneration.

You can also choose from different magnification modes. For example, you can magnify the entire screen, or use a fixed position that enlarges sections as you scroll through. Or you can use the standard magnifying lens that follows your cursor around the page.

Evaluating Screen Magnifier Programs

The American Foundation for the Blind details the following questions to ask yourself before purchasing a screen magnification system:

  • Is the magnification software compatible with your computer’s operating system?
  • Does it include cursor enhancements?
  • What is the highest magnification level?
  • Is screen reading software included?
  • Does it allow for inverted colors?


Because vision ability differs widely from one person to the next, a screen magnifier gives you options. You can customize what to magnify, highlight, and sharpen on your computer screen. When you install a screen magnifier application on your computer, spend some time optimizing the various settings to get the right screen size and clarity for your needs. Once you set it, though, these settings are available every time you're on your computer.

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