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Linux is a great operating system that can support a massive amount of hardware. However, one thing that it doesn’t yet support quite as well as we’d like is HiDPI displays. If you run Linux on a system with a HiDPI display, you may have noticed that everything is either tiny or perhaps just looks weird. Depending on what software you use on your Linux system, here are some assorted tips that can help you get a better experience on a HiDPI display.

What Is HiDPI?

Screens are considered “HiDPI”, or “High Dots Per Inch”, when they pack a massive amount of pixels into a smaller screen. The most common example of a HiDPI display this the panel found on the MacBook Pro Retina, but there are several other laptops which have HiDPI displays such as the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. HiDPI displays can be great because they provide a very clean, crisp experience which becomes most noticeable for text. However, a lot of software doesn’t do a good job yet of supporting so many pixels, so they tend to use the same amount of pixels on any display, which results in the smaller size on the HiDPI screens.

That being said, there are a few tips that I can share that may or may not apply to you, depending on what you use. Let’s take a look at them.

Gnome HiDPI Support

linux_hidpi_gnome

Gnome GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop Read More has started to support HiDPI displays, but it tends to need an extra push in order to get it working properly. Ubuntu users take note: even though this isn’t a Unity-specific tweak, you may still want to apply this so that text and other UI elements don’t look too small or too big.

To give Gnome that little extra push, open the terminal and run the following command:

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gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 2

This will increase the scaling factor so that everything else should look better on your screen. Of course, you can replace “2” with another value, so if everything is too big for you, you can try to use 1.5 or 1.75. To go back to the original value, use 1 instead.

KDE HiDPI Settings

KDE also does a decent job of identifying and catering to HiDPI displays, but it might need a bit of help too. At least here, you won’t be needing a terminal. Instead, go to System Settings –> Application Appearance. From here, you need to go to two different places.

linux_hidpi_kde_force_dpi

  • Choose Fonts, then Force Font DPI. Here, you can enter whatever number you want. The normal value is 96, so you can start by increasing this to 125, and if that’s still too small for your tastes, you can always put in a bigger value. As a reference, 150 is considered to be quite big, so don’t try some arbitrary large number such as 500.
  • Choose Icons, then Advanced. Here, you can increase each icon type by one step to choose a higher icon size, which will work better on your HiDPI screen.

linux_hidpi_kde_icons

HiDPI For Xfce

linux_hidpi_xfce

If you’re an Xfce XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop As far as Linux goes, customization is king. Not only that, but the customization options are so great it might make your head spin. I have previously mentioned the differences between the major desktop environments... Read More user, there are also two possible changes you can make to improve your HiDPI experience. Open the system settings, go to the Settings Editor, then go to xsettings –> Xft and change the value for DPI. Retina screens tend to work very well with a value of 180. Next, you can enlarge the system tray icons by right clicking in empty space around those icons, and click on Properties. Then change the maximum icon size to a larger value.

HiDPI On Cinnamon

linux_hidpi_cinnamon

Cinnamon Cinnamon 2.0 Ditches GNOME, Features Enhanced User and Window Management Cinnamon 2.0 Ditches GNOME, Features Enhanced User and Window Management Cinnamon, the desktop shell using in Linux Mint, has finally released v2.0, which features new window tiling and snapping, along with enhanced user management options. Read More currently seems to have some of the best support of HiDPI displays. It should automatically recognize a HiDPI display, but in case it doesn’t, you can go to System Settings –> General, and change the UI scaling to Double. Do note that if you connect a different monitor to your computer which is not HiDPI, you’ll need to restart your system in order for it to figure out to switch to normal scaling. Changing it manually leads to some weird bugs that have yet to be squashed.

Firefox HiDPI Configuration

linux_hidpi_firefox

Sadly, Chrome doesn’t have any support for HiDPI displays whatsoever. However, Firefox does do a pretty good job of supporting HiDPI — it just needs to be configured correctly. This can be easily accomplished by entering about:config into the address bar, accepting the warning that appears, and then searching for layout.css.devPixelsPerPx. You can change the value for this parameter all the way up to 2, but I like it most at 1.5 or 1.75.

Linux HiDPI Support To Keep You Going

With these five tips for the most common desktop environments and one of the major browsers, you should have a better time with your HiDPI display on Linux. Give it some more time, and eventually HiDPI displays will be supported just like any regular display. Until then, this will keep you going.

Do you have a HiDPI display? Do you like it or not? Let us know in the comments!

  1. mr42
    August 13, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    got a 25600x1440.

    this works for everything, because it tells your graphics driver (X) to enlarge whatever.

    this needs to go into your xorg.conf in /etc/X11

    if you do not have one, generate it with this command:

    Xorg :2 -configure

    That will generate a xorg.config.new in your current directory. And the command explains how to test it.
    But first, measure your screen in millimeters (wxh), and load this file in a text editor like vim or vi or kwrite and
    change / add the option
    Option "UseEdidDpi" "false"
    DisplaySize 292 165 # is real size in mm... no inches, sorry.... ( an inch = 25.4 mm)
    in the section Monitor with the following :

    Section "Monitor"
    Identifier "Monitor0"
    VendorName "Monitor Vendor"
    ModelName "Monitor Model"
    Option "UseEdidDpi" "false"
    DisplaySize 292 165 # is real size...

    EndSection

    test it, and if all is well, put it in your /etc/X11 directory (need to be root )

    With 2 screens, one HiDPI and the other not, we still have a problem.
    And you are good to go

  2. venik212
    March 2, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Yoga 2 Pro; 3200X1800, Lubuntu/Mint-Cinnamon 2.8. Cannot get hidpi support for VLC... All controls and fonts are way too tiny.

  3. Rogério Ramos
    June 14, 2015 at 4:41 am

    @Kevin_A wrote the only solution that works for me using Ubuntu Unity, Xubuntu Xfce or ElementaryOS Gala, under my Zenbook UX303LA.

    The 3200x1800 has more quality, but become unusable, so scaling to .4x.4, I could use the entire screen with 1280x720.

    • Rogério Ramos
      June 14, 2015 at 4:44 am

      Scaling again to .6x.6, I got a resolution of 1920x1080. I still can read the menus and other stuffs with a little bit more quality.

  4. Kevin A
    February 2, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    I got a yoga 2 pro yesterday and running on optimal 3200x1800. I got it running Fedora Workstation 21 and was surprise that all hardware was detected and works fine at first glance:
    Webcam: OK
    Sound: OK
    Keyboard and hotkeys: OK and properly mapped too!
    Trackpad: OK
    Touchscreen: OK on all apps except on Firefox where scrolling on the page doesn't work. Work in chrome though
    Accelerometer: Obivously there's no app supporting that yet AFAIK.
    Screen Resolution: OK at first glance. Gnome 3 detects that it's HiDPI and sets the scaling factor to 2. Based on what I read previously, you had more set this using "gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 2" but not anymore apparently.
    However, there are many compatibility issues with apps that aren't aware of these settings e.g. chrome, firefox, intellij which are the most critical applications for me to run. Therefore, this is what I've done to resolve it. I use xrandr to scale the display rather than set the DPI:

    #force gnome to NOT use hidpi
    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 1
    #revert any scaling already in place on the system
    xrandr --output eDP1 --scale 1x1
    #scale everything to 0.4
    xrandr --output eDP1 --scale .4x.4

    That last line works well for my needs. IntelliJ, firefox and chrome don't need additional tweaking with those settings in place. However, I think I don't have the scale factor perfect. I'm still trying to figure out what the perfect scale factor is. If anyone of you guys have an idea please give me a shout!

    • steve1990
      February 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      This looks helpful! for some reason -output does not come up as a recognized command, do you know how to solve this?

  5. jack
    January 25, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    If Cinnamon does it automatically then I don't have to do anything to Firefox Is this correct?
    And if I need to modify Xfce then I also have to modify Firefox ??
    many thanks for a very useful website

  6. I. Ceh
    January 22, 2015 at 7:27 am

    If I try to write scaling-factor 1,5 or 1.75 gnome terminal outputs:
    "invalid character in number: 1.75"
    ^

    • Hamza
      March 24, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      You can set it to whole numbers only, so you have to make it equals to 2, but if you do that on a FHD screen (1920x1080) you will notice that everything becomes HUGE !

  7. Joseph Annareddy
    January 21, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks!
    Other than Chrome, This now works wonderfully on my FHD 14" screen laptop

  8. Wiley
    December 16, 2014 at 3:17 am

    Did not have key scaling-factor on my debian system, there was a key text-scaling-factor. The Firefox tip was a big help for me, I spent countless hours looking for this.
    Thank You!

  9. T.Shearer
    October 30, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Very useful, thanks! I'm expecting a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro in a few days. My distro of choice is Kubuntu 14.04 64-bits. I've been doing some reading and am hoping it will be pretty much useable with the Yoga's ridiculous 3200x1800 display.

    I've found many people recommeding Gnome 3 over KDE for the moment, but I much prefer KDE (if it's workable with a HiDPI display). Do you happen to know whether these changes apply system-wide, including GTK apps? (OpenOffice, etc.)?

    Thanks a ton for the useful article!

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