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The HTML font size in a page's encoding can get in the way of things like "view larger". There are ways to bypass this bad HTML font size setting.

My eyes being what they are, I find reading a larger font size on web pages much more enjoyable than what looks like size 8 on some of them. In Outlook if I click on "View" and then "Text Size", sometimes I can enlarge the text. Other times it doesn't change. Once upon a time someone told me the problem was with the programmers that constructed the page. True? If so, is there anything that could be done to help (minus of course the magnify procedures/software)?

That someone is correct. It's quite possible, and unfortunately quite common, to author a web page or parts of a web page in such a way that it ignores the "View", "Text-Size" option in Internet Explorer (and by extension, I believe Outlook and Outlook Express).

Why would a web page designer do that? Typically doing so solves a couple of problems and makes it easier to make sure that web page is laid out and displayed properly.

But there are still several ways around the problem.

If you're running Internet Explorer version 6 and change the text size, the text on this page likely won't change. For various reasons, pages here on Ask Leo! are encoded to a specific text size. Unfortunately, that's a problem for some people - even I have troubles sometimes, and my eyesight is quite normal for my age. (And I'll admit that I shouldn't be doing it, for exactly those reasons.)

There are several work arounds:

Use Firefox: Firefox's Text Size function does "the right thing", and scales or reduces all the text, regardless of how it's encoded. Have a look at this page in FireFox, and note how you can resize it.

Consider IE7: I'm not recommending this at this time, since IE7 is still in Beta. However I have heard that it currently has a "zoom"-like feature that acts as a magnifier on an entire web page, not just the text. Remember, though, that it's currently in Beta and the feature set may change before release.

Change your System: The font displayed in your browser is relative to something called the DPI, or "Dots Per Inch" setting for your display. One way to make everything larger on your machine is to increase the DPI settings. That's covered in this article: How can I make the text on my screen larger?.

Now, you mentioned Outlook, and I'm not sure if that was on purpose or not. Outlook, and Outlook Express are email programs, while Internet Explorer is your web browser, and what we've been talking about so far.

"...HTML formatted email can also be written to restrict your ability to change the text size, just like a web page."

However, intentional or not, it's good that you mention it, because Outlook (and Outlook Express) suffer the same problem. Why? Because they use the same "engine" as Internet Explorer when they display HTML formatted email.

And of course HTML formatted email can also be written to restrict your ability to change the text size, just like a web page.

And the solutions are similar:

Use Thunderbird for email: Thunderbird's Text Size function does "the right thing", and scales or reduces all the text, regardless of how it's encoded. Other email clients may also handle this properly.

Consider newer versions of Outlook or Outlook Express: again, I'm not recommending this at this time, since if they're available at all, they're only in Beta and the feature set is not cast in concrete. I also don't know if installing IE7 will affect existing versions of Outlook or Outlook Express.

Change your System: as above, this works because it changes the text size for your entire system, no mater what program you're running.

The last suggestion is one that I tend to avoid, but I'll throw it out on the table: even though your display may be capable of 1200x1024 resolution doesn't mean you have to use it. Selecting a lower resolution, say 1024x768, will make everything appear bigger as that resolution takes up the same physical space that the 1200x1024 did. Now, the downside here is that things can start to look less sharp - particularly if you're using an LCD display. That's typically why I recommend playing with the DPI settings instead.

Article C2732 - July 24, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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11 Comments
Ken
July 25, 2006 1:20 PM

You forgot another possibility... Some websites use images, rather than text, for some parts of their pages. (Try selecting the text. If you can't, it may be because it's not really text.) No amount of "use a larger font" will have any effect on such sites.

Some browsers, such as Opera, allow you to magnify everything on the page, including images.

Michael Horowitz
July 26, 2006 10:09 AM

There is another way to tweak IE6. Try
Tools -> Options -> General Tab (default) -> Accesssibility button. There is a checkbox to ignore the font sizes specified in web pages.

Judy T.
July 29, 2006 6:24 AM

In Firefox and IE, you can zoom with your mouse wheel. Just hold CTRL key down and wheel away. You can also use in MS Word to zoom the document itself. I read this at http://www.urbansurvival.com/cpuset.htm#changerefresh - 3/20/06. (This info is towards the bottom of the page.)

Ross
July 29, 2006 7:01 AM

A big "Thank You" to Judy T. for that tip which will save me a lot of clicking. Is there as easy way to get back to the original size?

Spencer
August 2, 2006 2:39 AM

CTRL + wheel does not enlarge fixed-size text when using IE.

Using Opera, resizing text could not be easier. Simply clicking the + key on the 10-key pad will instantly enlarge everything on the screen about 10% per click, including small fixed-size text.

To return to normal size, simply click the * key on the 10-key pad.

Igor
March 17, 2007 2:16 PM

Re your column about html type sizes. I am using IE 7, and it is well out of Beta. You might want to update this answer. I have also found that it is a snap to increase (or decrease) the size of the type face.

gman
May 23, 2007 10:41 AM

I'm sorry but your blog really sucks on this subject. Changing DPI is NOT acceptable in my situation. It's up to people like you to change your bad html coding habits, just as much as it's up to the visitor to find ways around such a lack of consideration.

Joe B.
May 6, 2008 10:45 AM

Thanks to Michael H. This setting works not only for IE6, but also Outlook 2003 where it bothered me the most. I am bound to both apps & versions at work ( not my choice / standard build ). I know this thanks is aobut 2 years late. I found this article via Google. My search was "magnify outlook html". Hope those keywords help someone else.

Joe B
May 29, 2008 10:33 AM

>> Thanks to Michael H. This setting works not
>> only for IE6, but also Outlook 2003 where it
>> bothered me the most.

Arrrgg - This setting now breaks the ability to specify a font size on emails I compose in HTML format!!! The only way I can send formatted emails to my customer ( who uses Lotus Notes ) is to use HTML messages. If I send Rich Text messages, they are converted to plain text. Once I "Ignore Font Sizes" -- Outlook TOTATLY Ignored font sizes in HTML mail, INCLUDING mail I compose!!!

So - something I tought I loved just came with a bad aftertaste.

peter
June 16, 2008 12:01 PM

thanks leo for this article , i was looking for some information and your website was a wonderful resource for these informations.thank you again leo.

http://www.fosdir.com

serf
March 18, 2009 1:51 AM

Of a sudden the text overlaps each line of type making the page difficult to read. There is no space between lines.This happens on a lot of pages but not on all. What gives?

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