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Configuring the Monitor

Windows lets you get the most out of your display hardware with these settings:

Screen resolution is the amount (fineness) of detail in your screen’s image, expressed in pixels wide by pixels high. (A pixel is the smallest building block of the display.) Conventional screens have resolutions of 640 × 480 (largely useless except in emergencies), 800 × 600, 1024 × 768, and 1152 × 864. High-end “cinema” monitors support much higher resolutions.

Color quality ranges from 16 ugly colors for archaic Standard VGA to 4 billion colors (32 bits per pixel) for the best monitors and video cards. The number of colors available correlates to your resolution setting—most video cards display fewer colors at higher resolutions—so you may have to reduce resolution to get higher color quality. The available resolution and color choices adjust automatically. If your digital photos look blotchy, increase color quality.

Refresh rate is the frequency at which the screen is redrawn to maintain a steady image. Higher refresh rates yield less flicker. A refresh rate below 72 hertz, or 72 times per second, can tire your eyes if you look at the screen too long.

Color matching ensures that colors are represented accurately and consistently across color printers, scanners, cameras, monitors, and programs. Without color management onscreen and printed colors can vary greatly: Orange can appear brown, green can appear blue, and so on. Graphic designers love color matching because it does away with trial and error in resolving color differences. Color matching requires a separate color profile (.icm file) for each device connected to your computer. This profile conveys the device’s color characteristics to the color management system every time colors are scanned, displayed, or printed.

ClearType

ClearType is Microsoft’s font-smoothing technology that makes words appear sharper on laptop and LCD screens. (Don’t use ClearType on a normal desktop CRT monitor—it actually will make text blurrier.) Turn it on to see if you like the change in font resolution:

1.
Choose Start > Control Panel > Display > Appearance tab > Effects button > check Use the Following Method to Smooth Edges of Screen Fonts.

2.
Select ClearType in the drop-down list.

3.
Click OK in each open dialog box.

More information about ClearType is at www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartype. Download the ClearType Tuner utility, and use it to fine-tune ClearType to your preferences.


✓ Tips

  • Changing these settings affects all users who log on to your computer.

  • Don’t always choose the maximum resolution available. If you spend most of your time typing memos or reading email, you may find that medium resolution reduces eyestrain. For general use try 800 × 600 on a 15-inch monitor, 1024 × 768 on a 17-inch monitor, or 1152 × 864 on a 19-inch monitor.

  • Flat-panel screen (laptop or desktop) images may look fuzzy at less-than-maximum resolutions.

  • Video-card memory largely determines the maximum resolution and color quality that you can use. To see how much video memory you have, choose Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Display > Settings tab > Advanced > Adapter tab > Adapter Information section (Figure 4.24).

    Figure 4.24. Better video cards have 64 MB or more of memory—overkill for word processing and email but barely enough for gaming and digital video. Some high-end video cards add extra tabs to the Display dialog box, as shown here.

  • To adjust the monitor for vision impairments, see “Accommodating Disabled Users” later in this chapter.

  • For notes on installing and configuring peripherals, see Chapter 8.


To set screen resolution and color quality

1.
Choose Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Display > Settings tab (Figure 4.25).

Figure 4.25. Increasing the number of pixels displays more information on your screen, but icons and text get smaller.


or

Right-click an empty area on the desktop; then choose Properties > Settings tab.

2.
Drag the Screen Resolution slider to set the display size.

3.
From the Color Quality drop-down list, choose the number of colors.

Choose 16-bit or higher color, or photographic images will appear grainy (dithered).

4.
Click Apply.

5.
If Windows asks you to confirm settings, click OK.

Your screen turns black briefly and refreshes with the new settings.

6.
After your settings change, you have 15 seconds to accept the changes (Figure 4.26).

Figure 4.26. If your new screen settings look good, click Yes; otherwise, click No or just wait to revert to your previous settings.


✓ Tips

  • If you have more than one monitor (driven by multiple video cards or by a single card that supports multiple monitors), the Settings tab displays a monitor icon for each monitor. Click a monitor icon to activate it before choosing its resolution and color settings.

  • If you need a 256-color display to run an old DOS game or program, don’t set your entire system to 256 colors even if it’s available. Instead, use the Compatibility feature; see “Running Older Programs” in Chapter 6.

  • Click the Troubleshoot button to start Display Troubleshooter, which helps you resolve flicker, installation, video, multiple-monitor, resolution, and other problems.

  • The Advanced button lets you view the hardware properties of your monitor and video card. You can adjust some settings, but you usually don’t need to unless you’re installing a new driver, setting color matching, or changing the refresh rate.


To set the refresh rate

1.
Choose Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Display > Settings tab > Advanced > Monitor tab (Figure 4.27).

Figure 4.27. To reduce eyestrain, choose the highest refresh rate that your monitor and video card support, but check the documentation or the manufacturer’s web site to find out what the hardware will accept.


or

Right-click an empty area on the desktop; then choose Properties > Monitor tab.

2.
If you have multiple monitors, in the Monitor Type section, select the monitor that you’re working with currently.

3.
In the Monitor Settings section, choose a refresh rate from the drop-down list.

4.
Click Apply.

5.
If Windows asks you to confirm settings, click OK.

Your screen turns black briefly.

6.
After your refresh rate changes, you have 15 seconds to accept the change (refer to Figure 4.26).

✓ Tip

  • Don’t uncheck Hide Modes That This Monitor Cannot Display to choose a higher refresh rate. A refresh rate that exceeds the capabilities of your monitor or video card can distort images and damage hardware.


To manage color profiles

1.
Choose Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Display > Settings tab > Advanced > Color Management tab (Figure 4.28).

Figure 4.28. The Color Profiles list shows all color profiles associated with the current monitor and video card (none, in this case, which is fine for everyday use).


or

Right-click an empty area on the desktop; then choose Properties > Color Management tab.

2.
To add a color profile, click Add; then use the Add Profile Association dialog box to select a color profile to associate with the current monitor (Figure 4.29).

Figure 4.29. Color profiles installed with a monitor and video card are stored in the \Windows\System32\Spool\Drivers\Color folder. (\Windows is named \WINNT on some systems.)


or

To remove a profile, select it; then click Remove.

or

To set a profile as the default for the current monitor, select it; then click Set As Default.

3.
Click OK in each open dialog box.

✓ Tips

  • I’ve only touched on color management here. To learn more, search for color management in Windows Help and Support Center.

  • Right-click a color profile (.icm file) in Windows Explorer to install it or associate it with a device.


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