AbilityNet Factsheet - October 2020

Screen Magnification

Screen magnification is invaluable for people with visual impairments. Screen Magnification acts like an electronic magnifying glass for your computer, tablet, or smartphone. This factsheet gives an overview of the main screen magnifiers. It includes summary information about the in-built screen magnification available on most devices and some free and commercial options that may include additional features.

Last updated: October 2020

1. What is screen magnification?

For people who have impaired vision but still have some sight, a screen magnifier can help them to access and interact with digital content such as websites or documents. Screen magnification works by zooming in on the whole screen or sections of a screen as if you are looking through a magnifying glass. Some magnification packages can enlarge the screen by up to 64 times. There is inbuilt software which can magnify the screen for most users, but if you do need additional functionality you will need to consider paid for screen magnification software.  Some of this can be very expensive. 

It's fairly simple to use these tools using some keyboard shortcuts or touch gestures. These gestures control when you turn on the magnification and how far it zooms in. Mastering the basics doesn't take long, and you'll only need a few commands. It may take a little longer to master some of the advanced features and you may want to consider some additional training.

2.  What built-in screen magnification options are available?

Most devices have in-built (free) screen magnification software and settings, you will normally find these in the accessibility settings on your device. AbilityNet’s My Computer My Way website can help you find where this is on your device or follow the guidlines, below:

Magnifier for Windows

The Windows Magnifier is accessible from the Ease of Access section in the Windows control panel (or by pressing the Windows Key () and ‘U’ on your keyboard).

You can also switch on the magnifier using the Windows key () and ‘+’ and zoom in and out by pressing and holding the Windows key () and tapping the ‘+’ or ‘-’ keys.

You can switch off the magnifier by pressing the Windows key () and ‘Esc’.

The magnifier can be configured to start up before you sign-in, so it is available for anyone using the computer, or after sign-in, if you only want it to start automatically for you.

There are also options to invert colours which can make text clearer, as well as options to ‘smooth’ the edges of text and images as zooming can make things appear in blocks at high magnification. Choices for how the magnifier will appear on screen include fixed (‘docked’), full screen, or as a ‘lens’ that follows the movement of your mouse.

Zoom for Apple

Zoom is the screen magnifier for Apple devices including Mac desktops, laptops iPads and iPhones. It is particularly popular on the iPhone and it works well with millions of apps as well as with the internet using Apple’s Safari browser. can find Zoom under the Accessibility options in ‘Settings’ (the cog icon).

Magnification for Android devices

Magnification is the name of the magnification software on Android devices, it works well with most apps and the internet using the Chrome browser. To enable Magnification, go to ‘settings’, ‘Accessibility’ and select ‘Magnification’ from the options.

Magnification on Chromebooks

Chromebooks (laptop-like devices that run Google’s ChromeOS operating system) also have an in-built magnifier that will run either full screen or in ‘docked’ mode.

You can find this option in the ‘Accessibility Settings’ by clicking in the status area in the bottom right corner, and selecting; Settings > Advanced (at the very bottom of the page) > Manage Accessibility Features and then selecting the on/off switch for either ‘Enable full-screen magnifier’ or ‘Enable docked magnifier’.

3. What screen magnification programs are available?

There are also specialist programs that have some additional features such as higher levels of zoom. The most popular programs are SuperNova and Zoom Text for Windows computers.  Please bear in mind that this software can cost hundreds of pounds. We would advise that if are interested in these software packages, you download a trial version of them to  trial them out. 

SuperNova

SuperNova is designed for people with some sight. The program enables you to choose between magnifying the whole screen or by splitting the screen, so one part is zoomed-in and the other remains at the original size, as this can be easier to navigate around the screen.

Magnification starts at 1.2 times and goes all the way up to 64 times.  Control the magnification using the keyboard, or by using the scroll button on the mouse.  SuperNova also gives you the choice to change the colours on the screen, as this can make text stand out more. If you use a touch screen there is support available to make your computer use easier with The “Touchscreen Tool Bar”.

This package comes in both screen magnification and screen magnification with speech feedback. Speech feedback reads out the text on the screen in a number of different voices and accents.

Zoom Text

Zoom Text has many of the same features as SuperNova. Magnification goes up to 36x, but if you are running Windows it will magnify up to 60x.

Zoom Text also includes a feature that enables you to connect a camera (such as a webcam) to your computer, you will be able to magnify text on a paper document and use your computer screen and Zoom Text software to zoom in to the printed text.

There are different versions of both Zoom Text and SuperNova. The entry-level (basic) versions will magnify text and the more advanced (and expensive) versions include features such as reading out the contents of the screen.

4. Other things to consider with screen magnification

Having a good-quality monitor or display will often make a huge difference in how clear the screen is and will minimise the amount of blur when you zoom in. Be aware that your choice of magnification software will depend on:

•            The type of computer, tablet, or mobile phone that you have. 

•            The browser you prefer. 

•            How much magnification you need to be able to read/look at things comfortably.

•            If you need to scan printed material with an OCR camera.

•            What you use your device for? Do you use it to read email or do you need it to stream content from the web?

•            How much you are prepared to pay. Some screen magnification software is very expensive

•            Are you wanting to use the software for personal use, or do you need to use it at work? Could Access to Work support you in funding the equipment?

We offer support for magnifying screens across a range of operating systems and devices via our FREE tool My Computer My Way

5. Useful contacts

 

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Copyright information

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6. How AbilityNet can help you

My Computer My Way

My Computer My Way is an AbilityNet run website packed with articles explaining how to use the accessibility features built into your computer, tablet or smartphone. The site is routinely updated as new features and changes are made to the Windows, MacOS, iOS, Chrome OS and Android operating systems. The site is broken down into the following sections:

  • Vision – computer adjustments to do with vision and colour
  • Hearing – computer adjustments to do with hearing, communication and speech
  • Motor – computer adjustments to do mobility, stamina and dexterity
  • Cognitive – computer adjustments to do with attention, learning and memory

Use it for free at mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk

Advice and information

If you have any questions please contact us at AbilityNet and we will do all we can to help.

IT support at Home

If you’re looking for in-person support, you can book a free visit from one of our disclosure-checked volunteers. Many of our volunteers are former IT professionals who give their time to help older people and people with disabilities to use technology to achieve their goals. Our friendly volunteers can help with most major computer systems, laptops, tablet devices and smartphones.

https://abilitynet.org.uk/at-home

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