Zoom in quickly on part of the screen in Lion

Zoom in quickly on part of the screen in Lion
Mac Tip #501, 31 August 2011

Lion’s virtual magnifying glass is one of my favourite features. Zoom in on a portion of the screen with a simple keystroke. Here’s how.

It seems screen capture can’t get an accurate representation of the Zoom in window. I eventually had to take a photo of my screen (see below) to capture it correctly. In the video the Zoom in window displays as a grey box, and fails to show the actual text or images you’d see in real life.


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Turn on Zoom in window

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Universal Access on the first line. The Universal Access settings pane opens.
  3. Select the Seeing tab. Settings for screen colors, zoom and other visual options appear.
  4. Check the Zoom radio button. This enables zooming.
  5. Check the box beside Zoom in window. This turns on the virtual magnifying glass.
  6. Click the Options… button. A sheet appears where you can customise the behaviour of the Zoom in window.
  7. Check the box beside Enable temporary zoom.
  8. Select other options if you wish, then click the Done button and close the System Preferences window.

Now you’re ready to zoom in on portions of the screen.

If you find that experimenting with settings has given you an ‘out of control’ screen go back to Step 4 and disable Zoom then enable it again. Your screen should return to normal.

Zoom in window - a photo.

Zoom in window. The photo shows how it really looks. Notice how much larger the text inside the magnifier is than the ordinary web page text beside it.

Use the virtual magnifying glass

If you want to zoom in on part of the screen move the cursor over the part you’d like to enlarge.

Hold down the Control (⌃) and Option (⌥) keys. The portion of the screen around the cursor is enlarged. Release the keys when you no longer need the zoom.

Customise the Zoom in window

You might have noticed after Step 7 above that there were many options for how the Zoom in window behaves. It’s probably best to experiment to see which settings you prefer.

On my machine I changed these:

  • Magnification — slide the slider to a magnification that suits you. I selected 4.
  • Speak items under the mouse after a delay — I like a chatty computer so I turned this on, and set the delay to slightly longer than Short.
  • Adjust Size and Location — this was an important one for me as I found the magnifying glass too small. See the instructions below.

Adjust Size and Location of the Zoom in window

At Step 8 above click on the Adjust Size and Location button. The virtual magnifying glass appears on the screen with an OK button in the middle of it.

  • Drag inside the box to move it. I have mine set to Follow the cursor, but if yours is set to be Stationary or Tiled along edge then you can drag it to place it where you like it.
  • If you hover over the edge or a corner of the Zoom in window the cursor changes to a double-headed arrow. Drag to change the size and shape of the virtual magnifier.
  • Click OK when you’re happy with the changes you’ve made.

Extremely useful

I love this new feature and use it many times each day. If you have Lion give the Zoom in window a try!

Comments and guest Tips

Do tell us in the Comments how you’ve used the virtual magnifier on your Mac.

A quick note for those many readers who receive the Tips by RSS or by email: to leave a Comment please visit this Tip on the website and add your comment there.

Could you write a guest MacTip? If so, contact Miraz.

Credit where it’s due

This Tip was written by Miraz Jordan, http://mactips.info, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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  1. tom said:

    I have an imac lion and i have a frustrating time when i move the mouse across the screen at times then the whole screen will enlarge unexpectedly and unwanted. Any advice on how to stop this from happening? I have a touch pad for when I do want to enlarge the screen

  2. mikey blake said:

    just turn on zoom,and zoom in window…..the screen goes crazy big…..just hit option command 8 …..and all zoom gone ……hit again option command 8 …….and here you have the magnified window

  3. Ian Goodger said:

    Thank you for tip I am new to mack adjusting from MS finding it hard to read the small lettering on the high res screen. My first attempts to increase writing size resulted in zoom in but lose of resolution. Using mouse and cmd key. Changing settings using your first tip, not zoom window. I wished to increases complete screen, I also changed size of courser and it appears key combination at this location. Hop this my clarify the difficulties that some of use appear to be having.

  4. Zanne said:

    I had tried to turn on the magnifying box, but, when I choose the radio button, the box turns on right away and will not turn off at all, ever. I used your suggestion, but it didn’t work. I’m sad, because it’s such a great idea for my aging eyes! Maybe the coming update will fix it. Thanks for informative, well written post.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Zanne, I struck that same problem while I was writing the Tip. I found that if I just made sure to close out of System Preferences before I tried to actually use the magnifier it worked fine.

      So: go to System Prefs, turn on the magnifier, and set the settings. Close System Prefs. Try the magnifier.

      Does that help?

      • Zanne said:

        Unfortunately, no. I’m left with the lovely, lovely magnifying box on my screen. I SO want this to work! My eyesight is poor and my Air has tiny resolution .. I am thinking that 10.7.2 may contain a fix for it.
        I have tried all sorts of combinations of selections inside of the Universal Access, but once I select that radio button and the box turns on, it is on to stay! Thanks for your help.

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