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How To Enable HiDPi Scaling on Linux

High resolution displays are becoming the norm, but despite this, Linux has iffy, and confusing DPI scaling settings. Thats why in this article, we’ve decided to outline how to set up HiDPI scaling on Linux desktop environments that support it.

Gnome Instructions

Gnome has pretty good HiDpi support, and with each release it gets a little bit better, though it doesn’t apply these settings automatically on a high-resolution display. To change the scaling so that it’s more friendly to these kinds of displays for the Gnome desktop environment, open up a terminal.

Setting scaling via the terminal is made possible by directly interacting with gsettings. For users on Apple Retina displays, and other high resolution displays, this command should be sufficient:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 2

Not a fan of the scaling factor of 2? Want something higher, or lower? Change “2” to something else. However, please keep in mind that the scaling-factor tool only accepts whole numbers.

Cinnamon Instructions

Those looking to use a HiDPi display with the Cinnamon desktop environment thankfully do not need to change any scaling settings to accommodate large resolutions. This is due to the fact that the developers who work on Cinnamon try very hard to make it so that everything works great as is. In fact, as you log in, the desktop does calculations to determine the correct scaling for everything. Still, if you want to adjust the scaling factors manually, here’s how to do it:

Open the Cinnamon menu, and search for “settings”. In the settings area, look for “General”, and click on it. From here, look for “User interface scaling”, and change it from “Auto” to any of the other options.

KDE Plasma Instructions

KDE Plasma 5 is another desktop environment that is trying to get HiDPI right, but still needs a bit of user intervention for it to be perfect.To change the scaling for the display on the KDE Plasma desktop environment, open up the application menu on the panel, search for “Displays” and click on it. Click the scroll-bar on the right and drag it to the bottom. Then, click on “Scale Display”.

This will open up a control center that will let the user change the scaling of the display under KDE Plasma. Grab the slider, and drag it to what looks best. Then click “OK”, then “Apply”.

After applying the settings, reboot your PC.

Budgie Instructions

There is a way to enable UI scaling for high resolution displays in the Budgie desktop environment — sort of. None of the developers for this desktop environment have a high resolution display, so there is no active development in this area. With that said, it doesn’t really matter that there isn’t anyone developing it, as the Budgie Desktop is heavily built upon Gnome and GTK3, which already has great support for UI scaling.

Enabling this in Budgie works exactly the same as Gnome, though because there is no official support, you’ll need to do this at your own risk. If things don’t look exactly scaled right, don’t blame anyone. To enable scaling, open up a terminal window, and execute the following command:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 2

Like Gnome, customize the scaling factor of Budgie by changing “2” to another whole number.

Unity Instructions

Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment is probably one of the best for HiDPI displays. In fact, it’s one of the only desktops that doesn’t rely on only using integers to scale. As a result, things look much more natural. In fact, on most high resolution displays, users likely will not need to modify any scaling settings. That said, if you’re looking to configure things manually, open up the Unity dash, search for “display” and press the enter key.

From here, select a screen, and look for the option to “scale” based on menus and titlebars. Drag the slider up or down to adjust the DPI.

Enlightenment Instructions

Despite the fact that enlightenment looks slightly dated (compared to other Linux desktop environments, it still manages to have some pretty good DPI settings., Users can easily adjust the scaling of the UI, and overall experience with ease. To do this, right click on the desktop, and hover over “settings”. In the of the settings area of the right-click menu, select “Settings Panel”.

Inside of the Settings Panel, and click on the “look” section, then select “Scaling”. Under scaling, the user is able to easily adjust the scale of the desktop. Set the scale to 1.2, or around that number, as it seems to look the best under high-end displays.

Desktops Not Mentioned

Some desktop environments like XFCE4, MATE and LXDE/LXQt do not have instructions on this list. This is because the developers behind these Linux desktops have either completely ignored high resolution displays, or are currently developing a way for their desktop environments to support it.

As a result, there are virtually no settings to speak of that we can put in this article to help scale the UI. If you’re using a Macbook Pro, or another computer with a high-end display on Linux, it’s best to use the Desktop environments listed above instead.

Leave a comment

  • Howard Roark

    I know the article is a few months old but I find budgie on Ubuntu 18.04 to work the best out of the box on hidip, better than gnome, or Kde. I have it installed on a chromebook pixel 2013 (2560*1700) and it scales all menus, fonts and programs very well. The only program I had to manually scale was spotify.