Windows 10 Anniversary Update (AU), also known as version 1607, brings a number of new features, lots of fixes and a few major changes to Microsoft’s operating system. Among those changes and fixes, are improvements for the way Windows 10 scales applications for high-DPI displays.
For years now, Microsoft has been struggling to improve the way Windows renders applications on high-DPI displays. And as new convertible, ultra-portable, and hybrid devices have come to market, all of which feature high-resolution displays, the problem of scaling has become more and more important. Incorrect scaling leads to application elements being too small, or too big, or blurry, leaving users with a frustrating experience.
Even Microsoft’s own flagship products sometimes fail to play nicely with each other because of scaling issues. A good example of this is Office, or PowerPoint to be specific, failing to scale properly on Microsoft’s Surface devices when external displays are connected and disconnected.
Microsoft addressed some of these issues in Windows 8.1, with further important improvements coming with the launch of Windows 10 and the Windows Universal Platform. However, the job is far from done, and even more improvements are now rolling out as part of the Anniversary Update.
The changes focus on “classic”, or desktop Windows applications, because these have the biggest issues when it comes to scaling. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to fix the problem easily, but Microsoft did make it easier for developers to update their apps to dynamically scale.
According to Microsoft there are a number of areas where Redstone 1, as the Anniversary Update is also known, improves scaling:
- Non-client area scaling (NCA) – Up until now even if applications scaled correctly they still had elements, like the title bar, scroll bars, controls and so on, that relied on the operating system for correct scaling. Windows failed to do this until now, but with AU Windows 10 now correctly handles NCA scaling
- Mixed-Mode DPI scaling – Developers had the option of telling the OS that their apps can dynamically scale, or that they’re relying on the OS – but no mixed option. This meant that a developer looking to update an app would have to update all the UI or none of it. Now, with Redstone 1, Windows 10 allows apps to work in a mixed scenario where the app handles some scaling for important windows, while the OS handles scaling for other parts of the program.
- Office apps are getting updated to use some of these features and scale better on Windows 10 Anniversary Update, regardless of screen size and resolution.
- Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) – this is an important framework, used by a large number of desktop Windows applications, and WPF is now being updated as part of Anniversary Update to support the improvements noted above
By Microsoft’s own reckoning this is only the start, and the company admits it still has a lot of work to do before most desktop apps scale correctly. Unfortunately, the problem is complex and can’t be easily fixed, so it’ll still take a good long while before we no longer have to worry about scaling at all.