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Understanding App Scaling

In the recent years ultra high-resolution displays (called e.g. as “Retina”, “4K”, and “UHD”) have become more and more common. Starting from Windows 8.1, Windows has supported system-based app scaling that allows applications that do not provide internal support for ultra-high display resolutions to run in such environments without problems. By using app-scaling, the user can easily scale the apps according to their personal taste without needing to restart the system or log out and in to have the new setting in effect.


Earlier Windows operating systems allowed the user to make individual adjustments to standard windows components and screen fonts, making it possible to run applications on high-DPI devices where the text would be too small to be easily read. This would work reasonably well e.g. in situations where an 13-inch laptop would be run using a 1920 x 1080 or 1920 x 1280 screen resolution. But this method would be clearly inadequate when using ultra-high screen resolutions: not only the text but the applications themselves appear miniature-like (typically at quarter-size of what they are designed to be) and are practically non-usable unless they are scaled up.

Earlier versions of Four Winds supported internal scaling, and the program used an application manifest where it stated to be “high-dpi-aware”, telling the operating system that it would handle scaling-related tasks internally without operating system intervention. This results in Four Winds versions prior to 2.15 prohibiting the system from performing app-scaling, which in modern environment is normally undesired. (The internal manifest can be overridden by using a registry trick and creating an external manifest; but it is better to update the program to current version so that the desired effect can be achieved more easily.)

Starting from version 2.15 Four Winds no longer manifests itself as a “high-dpi-aware” application so by default it uses the app-scaling setting set by the system. This works well in most situations, and especially in ultra-high resolution environments, where the manufacturer has already set a recommended app-scaling value. To see (and change) the percentage of app scaling, right click on your Windows desktop and choose Display settings then under Scale and layout check  (or change) the current scaling percentage.


App scaling means that applications that do not claim to be “high-dpi-aware” do not see the true resolution of the display, but instead the non-scaled resolution. E.g., if your display uses 2560 x 2048 resolution and 200% app scaling, programs like Four Winds (starting from version 2.15) would see the system resolution as 1280 x 1024, and would accordingly allow using only game boards that fit in this screen size, and the system would scale this up by 200% so that screen size would be doubled both in width and height.

This is in most cases desirable. However, if you have an earlier Windows operating system (Windows 95/98, up to Windows 8; but not 8.1 or 10), and have a system that uses standard high-resolution display on a screen that is a bit small for such resolution (e.g., a 13-inch laptop where ideal dpi-value would be around 96, meaning resolutions like 1280 x 800 or 1336 x 786, etc.), you would probably prefer to use the old internal app scaling. The good news is that you can still have it by doing the following:

  1.  Right click on Four Winds Mah Jong icon on Windows desktop and choose Properties from the context menu (or in Start menu, under 4Winds folder, right click “Four Winds Mah Jong 2”, click More > Open file location, then right click Four Winds Mah Jong shortcut and choose Properties).
  2. In the Properties dialog box, activate the Compatibility tab and check Override high DPI scaling behavior, and from Scaling performed by Application drop-down list choose “Application”.

Using this setting allows Four Winds to internally enlarge fonts in menus, and make dialog boxes and other system controls bigger, behaving like versions prior to 2.15 did. On later Windows versions and especially when using ultra-high displays, this does not normally produce acceptable results so you would leave manual override compatibility setting turned off.

Because of complex combinations of display resolutions and physical screen sizes, you may need to experiment a while, using different screen resolutions and scaling factors (accessed by right clicking Windows desktop and choosing Display settings), until you find a combination that best works in your environment. The setting recommended by the manufacturer is often ideal quality-wise but may not be ideal as regards usability and legibility.