Mac instructions: Adjust font size and symbol size under macOS

If you don't see much on the Mac screen and the font and symbols seem too small to you, then you can adjust both using different procedures. The individual measures can also be used to make symbols and fonts smaller in macOS. In this manual you will find tips and tricks for enlarging / reducing the elements in Finder, Mail, web browser and generally for displaying all content.

Tip for keyboard shortcuts: How to find it on the Mac keyboard!

Are the fonts and symbols in macOS on the Mac too small or too big for you? With these instructions, tips and tricks you can adjust the font size and symbol dimensions!

Are the fonts and symbols in macOS on the Mac too small or too big for you? With these instructions, tips and tricks you can adjust the font size and symbol dimensions!

Change symbol and font size in macOS

In the following, I will show you options for adjusting the symbol sizes and font sizes and positions on the Mac. There is not really a comprehensive guide with which you can enlarge or reduce the elements equally everywhere. But you can regulate the resolution of the display / the connected monitors down so that everything is shown larger overall - or you screw it up so that everything becomes smaller. But now to the individual solutions:

Change font and icons for Finder & Desktop

In the Finder, the systemBrowser under Mac OS X and macOS, you will find directories, folders and files. If these are displayed too large or too small, you can make adjustments in the "Display options". There are three different ways to access this:

  • Menu bar -> Display -> Show display options
  • Right click in Finder-Window -> Show display options
  • Keyboard shortcut: ⌘J

If you choose one of these three ways, a window will be displayed in which you will find controls for the symbol size and for the grid spacing (distance between the symbols). In addition, the text size can be adjusted in the Finder (and thus on the desk) - from 10 points to 16 points. The standard is 12 points. Further options are the position of the symbol designations (bottom or right), the display of object information, the symbol preview and the type of sorting.

Adjust the size of the directory overview in the Finder

In the left column of the Finder you can call up different directories. You can adjust the folders and files displayed as well as their names using the procedure described above. But there are also customization options for the list of storage locations. To do this, you call up the system settings via the apple icon, the launchpad or the dock. There you then select "General" and can choose between small, medium and large in the "Size of the sidebar icons" roll menu.

Set the font larger or smaller in the mail app

The operating system for Apple computers comes with its own mail app for managing your mailboxes and emails. If the display of the electronic mail in it seems too small or too large to you, then simply adjust it. With the mail app open, click on "Appearance" in the menu bar and then on "Customize toolbar ...". Then you drag the larger / smaller button in the toolbar and you can then quickly and easily make adjustments:

"Fonts" menu as an alternative

In addition to the toolbar buttons, which you can use to quickly and easily customize the entire display of emails, you can also assign individually selected font sizes to individual fonts and styles in the Mail app. To do this, open the application and click on "Format" in the menu bar and then on "Show fonts". Alternatively, you can use the key combination ⌘T. This window appears for adjustments:

Customize the webpage display in the browser

In Safari as well as in Chrome, Firefox, Opera and other web browsers for surfing the Internet, you can change the size of the displayed pages with short key combinations. Here are the three key combinations that you should remember in order to display Internet pages with small fonts larger and large-format pages smaller:

  • Enlarging / zooming in on the page: ⌘ +
  • Reduce / zoom out page: ⌘ +
  • Display original page / normalize: ⌘0

Zoom in / out of the pointer

The problem is not always the font and the symbols of directories, folders and files, but also the mouse pointer. If the resolution is very high or the setting is simply quite small, you can also make adjustments here. To do this, go to the system settings again (via the apple icon, Launchpad or Dock) and click on "Accessibility". Select "Display" in the left menu and adjust the cursor size as you wish. In addition to the cursor size, you will also find other display settings that could make it easier for you to recognize the screen content:

More instructions from Apple

Do you want to personalize the desk in macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra, reduce or enlarge the text, adjust symbols and objects and use the screen zoom? Then there is on this Apple support page even more instructions and tips that you can use. Do you have any questions or tips and hints for the display adjustments on the Mac, iMac and MacBook from Apple? Then please leave a comment on the topic!

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15 comments

  1. Anonymouse says:

    Hello Sir Apfelot,
    I would like to thank you very much for this informative, clearly laid out page!
    Unfortunately, I did not find any information here as to how I can bring the font of the mails (not that of the lists, but the actual text in the mails) to a legible size in the in-house mail app of the Macbook. Although I have set size 12, the font is so tiny that I can only see it with a magnifying glass. Changing the default font size is not a good option, because if I set it to 30, for example, all emails I write will also come out with this font size - not funny for the recipient and embarrassing for the sender.
    I find it annoying to manually adjust the font size for every single email a hundred times a day. I don't want to change anything about the screen resolution, because otherwise it corresponds exactly to my needs.
    For years I have been hoping that Apple will take care of the problem, especially since I looked for a solution in various forums and came across many posts from users who are struggling with the same problem.
    I am otherwise happy with the Mail app, so I would be reluctant to switch. If someone still has an idea how to solve the problem, I would be very happy.
    I wish this site all the best!
    Kind regards
    a.

    • sir appleot says:

      Hello Anonymouse! Thanks for your comment. I have two tips for the font size thing:
      1. You can change the view of the currently called mail (or the draft) with the key combinations CMD + plus sign and CMD + minus sign. This does not change the font size in the mail - the recipient sees everything as normal. However, the change is only temporary. As soon as you click on another email, the font size is the same as before.

      2. The second solution I would suggest is using macOS's built-in magnifying glass feature. You can call this up by holding down the CTRL key and then scrolling up or down with the mouse. This allows you to zoom into areas of the monitor. This is not the permanent solution either, but it might help you.

  2. Anonymouse says:

    Hello again and thank you very much for the tips.
    Since I move a lot of emails every day and as a lazy person find the workaround difficult (but of course better than nothing), I must continue to hope that the employees at Apple are getting older and can no longer see as well as they did when they were 20 so that one day you might have to figure out a solution. According to my (amateur) idea that shouldn't be too difficult;)
    Kind regards
    a.

    • sir appleot says:

      Hello! I would have one more tip: I've just seen that you can use the free TinkerTool can also change the font size of macOS programs under the "Fonts" menu. Maybe this is a permanent solution to your problem. The tool can also be highly recommended for other purposes.

  3. Anonymouse says:

    Hello again! The TinkerTool does not solve this particular problem, but it is still a great tip for which I thank you very much.

    • sir appleot says:

      Yeah, that's really good. A reader recommended that I buy the paid TinkerTool. That would be a great program too, because it can do a lot more than the free software. But I haven't gotten around to taking a test here yet.

  4. Larsta66 says:

    Hello Sir Apfelot,

    Thank you very much for this post, which, as a switch from Windows, with a little knowledge of the Ubuntu world, I immediately saved it in my bookmarks.

    I also wonder how a developer can come up with the idea not to make the zoom level of the view of the standard mail client variable? I'm sitting approx. 50 cm in front of 3440 x 1440 px, use work glasses and after 30 minutes with "Verdana 12" my eyes water, apart from the fact that it is difficult to click into the right passage with the mouse;).

    In order to still get a functional environment, I made the following settings:

    1. Settings> Font & Color: Font for e-mail lists: Normal system font 14

    2. Settings> Compose: E-Mail format: plain text

    With the setting under 1., at least the columns are now readable.

    2. Under "Settings> Font & Color: Font for e-mails:" you can set any font size that my eyes can tolerate. Due to the pure text format, the recipient's e-mail program displays the e-mail in its default setting. This means that I lose some formatting options, but personally that doesn't bother me with an e-mail.

    Finally, under "Settings> Answers:" I removed the checkmark from "Use the same format as in the original e-mail" in order to be "flexible" with answers.

    Maybe my approach will help one or the other who also end up here.

    Regards
    Lars

    PS:
    The next most important challenge for me is to live with the fact that I cannot deactivate either of the two when using more than one monitor on my Mac Mini. For me another phenomenon in the Mac OS world, which is being discussed in some places on the Internet with a frown. Current setup: both monitors are connected to the computer via a Thunderbolt adapter and can be plugged in or unplugged as required ... xD.

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Larsta! Thanks for your tip with the font. This is a good idea ... you already know how to deal with the "quirks" of the Mac in a solution-oriented manner. : D The one with the TB adapter is also a good idea. I don't know anything else, that's why it didn't occur to me to deactivate a monitor.

  5. Charlie Kauffman says:

    Good day!
    How can I natively enlarge the font size of the help text for the app that is open in macOS Monterey (with the MBPro 16 ″ with M1-Pro-Chip) (i.e. without zooming the display)? The settings described above also do not increase the size of the system font (e.g. the font of the system report). The preference settings app "TinkerTool" from Marcel Bresink, Software-Systeme, does not offer a solution either.

    LG

    PS-Info (but different topic): Since the release of macOS Monterey (Vers. 12.0 up to and including Update 12.1) until today, no backup on various external USB hard drives via TimeMachine is possible on my MBP with M1 Pro-Chip. Apple is working on a bug fix (so far in vain).

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Charly! Well, there is actually only one possibility to change the fonts in the areas for which the system does not offer the possibility: You have to set the resolution of the monitor down. : D

      Ah, and thanks for the TimeMachine information. I have just started the TimeMachine backup on the MBP M1 Max again. That’s going okay so far. What's the problem with you? What doesn't Time Machine do?

  6. Charlie Kauffman says:

    Thanks for the quick answers!
    Topic: Scaling with a significantly lower resolution automatically means less information on the display (unfortunately) and is then no longer very helpful.
    Backup topic: USB hard drive is written to (saved) according to the memory info, but is not visible as a file in the Finder or in the opened TimeMachine and therefore cannot be called up.
    The suspected fault (on the part of Apple) lies in the incorrect formatting of the USB hard drives. APFS is required and set, but according to the information it is unintentionally formatted with APFS (upper and lower case) after the backup is complete. TimeMaschine then cannot use the format (because only APFS should be configured). The previously established workaround was unsuccessful.
    My bug has already been described in (other) forums with other Macs and M1 (without Pro or Max) without any hints for a solution. The process was very unsatisfactory.
    Greetings Charly

  7. Charlie Kauffman says:

    Update:
    The second workaround (from the Apple laboratory) has been implemented in the meantime, unfortunately again unsuccessfully. TimeMachine can still not be used.
    Apple is still working on a solution. It is likely that the software error will (hopefully) only be eliminated with a future MacOS update.
    It confirms that the bug only occurs with certain version builds (for me: MacOS 12.1 Build 21C52) (cause unknown).

  8. Charlie Kauffman says:

    Hello, Jens!
    TimeMachine bug update:
    With the update to MacOS 12.2, TM backups are now possible on my MBPRO M!. However, my two external TM hard drives are still – unintentionally – reformatted by the system after the first full backup. From the "APFS" format I wanted to "APFS upper and lower case".
    My question to you Jens and other users with MBPro M1: Does the external TimeMachine backup hard drive also have the format "APFS upper and lower case" after the backup?
    If so, for what reason and with what consequences?
    Check the hard drive format (surely known): Mark External hard drive, then Command+I.
    Have a nice weekend, Charlie

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Charlie! Thank you for your update. My TM hard drive also has "APFS (Case Sensitive)" as format. But I don't know that this has any positive or negative consequences. I suppose the case sensitivity ensures that one is prepared for all forms of filenames. Happy WE to you too!

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