• How To...Magnify Panel Instruments

    How To...Magnify Panel Instruments

    By Mike McCarthy (11 August 2008)

    The panels of some simulated aircraft will show an enlarged version of a gauge if you click inside the gauge, a good example being the PFD of the default 737-800 in FSX. However, most panels don't have that feature, and while I hadn't missed before, yesterday afternoon I suddenly had to do something about it.

    You see, I have color vision problems. Today I installed the CLS DC-10, reviewed by FlightSim.com member Nigel Martin here, only to discover that I was generally unable to read the yellow "flying wing" pitch-and-roll bar of the attitude indicator. (It's the instrument directly below the four pale yellow indicator lamps just beneath the glare shield.)

    If you click on the small image of the panel to enlarge it you will see it rendered as its original 1024x768 image. Even now the flying wings bar is hard to read, as are the flight director crosshairs.

    Because most of my flying is IFR, by itself this kind of thing is a showstopper for me. However, this is such a nice aircraft that I decided to put on my thinking cap on and try to do something about the situation.

    First I held a magnifying glass in front of my 14-inch monitor, which is small to begin with. This helped, but my not having three hands would have meant my constantly setting the magnifying glass down only to have to pick it up again, effectively depriving me of one hand.

    I then tried using a business-card-sized thin pocket magnifier. This was an improvement because I would have been able to build a standoff for it out of index cards. However, the required standoff distance was about six inches, impractical and ugly ...

    And then it hit me. Windows has a built in screen magnifier, one that can magnify a portion of the screen. I'll cut directly to the chase and show you the result, after which I'll show you how I got there. Here's what the solution looks like ...

    This solution can be used with any instrument panel. To magnify the ADI image I have only to move the mouse cursor to the center of the instrument. In fact, by moving the mouse cursor around I can magnify any instrument on the panel.

    To achieve this result you must first run the magnifier. To run the magnifier do Start, Programs, Accessories, Accessibility, Magnifier, as shown in the following picture ...

    When you start the magnifier the result will at look like this ...

    But fear not! That ugly image is easily fixed as discussed immediately below. However, please note that you may want to do what I do which is to uncheck the "Follow keyboard focus" and "Follow text editing" check boxes ...

    Next you must undock the magnifier window. (The magnifier software doesn't use that term, it instead says "Click and drag the window to make it float") ...

    Once the magnifier has been undocked, the instrument panel will no longer look squashed and the magnifier window can be moved and resized as you see fit. Again, I like things arranged like this ...

    You can hide the magnifier at any time by restoring its control panel and unchecking "show magnifier", and you can unhide the magnifier just as easily.

    Now I can take my shiny new DC-10 350 miles west for the tricky bad weather arrival and approach into runway 16L of the USA's KSLC (Salt Lake City, Utah), something I devised for the FS Flight Training joint venture of PC Game Controls and FlightSim.Com. (Can you say "shameless marketing plug"?)

    Mike McCarthy
    [email protected]

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