Windows 8 blog talks about scaling to different screens

When Windows 8 is released sometime later in 2012, it will not only be used on desktop and laptop PCs but also on smaller form factors such as touch screen tablets. Therefore, Windows 8 has to be able to handle all kinds of displays and monitors. In the newest entry on the Windows 8 developer blog, Microsoft's David Washington writes a lengthy post about how the team developed Windows 8 to handle all kinds of different displays.

Microsoft considers three aspects when deciding how Windows 8 looks on a display or monitor; its screen size, the screen resolution and its pixel density. The above graph is just an example of the many different kinds of displays Microsoft has to work with in developing Windows 8.

Microsoft has already announced that Metro apps running on Windows 8 have to have a minimal resolution of 1024x768. Washington gives three reasons why the company picked that resolution size for Metro apps. One was that Microsoft felt it was the minimal needed to show Metro style layouts at their best. Washington states, "Lower resolutions, like 800x600 for example, require simpler more basic layouts with less content." 1024x768 is also the minimal resolution for designers when they make web sites.

Finally, Washington says that just 1.7 percent of current Windows 7 users have monitors that max out at less than 1024x768. As you can see in the graph above, about 42 percent of Windows 7 users have monitors that support at least a 1366x768 resolution. In fact, 1366x768 is the resolution that has been set by Microsoft for full support of Windows 8 Metro features. Washington writes:

We chose this resolution as it has enough horizontal pixels to fit the 320px width of a snapped app, next to a main app with a 1024px width. The specs of the Samsung tablet that we unveiled at the //build/ conference are 11.6-inches with a 1366x768 resolution (the Samsung Series 7 tablet in market today). These specs are the minimum screen resolution that supports all the features of Windows 8 on a useful physical size.

Metro apps can also be displayed on much bigger screens with higher resolutions. Washington states that a Metro app can be run on a massive 30 inch screen with a resolution of 2560x1600.

Speaking of larger monitors, Microsoft allows Windows 8 apps to show more content on screen if a screen gets bigger, such as the example news app above. Washington writes that app makers can use adaptive layouts for their software to allow more content to be shown the larger the screen gets. However, some apps, particularly games, may not work with an adaptive layout. In that case, the app can used a fixed layout which simply makes the app itself bigger on screen. Washington writes:

While this isn't ideal for all UI because it may make things appear quite large on desktop monitors, it does work well for many games and game-like UI that is composed mostly of bitmap graphics. This solution also allows apps to remain immersive on a variety of screens without needing significant work from the developer.

Washington also goes over Windows 8 running on different pixel densities. While he says that most PC users have monitors with a relatively low dots per inch (DPI) number, we will see tablets that will have much higher DPI support. He writes:

Many Windows 8 tablet PCs will have pixel densities of at least 135 DPI - much higher than many of us are used to. Of course we’ve seen the introduction of HD tablets with Full HD 1920x1080 resolution on an 11.6” screen, with a pixel density of 190 DPI or quad-XGA tablets with 2560x1440 on the same 11.6” screen; that’s a pixel density of 253 DPI. Pixel densities can increase even more on lesser aspect ratios and smaller screens as we see in the new iPad.

Windows 8 is being developed so that it is looks good even on displays with high DPI numbers. It is using three different types of predictable scaling percentages; 100 percent when no scaling is applied, 140 percent for HD tablets and 180 percent for quad-XGA tablets.

An app developer for Windows 8 will have to create images based on those three percentages in order for those images to continue to look crisp and not appear to be stretched out or blurry on higher DPI displays. Windows 8 uses automatic resource loading that allows developers to, in Washington's words, " ... save three versions of images with a naming convention; images that correspond to each of the current scale percentages (100%, 140%, and 180%) load automatically to keep images crisp on high DPI."

Of course, app makers for Windows 8 would like to see if their creations will look good on any Windows 8 display before they are released to the world. The recently released beta of Visual Studio 11 includes a Windows Simulator that lets app developers see how their software looks on a number of different screen sizes, orientations, resolutions, and pixel densities.

Images via Microsoft

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