Four ways to make Web pages easier on your eyes

Are Web pages becoming harder to read, or is your eyesight getting worse? Probably both. In their quest to be eye-catching, some Web sites use retina-unfriendly fonts and backgrounds. Internet Explorer 4.x and 5 include settings for displaying Web pages in the font sizes, styles, and colours you specify, so you'll never again have to squint to read 4-point text. Navigator offers similar settings, but these don't work consistently and in fact they sometimes make matters worse by displaying pages in unreadable colour combinations, such as blue letters on a black background.

Here are some useful sight-saving tips:

1. Increase font size. If the text is too small to read, select View-Text Size and choose Larger or Largest. If you find that most of the pages you visit use uncomfortably minute fonts, you're better off adding the Size button to the toolbar. Right-click a blank area on the toolbar, select Customize, click the Size icon in the left pane, and click Add. (Note: the Size button is available on IE 4.x's toolbar by default.)2. Set high contrast. You can change Windows 9x's screen colour combination to something stark (black on white, say, or white on black) to heighten the display's contrast. Select Start-Settings-Control Panel, and then click the Accessibility Options icon. Under the Display tab, select High Contrast. Click the Settings button to configure the browser to your preferred colours.

3. Ignore default formatting. Configuring IE 5 to ignore the colours and font formatting that a Web page specifies and instead to defer to the Windows colour scheme you favour (see previous tip) isn't hard. To do it, select Tools-Internet Options, and in the General tab click the Accessibility button. (In IE 4.x, select View instead of Tools.) In the Formatting box, click the check boxes next to Ignore colors specified on Web pages, Ignore font sizes specified on Web pages, and Ignore font styles specified on Web pages. Click OK to confirm these changes.

4. Enlarge the pointer. Install Microsoft's free Windows Alternative Mouse Pointer (altpnt.exe), and you can stop squinting to find the cursor. This super-size pointer also changes colours depending on the background colour of the site you browse. Meta-Mouse, a $US18 shareware utility, lets you make your cursor bigger and brighter - and blinking. Find both on the November PC World cover CD. The Trace Research Centre at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (trace.wisc.edu/world/computer_access/win/winshare.html) has a big library of these and other mouse enhancements that increase cursor visibility on garish, gothic, or ad-riddled Web pages.

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