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I find it odd that in the year 2015, there is still a problem with operating systems not dealing correctly with higher DPI values. So if the resolution is high for the same screen size, all fonts, icons, panels, windows etc. will be relatively too small, and sometimes just tiny.

It seems that there may be a partial solution for that in Unity, but I am using the Mate desktop. Is there a way to just scale everything up so it is bigger - fonts, icons, panels etc?

My resolution is 2880x1620 on a 15 inch monitor and everything is so tiny it is completely impossible to use. I could decrease the screen resolution, but the alternative, lower resolution lead to different aspect ratios, thus distorting everything. It also seems wrong to lower the resolution just to fix this, instead of the OS scaling the size up at the higher resolution, which should show better, more crisp graphics and fonts.

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  • From another AU question, I think it may not be possible right now. Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 23:15

5 Answers 5

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For the MATE desktop, I finally found a solution. It is well hidden and hard to find, I think.

  1. Right-click on the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background OR: choose System -> Preferences -> Appearance.
  2. Choose the Fonts tab.
  3. Click the Details button.
  4. On the top of the dialog there is a Resolution entry field where you can enter or increase the DPI setting. Setting this to the true DPI of the display scales up everything too much, but with a little tinkering it is possible to find a good value.

Update 1: Under Gnome3, it is also possible to rescale the fonts by specifying a scaling factor in the gnome-tweak-tool. The gnome-tweak-tool also has a scaling factor for windows, but this only allows to specify integer value! So 1 is tiny and 2 is way too big!

Update 2: Cinnamon seems to be the only desktop manager which provides support for HiDPI out of the box! Everything is nicely scaled right from the start. Unfortunately, I had frequent problems with the display locking up or becoming unresponsive, so either it is not stable yet or it has issues with my specific hardware or configuration. But what Cinnamon has achieved is exactly what I would have expected for Unity, Gnome3, or KDE to do!

Update 3: Situation is even worse with a dual monitor setup: With Gnome3, the window manager that is the best compromise between stability and HiDPI support so far, dual monitor setup does not work at all: the login screen gets shown on both monitors, but as soon as I log into Gnome3, both screen flicker endlessly between a black screen and a switched off screen. If I unplug the second monitor everything is fine again. Under Unity the dual monitor setup works, but the scaling does not: windows on the second, lower resolution monitor are now too big, fonts are huge etc.

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  • Thank you very much! This was very helpful!
    – ZeroCool
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 21:19
  • On my MATE USB bootdisk, only the fonts get larger, but the icons are still very small ;)
    – Tomofumi
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 5:16
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You could turn on Accessibility features, and also under display settings increase the scale size (I know this is an option in Unity, not sure if it is with MATE)

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    Not an option in Mate, unfortunately. TBH what I do not understand about that whole issue, is that the font and icon and window sizes are not the same from the start, no matter what the DPI or resolution. This is simple maths really: given the screen size and resolution or the DPI, it is trivial to figure out how to make something display in 10pt or 2cm. Why is this not happening? Or at least, why is it not possible to at least configure this by, e.g. entering the size of the screen or the concrete DPI value?
    – jpp1
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 16:57
  • Just too complicated for the devs. If you want it to be bigger, you should have accessibility options somewhere, and if not, you should be able to install them from the Ubuntu Software Center (USC)
    – Daniel
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 20:49
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    have you ever tried to use your mouse to maximize, minimize or resize a window with Ubuntu Mate, XFCE, KDE etc. when the screen resolution is 230dpi? The area where the window reacts to resizing is just a few pixels so a few 1/100s of an inch! The argument that to make this work properly is too complicated sounds really absurd: how to scale graphics to a given resolution is graphics 101. The Mate desktop does have a way to scale fonts to the DPI of the screen, but does not scale anything else, so window decorations, the panel, or the border are still way too tiny.
    – jpp1
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 11:18
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Also the (bottom) panel (and its icons) can be enlarged by right-clicking on it and selecting 'properties' / Size (be sure 'Expand' is checked) and as you increase the settings, immediate results can be seen seen.

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In case you need increase buttons size (min, max close) you can read my last anwser in:
https://ubuntu-mate.community/t/can-i-change-the-minimise-maximise-and-close-window-button-size/16508/19

In resume, you can get Ambiant theme with bigger icons, the "new" theme is called Ambiant Laptopv02

You can download ⬇ here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MjiVNCM5vJyDmaevdkQC42Wr_d0v4DBp/view?usp=sharing. Uncompress the file and copy to ~/.themes directory (create the directory if not exist)

Explanation, in case you want to replicate is in:
https://ubuntu-mate.community/t/can-i-change-the-minimise-maximise-and-close-window-button-size/16508/18

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Fix it by changing:

Control center → Mate tweak → Windows → HIDpi

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