Early in 2018 I published an article on Computer Vision Syndrome. CVS is a string of symptoms that have emerged in the past three decades due to extended exposure to computer displays. The term began to emerge in 2005 or so and is now commonly discussed.
One aspect of addressing CVS is to change the presentation of text and images on your computer display. This was touched upon in my article on CVS when I was using Windows 7. I have since upgraded to Windows 10. This article is a compilation of notes I took in my efforts to make the display easier on the eyes. This particularly became a problem when we moved from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Windows 7 had a Theme setting called “Windows Classic” which automatically reset the display to what it may have appeared back in the days of Windows 98. The effect was to make objects clearer, eliminating the translucent rendering common on our computers today. Windows 10 eliminated that Theme. As a result, you have to patch together a number of features to produce the same effect.
Readers may want to note that much of the material below stems from my work in the US Forest Service. Feel free to cut and paste the content below and customize the article to fit your environment. Any ideas you have would be appreciated, so feel free to comment below.
Tips for improving contrasts is to explore a few features in Personalization. This is accessed by right-clicking over any empty space on your Desktop and selecting “Personalize.”
The Forest Service exports default backdrops, so many workstations have the dark green background. This is often ideal because the lighter objects and fonts appear better on the screen. Nonetheless, the solid color option may be more appealing, creating stronger contrasts.
Experiment turning color on and off for various aspects of your desktop surface. The active window title bar, for example, can be a bright color such as red to clearly indicate which of the open windows is active.
It is here that you can explore working with a Light (very white) background or dark. It is also here that you can enter the world of High Contrast Settings (discussed in greater detail below).
This is where we used to find the Windows Classic theme. Currently, about all we get are High Contrast options.
Mouse Pointer Settings
From themes, you can select mouse pointers that are easy to see. One suggestion is to peg your selection using the “Text Select” pointer. Those are often difficult to see when positioned inside a document. The Scheme you choose will affect the presentation of the pointer.
Pointer Options can provide some useful features, such as calibrating the pointer speed (some people have difficulty with movement on a screen), turn off pointer trails (which can make the screen busy), and hide pointer while typing.
If you are having difficulty seeing the text pointer, select “Show Location of pointer when I press the CTRL key.”
The Taskbar is what appears at the bottom or side of your Desktop, listing icons that indicate which applications are open on your computer.
Be sure to have “Use Small Taskbar Buttons” in the OFF position.
Display settings can be accessed by right-clicking on an empty space on your Desktop and selecting “Display Settings.” It is a bit confusing because you wonder why Personalize and Display Settings are in two different places. You will observe you can move from one module to another in several different ways in Windows 10.
Settings for Each Screen
One thing to note as you progress through this section is that the settings you establish here apply for each screen (not both). Be sure you customize settings for each. What my laptop screen can do and what my 27” wide display can accomplish are two different things.
This also explains why Personalize and Display Settings are treated differently in Windows. The Personalize settings are embedded in your “profile.” On some enterprise networks, your profile is mobile, allowing you to automatically inherit your settings regardless of which computer you are on. Display Settings, however, are customized to the hardware you are using. You may have to adjust your Display Settings for each computer you utilize in your enterprise network.
Change the Size of the Text
This feature is a great way to resolve one of the most basic issues with people dealing with eye strain – visibility of text. It is strange that this is buried so deep into the Windows 10 configuration nest. Here you can provide a baseline size for text and graphics.
Adjust Brightness Level
Brightness can be adjusted from menu controls on your display monitor or laptop. But you can also affect brightness from Windows 10.
Advanced Display Settings
This is probably the most important tool for adjusting Windows 10 to the peculiarities of each monitor. Not all monitors project back-lighting in the same manner. Adjusting the resolution can improve the visibility of objects and text on the screen. For Windows 10, this is about the best proxy for the Windows Classic theme.
ClearType Text is ON
This tool enables you to tune Windows 10 to present to you what you think is clear type, in much the same way as an eye exam. Note, this also has an effect on the scroll bar visibility (a common complaint with Windows 10).
Advance Sizing of Text
Here you can customize the size of texts, depending on the context: title box, menus, message boxes, icons, and other items. Note – “Menus” affects the size of tool bar objects in your application.
Notes on High Contrast Mode
High Contrast Mode (HCM) is a rather fascinating, yet challenging, tool for improving visibility of objects on the screen. What makes it challenging is that not all applications handle HCM in the same manner. HCM seems to work rather well within the Windows 10 desktop environment, along with all its accompanying tools. Microsoft applications also seem to work well. But, alas, more and more of what we do is over the Internet. This is often where the wheels come off with HCM as websites and applications that run over the web will turn out to be quite unpredictable.
Controlling High Contrast Mode
Since HCM is not practical in all situations, a quick way to switch back and forth is to use the shortcut keys: <ALT><Left-Shift><PrintScrn>.
Forest Service-related sites
Visual Task Board – no borders – makes it a bit difficult to work with panels.
Work Queues – Selector shows all boxes checked by default, but then discovered that the feature was not working in High Contrast. Solution is to check the bottom box (to select all items) and that activates the pull-down options. Otherwise, it is impossible to distinguish checked items vs unchecked items.
the “X” in the upper right corner is not visible.
Highlighting on Calendar does not appear.
Left Applications bar expansion pointer not visible. Clicking the text expands it.
Highlighting doesn’t work, so there is no visual on pull-down menu items you select.
Non-Forest Service Web Sites
Default screen, images do not appear.
Icons disappear for Task management.
Highlighted text appears, but color changes. Yellow à Blue. Hard to read. Works OK with White High Contrast setting.
Using a deep green color background with bright yellow or gray lettering appears quite impressive while in normal display mode. But the background disappears if you switch to HCM, raising the risk that the recipient may not be able to read the message.
It is a bit difficult to locate background features. It is under Options/Mail/Stationary and Fonts.
The Highlighting scheme I use is a train wreck in high contrast mode. All the colors switch around to accommodate the default color scheme used by HCM. Solution – Switch to white backlighting HCM, original colors presented.
Headers, usually distinguishable by color, font and placement, are not presented with colored text. I attempted several changes to the header styles and colors did not change.
So an attempt was made to use background. That works as noted above. But the Style schema does not include background color. Each header would need to be highlighted.
Entrust is significantly affected by HCM. The numbers disappear form the keypad.
Excel has a rather peculiar problem. With white-backed HCM, the cell fill colors do not appear. Same result if choosing any other HCM setting. Tried other colors to no avail.
Skype is a bit tricky. The status icons are non-distinguishable in regards to color, but the symbols are helpful.
- A check indicates available
- A solid circle indicates busy
- A clock symbol means you are away
- An empty circle indicates a person is offline
It also helps that Skype provides descriptive information next to the person’s name
It’s a shipwreck. Can’t distinguish control icons along the header.
Searched strings are not highlighted.
- Eric Niewoehner
- Steve Zbichorski
Free to the public for reproduction. Article was written originally for staff at the US Forest Service.