Screen Magnifier (also written as: Screen Magnification Software or Software Magnifier)

A screen magnifier is a type of assistive technology that magnifies the contents of a screen, increases color contrast, and performs other visual modifications to the screen making it easier to see for people who have low vision.

Related terms

Illustration: A laptop sits on a table with a window of text open on the screen. A magnifying glass hovers over the screen to enlarge some of the text, to represent screen magnification software.
Illustration: A laptop sits on a table with a window of text open on the screen. A magnifying glass hovers over the screen to enlarge some of the text, to represent screen magnification software.

Long definition

Screen magnifiers enlarge the text and objects on a computer screen. They are used primarily by people who have low vision but can still see well enough that they don’t want to use a screen reader to access the computer. Before computers became powerful enough to handle this task themselves, hardware screen magnifiers – full additional pieces of hardware akin to an actual magnifying glass – were used instead. While hardware magnification solutions are still available and remain popular for magnification of physical papers, books, and other objects, software magnification is generally used when interacting with modern computers or other electronic devices.

Magnification software is now built into most computer platforms including Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, IOS, and most set-top boxes or gaming hardware. It can generally be turned on within accessibility settings of devices. That said, hotkeys or other special commands to first turn on magnification are generally not provided, which can mean some difficulty for people with low vision to get the initial setup done right.

On Windows, third party magnification software is also available, with the most popular software being ZoomText Fusion. Developed by Freedom Scientific (now known as Vispero), the same company responsible for the JAWS screen reader, ZoomText fusion contains a combination of advanced screen magnification features, as well as all the features present in the JAWS screen reader. This allows users to use screen magnification when it’s possible but fall back to using a screen reader when they are still unable to see a particular element, or if they are suffering from eye strain or otherwise don’t want to use screen magnification at a particular time.

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