- 9.9. Displays
Displays is the center of operations for all your monitor settings. Here, you set your
monitor's resolution, determine how many colors are displayed onscreen, and calibrate
color balance and brightness.
Tip: You can open up this panel with a quick keystroke from any program on the Mac.
Just press Option as you tap one of the screen-brightness keys on the top row of your
The specific controls you'll see here depend on the kind of monitor you're using, but here
are the ones you'll most likely see:
9.9.1. Display Tab
This tab is the main headquarters for your screen controls. It governs these settings:
• Resolutions. All Mac screens today can make the screen picture larger or smaller,
thus accommodating different kinds of work. You perform this magnification or
reduction by switching among different resolutions (measurements of the number
of dots that compose the screen). The Resolutions list displays the various
resolution settings your monitor can accommodate: 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, and so
on (Figure 9-10).
When you use a low-resolution setting, such as 800 x 600, the dots of your screen
image get larger, thus enlarging (zooming in on) the picture —but showing a
smaller slice of the page. Use this setting when playing a small QuickTime movie,
for example, so that it fills more of the screen. (Lower resolutions usually look
blurry on flat-panel screens, though.) At higher resolutions, such as 1280 x 800,
the screen dots get smaller, making your windows and icons smaller, but showing
more overall area. Use this kind of setting when working on two-page spreads in
your page-layout program, for example.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
The Password-Protected Screen Saver
I like the fact that when I wander away from my desk, the screen saver protects
whatever I was doing from prying eyes. But whoever walks by can just press a
key to exit the screen saver, so big deal! I looked all over, and couldn't find any
- way to make the Mac require a password before exiting the screen saver.
You had the right idea—you were just looking in the wrong place.
In System Preferences, click Security. There's the checkbox you're looking for:
"Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver."
• Colors. Today's Mac monitors offer different color depth settings, each of which
permits the screen to display a different number of colors simultaneously. The
Colors pop-up menu generally offers only three choices: 256 Colors, Thousands,
Tip: You can still make your monitor gray scale (shades of gray), even if no
choice for it appears here. The trick is to visit the Universal Access panel,
described later in this chapter.
• Refresh Rate. This pop-up menu (available for CRT screens only—that is, not flat
panels) lets you adjust how many times per second your screen image is repainted
by your monitor's electron gun. Choose a setting that minimizes flicker.
• Brightness, Contrast. Use these sliders to make the screen look good in the
prevailing lighting conditions. The Contrast control appears only on CRT
monitors, and you'll usually want it all the way up. The Brightness slider is usually
best near the middle.
Of course, most Apple keyboards have brightness-adjustment keys, so these
software controls are included just for the sake of completeness.
Figure 9-10. In the early days of the Mac, higher color settings required a
sacrifice in speed, since the Mac had to compute the color for thousands of
individual pixels. Today, there's little downside to leaving your screen at its
maximum depth setting ("Millions" of colors). Photos, especially, look best at
higher depth settings. (The Detect Displays button appears primarily on
laptops; it means "Check for an external monitor or projector.")
- Tip: You can adjust the color depth and resolution of your monitor without having
to open System Preferences. Just turn on "Show displays in menu bar," which adds
a Monitors pop-up menu (a menulet) to the right end of your menu bar for quick
• Automatically adjust brightness as ambient light changes. This option appears
only if you have a PowerBook or MacBook Pro with a light-up keyboard. In that
case, your laptop's light sensor also dims the screen automatically in dark rooms—
if this checkbox is turned on.
9.9.2. Geometry Tab
This pane appears only on Macs with those increasingly rare CRT (that is, non-flat)
screens. It lets you adjust the position, size, and angle of the screen image on the glass
itself—controls that can be useful in counteracting distortion in aging monitors.
Tip: Don't miss the opportunity to eliminate the black borders around your screen
perimeter! That's just wasted space. Click the Height/Width button. Then click the
"expand vertical" and "expand horizontal" buttons at the lower-right corner of the
miniature monitor image until you've eliminated the black borders around the screen.
(You'll probably have to recenter the whole picture, too.)
9.9.3. Arrangement Tab
From the dawn of the color-monitor era, Macs have had a terrific feature: the ability to
exploit multiple monitors all plugged into the computer at the sametime. Any Mac with a
video-output jack (laptops, iMacs, eMacs), or any Mac with a second or third video card
(Power Macs, Mac Pros), can project the same thing on both screens (mirror mode );
that's useful in a classroom when the "external monitor" is a projector.
Tip: The standard video card in a MacPro has jacks for two monitors. By installing more
video cards, you can get up to six monitors going at once.
- But it's equally useful to make one monitor act as an extension of the next. For example,
you might have your Photoshop image window on your big monitor, but keep all the
Photoshop controls and tool palettes on a smaller screen. Your cursor passes from one
screen to another as it crosses the boundary.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
Blurry Flat-Panel Screens
Yucko! I tried the 800 x 600 setting on my MacBook, and everything got all
blurry and big! How do I fix it?
On any flat-panel screen—not just laptop screens—only one resolution setting
looks really great: the maximum one. That's what geeks call the native
resolution of that screen.
That's because on flat-panel screens, every pixel is a fixed size. At lower
resolutions, the Mac does what it can to blur together adjacent pixels, but the
effect is fuzzy and unsatisfying. (On a bulky CRT monitor, the electron gun can
actually make the pixels larger or smaller, so you don't have this problem.)
You don't have to shut down the Mac to hook up another monitor—just put it to sleep. Or
just hook up the monitor or projector and then choose Detect Displays from the Displays
When you open System Preferences, you see a different Displays window on each screen,
so that you can change the color and resolution settings independently for each. Your
Displays menulet shows two sets of resolutions, too, one for each screen.
If your Mac can show different images on each screen, your Displays panel offers an
Arrangement tab, showing a miniature version of each monitor. By dragging these icons
around relative to each other, you can specify how you want the second monitor's image
"attached" to the first. Most people position the second monitor's image to the right of the
first, but you're also free to position it on the left, above, below, or even directly on top of
the first monitor's icon (the last of which produces a video-mirroring setup). For the least
likelihood of going insane, consider placing the real-world monitor into the
corresponding position—to the right of your first monitor, for example.
For committed multiple-monitor fanatics, the fun doesn't stop there. See the microscopic
menu bar on the first-monitor icon? You can drag that tiny strip onto a different monitor
icon, if you like, to tell Displays where you'd like your menu bar to appear. (And check
out how most screen savers correctly show different stuff on each monitor!)
- 9.9.4. Color Tab
The Color pane lets you choose an accurate ColorSync profile for your screen (Section
14.8.1), and to calibrate it for correct color display.
When you click Calibrate, the Display Calibrator Assistant opens to walk you through a
series of six screens, presenting various brightness and color-balance settings in each
screen. You pick the settings that look best to you; at the end of the process, you save
your monitor tweaks as a ColorSync profile that ColorSync-savvy programs can use to
adjust your display for improved color accuracy.