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Utility Spotlight: Zoom in and out with ease

ZoomIt lets you zoom in and out and make annotations on-screen to better control technical presentations.

Lance Whitney

When you have to give a presentation or demo using something such as Microsoft PowerPoint, you know that navigating and manipulating the screen display during a presentation can be a challenge. A free Microsoft utility called ZoomIt can help ease that process.

ZoomIt is another Sysinternals tool from the mind of Mark Russinovich. ZoomIt lets you zoom in or out of any part of the screen with your mouse or keyboard. ZoomIt also lets you focus on a specific part of the screen. This is especially handy if your audience has trouble seeing text, images or other content that might appear too small under normal view.

You can also use ZoomIt to create lines, text and other annotations with your mouse or keyboard, with or without zooming. You can use this feature to highlight and draw attention to certain bullet points or other content. Because ZoomIt acts directly on the screen, you can use it in any application or Web site and on any document, presentation or other file.

You can download ZoomIt from the Windows Sysinternals Web site. Extract the ZoomIt.zip file to reveal the Eula.txt file and the ZoomIt.exe file. Like most Sysinternals utilities, ZoomIt doesn’t require installation. Simply double-click the .exe file to open the program.

The first time you launch ZoomIt, the program’s options screen appears for you to review the various features and configure the hotkeys that trigger different commands (see Figure 1).

The first time you launch ZoomIt, you can configure its commands.

Figure 1 The first time you launch ZoomIt, you can configure its commands.

Zoom in and out

The Zoom tab lets you set the magnification level and change the hotkey that turns the zoom function on and off. By default, the magnification is set to two times, and the hotkey is set to Ctrl+1. To test this feature, click OK to close down the ZoomIt window. The program will remain in memory, appearing in the Windows system tray.

Press Ctrl+1 to trigger the zoom function and zoom in to your current screen. Now you can use the scroll wheel on an external mouse or the touchpad on a laptop to zoom in and out of your screen. Moving your external mouse also lets you view different parts of the screen up close (see Figure 2). You can zoom out using the mouse scroll wheel, move to a specific part of the screen and then zoom back in to that part.

You can scroll around the screen to select different areas upon which to zoom.

Figure 2 You can scroll around the screen to select different areas upon which to zoom.

If you’re using a touchpad, swipe your fingers up to zoom in and swipe them down to zoom out. Using a single finger on your touchpad, you can move your mouse around the screen and then again swipe up or down to zoom in or out of a specific area.

You can’t see your mouse cursor as you move it around the screen, but you’ll have a general sense of its position by where and how far you’ve moved it. You can also use the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out. However, the keys don’t let you move around the screen as you can with your mouse.

Draw the line

To draw on the screen, click your left mouse button or touchpad once and hold down the mouse button or touchpad. Move your cursor around the screen to draw a red line as it follows your movement (see Figure 3). You can draw lines, circles, squares, or any other type of annotation to call attention to specific parts of the screen.

You can annotate your presentations, or simply underline items on-screen.

Figure 3 You can annotate your presentations, or simply underline items on-screen.

To move to another area, simply release your finger, move your mouse cursor, and hold down the left button or touchpad to draw in a different spot. To turn off zoom and annotation features, press the Ctrl+1 hotkey again. Doing so returns the screen to its regular view and removes any annotations on the screen.

To view other ZoomIt features, double-click the ZoomIt icon in the system tray. Click on the LiveZoom tab. This feature displays updates to any window while zoomed in. So you can type and make other changes to your text and content within the zoomed-in window. To try this, open a document or presentation, ensure ZoomIt is running, and press Ctrl+4 to enter LiveZoom mode.

You can now make changes to the content in your zoomed-in window (see Figure 4). The up and down arrow keys move you up and down in your file as they normally would. To zoom in and out of your screen, press Ctrl+Up Arrow and Ctrl+Down Arrow instead. When done, press Ctrl+4 to exit LiveZoom mode. You should note that LiveZoom only supports Windows Vista or later.

You can use LiveZoom to make changes to presentation content.

Figure 4 You can use LiveZoom to make changes to presentation content.

Double-click on the ZoomIt system tray icon again. Click on the Draw tab to view the different drawing options. You can press the left mouse button to turn on Drawing mode and the right mouse button to turn it off.

You can change the width of the pen by holding down the Ctrl key and moving your mouse scroll wheel or pressing the up and down arrow keys. You can also change the color of the pen after turning on Drawing mode by typing “r” for red, “g” for green, “b” for blue, “o” for orange, “y” for yellow or “p” for pink (see Figure 5).

When in Drawing mode, you can change the pen color.

Figure 5 When in Drawing mode, you can change the pen color.

Now click on the Type tab. With this option, you can annotate any area of the screen by typing text. This is a great way to comment on or explain certain aspects of your presentation. To enable this mode, simply press the letter “t” after you enter Drawing mode. You can set a specific font and change the type size of the text you type through your mouse scroll wheel or the up and down arrow keys (see Figure 6).

Change the font and type size to annotate your presentations with text.

Figure 6 Change the font and type size to annotate your presentations with text.

Click on the Break tab. Here you can set a timer to automatically exit the Zoom mode after a certain number of minutes. Finally, you can choose to trigger ZoomIt when Windows starts by selecting that option at the bottom of the ZoomIt window.

ZoomIt is a helpful tool for trainers, salespeople and other professionals who have to run technical demonstrations on a regular basis. It can also be quite helpful to people with vision problems who need to be able to more clearly see and read their screens.

Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.

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