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I'm looking for a tool that allows to zoom in on the screen regardless of the application or program you're currently running. This tool should not only magnify the screen, but also the mouse pointer.

Background of the question is as follows: I have a visual impairment, but would like to use Linux, mainly for data security reasons. So far, I always got frustrated when I tried to use it. I failed due to the seemingly trivial problem, that any magnifier in Linux I know would only magnify a screen area, but not the mouse pointer. Even if I can do most things just using the terminal by now, it is still very annoying to do e.g. a simple internet search when you can't see your own mouse pointer.

Scaling up the pointer to the largest possible size and changing its colour to red was not sufficient for me, when I last tried it. This try is now around three years ago, when I started studying at university. I'm wondering if in the meantime someone developed something that makes Linux actually usable for me. I really like the idea of free software, but as long as it's not accessible, I'm stuck with Mac OS.

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  • when testing XFCE (outdated 4.13), on my system, zooming (alt+mousewheel) does zoom the screen AND the pointer (and is sort of doing a zoomed-screen-follows-pointer). But any video I see on internet doesn't zoom it. You could experiment in a VM and see what's the default (which I don't know about). More importantly see if going from the Mac desktop environment to the less featureful XFCE could even be acceptable.
    – A.B
    Nov 9, 2019 at 10:09

4 Answers 4

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I have the exactly same needs and, for more than a decade, Compiz has solved all these problems for me, but only when used with Xfce (not with GNOME or Unity, because it doesn't zoom the sidebar and menubars; haven't tested it with Cinnamon yet). I am currently using xubuntu 18.04, which installs Xfce by default.

Before installing Compiz, You should probably install the appropriate drivers for whatever graphics card you are using, be it Intel integrated graphics or something else.

When installing Compiz, also install compiz-plugins and compizconfig-settings-manager.

After installation:

  • run Compiz by executing the following command in terminal (or create launcher on desktop): compiz --replace &. (Compiz is active only while the command is runing, so You should probably put it in a script which runs at startup)
  • open CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm) and enable 'Enhanced Zoom Desktop' option (under Accessibility options group) and 'Mouse Position Polling' (under Utility group)
  • it is possible that the mouse pointer zoom is not enabled by default, so You should open 'Enhanced Zoom Desktop' option and check 'Scale mouse pointer' option (under 'Mouse behaviour' tab)
  • next, You can set the zoom in/out mouse and keyboard commands ('Enhanced Zoom Desktop' -> 'Zoom In/Out'), e.g. 'Zoom in button': '<Shift><Super>Button4', 'Zoom out button': '<Shift><Super>Button5' (use Shift with Super key to prevent page scrolling while zooming in/out if pointer is inside the browser window)
  • to enhance smoothness of zoom area movement, adjust the 'Mouse poll interval' value under the 'Mouse position pooling' option (lower value - smoother movement).
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Linux Mint Cinnamon gives the functionality of mousewheel zoom by default.

You can do it with the instructions given below:

Accessibility > Desktop Zoom > (Enable Zoom, and choose your other settings)

If you choose the Mouse Wheel Modifier as Alt, then you can press Alt and use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out the desktop.

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  • Welcome to the site! It's great that you've named a feature you think will help OP, but can you elaborate with where OP can find that feature and how to enable it?
    – Stewart
    Nov 20, 2020 at 14:00
  • @Stewart I have added a detailed answer. Nov 20, 2020 at 14:38
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I am currently using MX Linux 18.3 with Xfce 4.12.1 with the compositor set to "Xfwm (Xfce) Compositor". This allows me to zoom the desktop, but not the mouse pointer, using Alt + mousewheel; unfortunately, I am not aware of a mechanism to set a keyboard shortcut that achieves the same effect. However, on MX Linux 19 with Xfce 4.14.1, the zoom function mangifies both the desktop contents and the mouse pointer. (At very high magnification levels, there is a clear pixelation effect.)

For desktop environments that magnify both the desktop's contents and the mouse pointer, I can also recommend either GNOME or Cinnamon (which derives from GNOME). Both have a "Universal Access" dialog with accessibility options, including screen magnification. The magnifiers built into GNOME and Cinnamon provide more options, which is interesting for people who want to use some sort of lens that occupies only part of the screen (a square, or a band across the screen, etc) or who need the cursor to be more visible (e.g. using a crosshairs with adaptable line length, colour and thickness). See for example the following videos:

The above videos happen to focus on Linux Mint, which is a popular option for people transitioning from other operating systems, especially Windows. However, you should find these options also in other GNOME-based distributions, e.g. Fedora, Ubuntu and Manjaro's GNOME edition, all of which I have used in the past. (For the Cinnamon desktop, Linux Mint is definitely the leading distribution.)

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  • I enjoy the native zoom on MX with this Alt + Scroll. A major advantage over compiz is the ability to have mirrored dual monitor zooming. I really wish there was a way to make this an Alt + Ctrl (- / =) shortcut to zoom in and out. Have you any luck with keyboarding this?
    – Seek Truth
    Mar 11 at 17:35
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By default, all X drivers use hardware acceleration for the mouse pointer, which means all the tools that do zooming don't work on the mouse pointer.

However, some X drivers allow to use a software-drawn mouse pointer instead. The option in xorg.conf is usually called HWCursor.

So see if your X driver supports this option. Possibly kernel drivers (DRM) have other methods to turn this off.

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