How to make your Windows 7 with Office 2010 desktop more accessible

Setting custom text size

Adjusting fonts in Outlook

Using the accessibility functions of Internet Explorer

Ease of Access keyboard shortcuts


Magnifier keyboard shortcuts

High contrast

Setting custom text size


One of the first things that people tend to do when trying to make their desktop accessible is to change their desktop resolution using the classic control panel > display menu.

Windows classic display settings box

This is not ideal, in fact, for a lot of applications, it’s about the worst place to start. Programs will not display properly and any applications that have been designed with large window sizes will hang halfway off the screen. A much more suitable way of doing this is by adjusting the custom text size or DPI.

Go to Start > Control Panel > Display. You should get the following window, if not, you can access it by clicking on the “Set custom text size (DPI)” link on the left hand sidebar.

Set custom text size (DPI) window

When you choose one of the larger DPI settings, you will find that this makes all of the Windows text bigger and easier to read, without disturbing how applications display. Please bear in mind that some programs will ignore this setting. I will come to that later.

If you wish a slightly more granular control of the DPI settings you can click on “Set custom text size (DPI)” and adjust the drop down box in the pop up which appears (below), which will show you examples of how the text will look. Once you’ve restarted, everything should be a bit more suitable to your needs.

This is great, and an easy way of adjusting things IF you are on a Windows 7 client PC. However, if you are on a Server 2008 Remote Desktop, this feature is disabled!

I’ve come across this piece of software called RDFontSize (posted about by Mark Prigg here) which provides this functionality to Remote Desktop Services users, and can be downloaded from here. An administrator will need to install it in installation mode on the Terminal Server, but once this has been done, each user will be able to adjust their own DPI. We really have found this invaluable in providing accessibility for our users.

As you can see from the screenshot below, this is basically a more adjustable version of Windows’ built in DPI adjustment tool. The user adjusts the toolbar (or clicks on the buttons) and it shows an example of what the fonts will look like.

RDFontSize window

This is really a great starter tool for accessibility, but what about programs such as Microsoft Outlook, where some of the fonts are set separately. As I mentioned earlier, on some older programs, this won’t work at all. The only real solution for these products is to seek a newer version, use a different application that is accessible, or change the desktop resolution (although as I mentioned earlier, this really is a last resort as it will affect everything else in a negative fashion). If you really need a magnification boost, you can always use the magnifier tool, which I will cover later.

Adjusting fonts in Outlook


Once you have adjusted the DPI settings on your Windows desktop, when you open Outlook, you will find that whilst the ribbon and some of the icons have changed DPI, the main window and column fonts have not:

Ribbon size difference

This obviously isn’t ideal, and whilst it’s a bit fiddly to adjust, you’ll find that in general, you can get things much more to your liking than you can just using the DPI settings. For the navigation pane, to-do bar and reading pane, click on options in the drop down on the view tab of the ribbon:

Drop down for reading pane

Choose options for whichever one you wish to adjust, which will bring up this dialogue box, where you can click on font:

dialogue box

This brings up the following dialogue box, where you can set the font for the navigation pane, to-do bar or reading pane. I usually find that somewhere around 11 or 12 is nicely visible for most people.

Font selection box

Next we want to change the main window, so go to the view tab, and choose view settings:

View settings for main window

From there choose “other settings”…

Advanced settings window

This brings up this window, where you can access the above font setting box for the columns, rows and autopreview;

Font selection window

Now Outlook is set up how you want it, it’s time to get Internet Explorer set up how we want it.

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Using the accessibility functions of Internet Explorer

The version that I will be using is Internet Explorer 9, but these instructions are portable to IE8.

Website designers spend a lot of time making sure the website you are looking at has a nice colour scheme and nice font. Unfortunately, they don’t always take accessibility into account. Internet Explorer has a few easily tweaked settings that can override the styling on any website you are finding problematic. First click on Internet Options, found in the cog menu:

Cog menu

At the bottom of the very first tab are the accessibility options.

Internet Options dialogue box

For those people who are visually impaired, and find that it is easier for them to read websites in certain colour schemes, you can set up your own colour scheme to override websites built in style sheets using the colors button.

colors box

The hover colour will change the colour of any link that you hover over to a colour you specify. For these settings to work however, you must then select “ignore colours specified on web pages” in the accessibility menu:

The accessibility menu

Here you can also upload your own style sheet, if you have one. If you also choose to ignore font styles and sizes, you can then specify these in the fonts menu:

Internet Explorer font selection box

Finally, if you choose to add some additional language fonts, you can do so from the language menu.

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Ease of Access keyboard shortcuts

The following table contains keyboard shortcuts that can help make your computer easier to use.

Press this key To do this

Shift for eight seconds

Filter Keys on and off

Alt+Left Shift+PrtScn (or PrtScn)

High Contrast on or off

Alt+Left Shift+Num Lock

Mouse Keys on or off

five times

Sticky Keys on or off

Lock for five seconds

Toggle Keys on or off

logo key Picture of Windows logo key

the Ease of Access Center

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Magnifier is a tool for enlarging one part of your screen at a time, and is found in the ease of access centre. To open it quickly, click Start, and then type Magnifier.

Magnifier has three modes, which are accessed from the view drop down:

magnifier console

Full-screen mode.

In full-screen mode, your entire screen is magnified. Depending on the size of your screen and the zoom level you choose, you might not be able to see all of the screen at the same time.

Lens mode.

In lens mode, the area around the mouse pointer is magnified. When you move the mouse pointer, the area of the screen that’s magnified moves along with it.

Docked mode.

In docked mode, only a portion of the screen is magnified, leaving the rest of your desktop unchanged. You can then control which area of the screen is magnified.


Full-screen mode and lens mode are only available as part of the Aero experience. If your computer doesn’t support Aero, or if you’re not using an Aero‌ theme, Magnifier will only work in docked mode.


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Magnifier keyboard shortcuts


The following table contains keyboard shortcuts for working with Magnifier.

Press this key To do this
logo key Picture of Windows logo key+
Plus Sign (+) or Minus Sign (-)

in or out


the desktop in full-screen mode


to full-screen mode


to lens mode


to docked mode




in the direction of the arrow keys


the lens

logo key Picture of Windows logo key+



High contrast

Windows has the facility to increase the contrast between text and images, so as to make them easier to tell apart. You can turn this on by going to start > control panel > ease of access centre and then clicking on “Set up High Contrast”.

This will bring up the following screen, where you can choose your settings for high contrast.

The high contrast window

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