My Font’s Too Small/Big

My Font’s Too Small/Big: a reader asks…

I use both Google Chrome and Gmail, and sometimes the new Microsoft Edge on my Windows 10 laptop. Every once in a while something seems to happen that makes my font size in the web browser either shrink down a lot, or grow horribly large. I know about the zoom control in Chrome, and am certainly not using that! What could be causing this? Could a hacker be changing this for me?

I’m guessing that you mean the zoom control in Chrome that’s on the Chrome menu when you click on the 3 vertical dots at the top-right of the window – a list of controls drops down.

More likely what’s happening when the laptop zooms randomly is that you inadvertently activated the keyboard shortcut (or keyboard/mouse wheel) for zooming the window/font. There are a ton of keyboard shortcuts that are common in both Windows and Mac computers. The Windows 10 zoom control involves holding down the CTRL key while either pressing the + or – button. If you have a mouse with a wheel, it also works with holding the CTRL key down while rolling the mouse up or down. On Mac computers, it’s the Command button held down while using either the + or – keys (or a mouse wheel).

Mac also has a separate trackpad gesture (pinch out with 2-fingers) to magnify an image or web page. Pinch in to shrink back to normal size. This isn’t quite the same as the above magnify function, and doesn’t work everywhere.

These are design features, not accidents. The operating system developers wanted an easy way for people to adjust what they see. As we age, our sight degrades some, and making things larger (zooming in) can make it easier to see and recognize things on the screen, especially text characters. So in addition to putting the zoom control on the main browser settings list, they added keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately, there isn’t room on the browser settings list to list both the zoom control and its corresponding keyboard shortcut (like other controls on that list), so many folks may not have noticed that you can control your zoom level with the CTRL and + or – buttons (or mouse wheel).

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All major browsers have this zoom control capability. One note for Firefox users, the main browser settings list is a “hamburger” (3 horizontal lines) instead of 3 dots. It does the same thing, and you’ll see the zoom control on that list. The keyboard/mouse shortcut works regardless – it’s a feature of the operating system so works pretty much the same across all apps.

Keyboard shortcuts can be a way to save a lot of time. It might be worthwhile for you to peruse the complete list of keyboard shortcuts built into Windows, which you can find here. For Mac users, you can find your list of keyboard shortcuts here.

It’s well worth investing a little time in learning some of these shortcuts. If you find yourself moving your hand from keyboard to mouse/trackpad and back again often, a few handy keyboard shortcuts will cut that down significantly.

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