Improving Linux HiDPI Support For Gnome, KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon And Firefox

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 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 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 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!

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