What's the Problem with High Screen Resolutions?

Many applications don't display correctly at high screen resolutions

Am I the only user who runs his desktops in very high resolutions? It's not 1997 anymore, and high-end graphics cards and good monitors aren't expensive. On the two computers I use daily, one has a 21" monitor running in 1920 x 1440 x 32-bit screen resolution, and the other runs at 1600 x 1200 x 32-bit resolution on a 19" monitor. These resolution levels let me look at documents side-by-side in full-page views, keep a Web site open while I'm doing research, work with large spreadsheets with much greater ease, and in general make my computing experience more productive and enjoyable.

But I had a frustrating experience with a little software utility I purchased last week. I like to support shareware authors, and I buy a lot of inexpensive utilities that friends have recommended. Usually, these tools have one or two useful functions that I can apply to a task that I must accomplish on a regular basis, so I don't mind spending the money. A friend recommended that I try this particular tool because he thought it would solve a minor problem I've been having related to CD and DVD burning. After I bought and installed the software, I discovered that, for it to work properly, I had to set my screen resolution to 800 x 600 x 32. If you've ever changed your screen resolution, you know that when you resize the screen, all your open applications' screen coordinates change. I usually have anywhere from 15 to 20 applications running at all times, so having to change the screen resolution made the product I had purchased less than useful. I sent off a note to the product author, and I'll be interested in his feedback.

The problem doesn't lie only with shareware authors: The window that MSN Messenger 5.0 opens after it finishes loading doesn't display properly at high resolution. All sorts of applications I run have problems with high-resolution displays that range from odd font glitches to buttons that become inaccessible because they don't display correctly in modal dialogs. I've had more than one conversation with product managers (including some from Microsoft) in which I repeat the phrase, "Why are the fixed fonts so small?"

And don't get me started on Web site designers. The practice of shoehorning as much information as possible on a single home page has gone too far, particularly when fixed fonts in single-digit font sizes are used. I don't want to have to run the Windows Magnifier to read a Web page.

In the 1990s, when I first started running desktops in high resolution (1600 x 1200 x 24 with the release of Windows NT 3.51), I realized that I was on the cutting edge and was willing to put up with a few operational peccadilloes that were more than offset by the advantages of the extra screen real estate. But here we are, well into the next century, and I still can't count on a brand-new application displaying correctly if I set the screen resolution over 1280 x 1024. Are developers getting lazy? Are users buying larger monitors and running them in low resolutions? Let me know what resolution you run your desktop monitor at, and I'll pass the numbers along to the software vendors

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