Magnification Plug-Ins
for Ubuntu


   Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom are two plug-ins that work with the Unity desktop in Ubuntu. Magnifier displays the magnified view in a small window like a magnifying glass (Figure 1). With Enhanced Zoom the magnified view fills the screen. Both Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom follow the cursor.

Figure 1. The Magnifier window.



Required Software:  CompizConfig Settings Manager & plug-ins.

As described below, some of the keyboard shortcuts depend on your version of Ubuntu. For Ubuntu 14.04:

Magnifier keyboard shortcuts:

     On/Off            Shift + WIN + m
     Bigger             Shift + WIN + Scroll Wheel Up
     Smaller           Shift + WIN + Scroll Wheel Down

Enhanced Zoom keyboard shortcuts:

     Zoom In         WIN + Scroll Wheel Up
     Zoom Out       WIN + Scroll Wheel Down

WIN is the Windows Logo Key. Shortcuts using trackpads are described in the article.

Compatibility with Ubuntu

   You can use Magnifer in Ubuntu 12.04.3, 13.10, and 14.04.

   The Enhanced Zoom plug-in is enabled by default in Ubuntu 12.04.3, 13.10, and 14.04, but no user commands are defined.

   Enhanced Zoom will also work in earlier versions of Ubuntu that use the Compiz visual effects manager. You can configure Enhanced Zoom after downloading the Settings Manager as described below.

   Linux distributions derived from Ubuntu often do not use the Compiz windows manager required for Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom. For example, these plug-ins did not work with Vinux 4, which was based on Ubuntu 12.04. Vinux 5, released in November, 2015, is based on Ubuntu 14.04, which is compatible with Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom.

Which Version of Ubuntu to Use?

   In May, 2012, Mark Yelavich, the Canonical developer who works on accessibility, addressed problems with Universal Access features while the Unity desktop is being developed. He advised that a Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu is the best choice for accessibility:

"I feel that unless you really understand how to get set up and unbreak your system, and deal with accessibility bugs, you should stick to the Ubuntu LTS releases."

" don't need to keep updating to the interim Ubuntu releases, and risk breaking your system."

Settings Manager

    Compiz is the window manager and compositing, or special visual effects, manager in the standard version of Ubuntu. Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom are Compiz plug-ins.

   The CompizConfig Settings Manager enables you to configure Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom. The Settings Manager is available in the Ubuntu Software Center, or with a terminal:

          sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

To get the Magnifier plug-in:

          sudo apt-get install compiz-plugins   

   To locate the Settings Manager after it is installed, open the Run Prompt (Alt + F2) and type "ccsm" without quotes. 

Enabling Magnifier

   In the Accessibility Section of Settings Manager there is a checkbox to enable Magnifier. 

  The default commands are listed in the editor that opens when you click on the Magnifier icon in Settings Manager.

   For more details see the Examples section below.

Configuring Enhanced Zoom

   In Ubuntu 12.03, 13.10, and 14.01, Enhanced Zoom is enabled by default, but no user commands are defined.

   To configure the commands, click on the Enhanced Zoom icon in the Settings Manager and select the Zoom In/Out Tab to open the editor.  You can define two commands for each action such as Zoom In:  (1) a "button command" to use with a mouse or trackpad, for example, Alt + Scroll Wheel Up, and (2) a keyboard shortcut, such as Alt + Up Arrow.

   For more details see the Examples section below.

Magnification Tips

   The "Larger Text" option in Ubuntu Universal Access increases text visibility. The "High Contrast" option renders some Web pages unreadable.

   Magnifier can enlarge any object on the screen. Enhanced Zoom works on the desktop, so it will not magnify the menus at the top of the screen or the Dash.

Examples of Magnifier Commands

   Clicking on the Magnifier icon in Settings Manager opens the command editor. Here is a table of the default controls for mouse users. The <super> key (with the Windows logo) is written as "WIN" in the instructions:

 Action             Keybindings                   User Input

On/Off*   <super>m                           WIN + m           
Larger    <shift><super>Button4    Shift + WIN + Scroll Wheel Up
Smaller  <shift><super>Button5    Shift + WIN + Scroll Wheel Down

* All of the default controls in the preceding table work in Ubuntu 13.10. In versions 12.04.3 and 14.04, the Magnifier On/Off command opens a music search window instead of Magnifier. In that case, (for On/Off only) replace <super> with <shift><super> and replace WIN with Shift + WIN.

   Reboot the computer after editing.

   For touchpads Button4 is "2-Finger Up Swipe," and Button5 is "2-finger Down Swipe."

   The Advanced configuration panel includes an option to resize the viewing window (General Tab > Simple > Height and Width).

Examples of Zoom Commands

   Clicking on the Enhanced Zoom icon in Settings Manager opens the commands editor. For each action, this editor allows you to define both (1) a "Button command" for a mouse or trackpad, and (2) a keyboard shortcut. Here are examples:

 Action                      Keybindings                     User Input

Zoom In Button     <super>Button4         WIN + Scroll Wheel Up           
Zoom In Key          <super>Up                   WIN + Up Arrow

Zoom Out Button   <super>Button5         WIN + Scroll Wheel Down
Zoom Out Key         <super>Down             WIN + Down Arrow

   For Ubuntu 12.04.3 replace <super> with <Alt><super> and WIN with Alt + WIN.

   Reboot the computer after editing.

   For a touchpad, the Button4 instruction is "2-Finger Up Swipe," and Button5 is "2-Finger Down Swipe."


   The KMagnifier (KMag) accessory was originally developed for Linux distributions that use the KDE desktop. Now a KMag package compatible with the standard Unity desktop is available in the Ubuntu Software Center.

   Unlike Magnifier and Enhanced Zoom, KMag does not use font smoothing. With increased magnification, pixelation makes text appear fuzzy and harder to read.


   Thanks to Bob, SourceForge ID bgiff158, for his help. Thanks to Bill Taylor for reporting that the development version of Vinux (Vinux 5) is based on Ubuntu 14.04.

Author Information

   Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Extra Class amateur radio operator in the U.S. This Web site has no ads or conflicts of interest.
Email:  HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.

rev. 11/26/2015

Linux Programs on HamRadioAndVision

HamRadioAndVision Table of Contents