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Weblog Entry

Mac Zoom Trick

August 08, 2005

Taking advantage of a Quartz effect for a better online video experience (among other things).

There are no end of sites that embed video within a browser, rather than load it in your external video player of choice. Case in point — Comedy Central’s Daily Show video archives. Since the video size controls of the player are often not accessible when the player is embedded, how many times have you ended up hunched over and squinting at a postage-stamp-sized video?

Sure, you could hunt down the URL of the video in question and force a download to disk. (The most reliable way I’ve found to do this and bypass the browser’s default file handling: hand-code a direct link to the video in a static HTML file, right-click the link, Save File As.) Or if the format is QuickTime, you could always shell out $30 for the “QuickTime Pro” extortion fee and save it direct from the player.

But if you run OS X, there’s a quick hack that eliminates the petty file management either of these routes require. The first stop is your system preferences, in the Keyboard and Mouse Panel. You’ll find a group called “Universal Access”, and within that group is a setting labelled “Turn zoom on or off”. Make sure it’s checked. Alternatively, you can just hit ⌘ + ⌥ + 8 from any application to toggle this setting.

Now, at any time and within any application, you can simply press and hold ⌘ + ⌥ + = to zoom the screen inwards, and ⌘ + ⌥ + - to zoom back out. Load up the windowed video, hit the magic key combination, and use the mouse to center the video within the screen. Voilà — instant full screen. Thanks to OS X’s Quartz rendering engine, the video enlarges without causing any noticable hit in frame rate.

Zoom Example

Of course, you’re not gaining any video resolution this way, and you’re still going to have an enlarged mouse cursor and visible border on-screen. It’s not perfect, but hey, it beats that postage stamp doesn’t it?

I always leave this setting on, because universal zoom anywhere in the OS is mighty handy when you’re someone who deals with pixels for any amount of time. The only gripe I have is that the anti-aliased smoothing doesn’t allow me to measure pixels by sight; an option to smooth the enlarged pixels or simply enlarge the mosaic would be most welcome. Update: Apple’s a few steps ahead of me. ⌘ + ⌥ + \ toggles the smoothing setting. Thanks, Joseph.


Parker says:
August 08, 01h

Great spotlight on one of Mac OS X’s best-kept secrets! I’ve been using this feature all summer due to an awkward arrangement that forces me to sit about five feet away from my computer screen and it works wonders. Also, I did not know about the option to toggle “smooth images.” Very nice, though I still have to find a way to use that. I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Thanks for the tip!

I’m using a Logitech MX Laser mouse and I have mapped the zoom keys to the thumb buttons on it – with one click I can instantly zoom in or out, which is great on pages with very small text or details. Kind of funny that I make so much use of this, even with good vision!

Justin P says:
August 08, 01h

I’ll just stick to viewing the source and searching for the reference to the movie, then copy/paste that into my address bar. That’s waaay easier.

August 08, 02h

Bypass scrubbing the source for the link and let a favelet I wrote a while back do it for you Dave, http://www.shauninman.com/plete/2004/05/a-few-favelets

Check out “List Embedded Media.” It will create a list of links to all the embedded media in the page. Then just option+click to start your download (in Safari anyway).

August 08, 02h

Nice, Dave. Never thought of using the built in accessibility features to avoid buying a Pro license. Just playing. Brilliant.

5
Brian says:
August 08, 02h

If you wanna get rid of the cursor, just hit an arrow key or two.I use the zoom feature religiously, one because I have bad eyesight and a high-res monitor, but also for full-screen video and to crop out flashing banners and such while reading.

August 08, 03h

In Safari if you have the URL to any downloadable file (or even one that won’t usually ‘download’, rather load inside the browser) you can simple CMD-V (Paste) into the Safari downloads window and it will duely obey and download said file :)

Ian Brown says:
August 08, 03h

On a Windows machine, if you’re using Firefox, I usually use the Color Zilla extension, as you can zoom in as much as you want.

Although, I tend to just hack the HTML page, it may take more time, but it’s better than being hunched up, or attacked by pixels.

8
BG McCollum says:
August 08, 04h

In Firefox:

Tools Menu > Page Info (Control / Command I)
Media Tab
Select The Movie
Click Save As

August 08, 04h

Here’s another way to download a file at a specific URL in Safari that might be quicker for those who are used to pasting URLs into the location bar.

Copy the URL, type Command-L Command-V in quick succession to paste the URL into the location bar, and then instead of pressing return, press option-return.

This will start downloading the file instead of loading it into the current window.

(Admittedly, if you’re used to it, Command-Option-L Command-V in quick succession will start downloading and is quicker, but you have to know the downloads window shortcut. I think the shortcut to the downloads window originally was Command-Shift-D – or I still have muscle memory for that command for the downloads window from OmniWeb or something? – and I’m still used to that, so the former way is faster for me.)

August 08, 05h

Yeah, I’ve been using this function for a while now, the enlarged cursor can be very distracting though.

Surely there must be a way to temporarily hide the cursor, I’ve been googling around but nothing has turned up. Does anyone have a soloution for the enlarged cursor problem?

August 08, 10h

Hi Dave,

There is indeed a way to disable smoothing in 10.4.2: in the zoom options there’s a checkbox labled “Smooth images”. Or press option-command-backslash to toggle!

Dave S. says:
August 08, 10h

Nice! Thanks Joseph, that just made my life easier.

August 08, 10h

The funny thing about Firefox on a windows machine is you can right click on a Windows Media video and usually have access to the sizing controls. It doesn’t work for the Daily Show, but oddly, I can watch the videos full screen by double clicking on them. (bug or feature? Who knows!)

Of course, I have a 27” TV plugged into the second video output of my machine, so anything other than Quicktime mirrors fullscreen to it anyway… but that’s probably not an option for people watching them at lunchtime on their machine at work.

Also, although I doubt it works for video, the Firefox “Colorzilla” extension now has some zoom capabilities for people using that browser… it’s handy for checking pixels in your layouts…

August 08, 11h

“The most reliable way I’ve found to do this and bypass the browser’s default file handling: hand-code a direct link to the video in a static HTML file, right-click the link, Save File As.”

Here’s a little Safari trick I learned awhile back that makes it a snap to directly download any file:

1. Copy the URL of the file to your pasteboard.
2. Open the Downloads window (Command + Option + L, or, from the menubar: Window > Downloads).
3. With the Downloads window active, paste the URL (Command + V, or Edit > Paste).

Safari will begin downloading the file!

August 08, 11h

This tool might be helpful for you too, Dave. it’s called Free Ruler, and you can find it at http://www.pascal.com/software/freeruler/

Bernd says:
August 08, 11h

Nice Hack! Sometimes there are videos having a ratio which doesn’t fit to the screen. Then you see the background next to the video player watching a video. In this case I suggest the VLC player which provides a nearly fullscreen option and fills the space with a black background around the video. Now hide the Dock and zoom in. Voila, fullscreen video like in windows.

Dave S. says:
August 08, 11h

Rob – great tip, that’s a lot smoother than having to hack an HTML file. (I wonder how long it’s been possible to do that? I’ve been using the HTML trick since the 90’s… old habits die hard)

Robert – there are quite a few different on-screen pixel measuring tools out there (the Art Director’s Toolkit came bundled on my system, even) but having an extra app open just to measure pixels always struck me as a bit of a waste of memory. I have Photoshop open about 98% of the time my system is on anyway, so a copied and pasted screen cap gets the job done. Being able to count pixels by sight is just an extra-nice touch, when possible.

Bob Aman says:
August 08, 12h

Re: dead pixels

If that’s an lcd screen/laptop made by Apple, most Apple stores and Apple-authorized repair guys will replace the screen if it’s still under warranty even for a single dead pixel if the customer deems the condition to be “unacceptable.” I got my 12” powerbook’s screen replaced when it had a single pixel stuck on. The nasty green dot was a pain for watching movies full-screened.

Just an FYI.

August 08, 12h

Thanks for the linkage to Comedy Central, made my day. In win we just double-click it ;)

August 08, 12h

“Here’s a little Safari trick I learned awhile back that makes it a snap to directly download any file:

1. Copy the URL of the file to your pasteboard.
2. Open the Downloads window (Command + Option + L, or, from the menubar: Window > Downloads).
3. With the Downloads window active, paste the URL (Command + V, or Edit > Paste).”

You can even do it without using the Downloads window. Just paste the URL of the file in the address bar and press Option + Enter and it will start downloading the file.

This has been possible since the first release of Safari and is probably my favorite feature.

21
ian says:
August 09, 06h

Now <strong>that</strong> is a very useful feature. There’s always something new that didn’t know was there, isn’t there?

August 09, 07h

To “save” Quicktime movies without paying for a Pro license, turn on the “Save movies in disk cache” option in the Quicktime System Preference pane. After a movie is fully loaded in the browser, it will also be in your /tmp directory (but with a strange name).

23
Wayne says:
August 09, 11h

If you’re looking for another way to measure pixels, you might give MeasureIt a try.
http://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&category=Developer%20Tools&numpg=10&id=539
http://www.kevinfreitas.net/extensions/measureit/

Mike says:
August 09, 12h

CTRL + COMMAND + APPLE + 8
Colour Inversion!

August 09, 12h

Wow, I had no idea that you could paste a URI into the Downloads window of Safari. That’s a great tip. And Inman’s “List Embedded Media” favelet looks to be an excellent compliment to that technique. But I still will probably stick to my old CLI methods (wget).

Brad says:
August 10, 09h

It’s features like these that make me want to stick with Mac and feel silly for ever even considering buying a PC as my next computer ;)

27
monkey dancing shadow says:
August 10, 11h

Dave, the *real* use of these accessibility features should be reserved as practical jokes to be played upon users that don’t know better (that’s how i’ve been using them the last few years!).

Zoom, Inversion, B+W make for great gremlins - there’s much hilarity to be had if you are in a slightly cruel mood.

(Yes, I can be a bastard, but they deserved it, honest!)

28
Fai says:
August 11, 09h

I use the MediaPlayerConnectivity extension for the Firefox browser; that allows me to open any video file in an external player, such as Windows Media Player. Beats messing about with zoom when you can simply just full-screen the player instead!

29
Prak says:
August 12, 09h

There is an option in the Universal Access prefs that pans a zoomed-in screen only when the mouse pointer reaches an edge. That’s how I was getting round the pointer-slap-bang-in-the-middle-of-the-video problem. But I think tapping an arrow key is much simpler, as a previous commenter mentioned.

Hipoteca says:
August 13, 02h

if you have the URL to any downloadable file (or even one that won’t usually ‘download’, rather load inside the browser) you can simple CMD-V into the Safari downloads window and it will duely obey and download said file :)

Chad says:
September 12, 07h

Not sure about the rest of you but this feature does not work for me at all. I have tried all the right shortcut keys and nothing seems to activate the zoom for me. All I get is the apple error beep sound when I try ‘option-command-8’

September 18, 03h

Occasionally I use my Mac mini connected to a TV. I hardly ever use it for reading e-mail or typing since text becomes hard to read, but rarely when I must, the screen zoom helps a great deal picking out words.

The zoom is quite an excellent tool, and gives new life to old Classic programs that once filled up a 512x384 screen that now only occupies about a quarter of my monitor real estate.