IntelliJ IDEA 14.1 HiDPI issues

I’m a user and big fan of JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA IDE. Having tried and used several Java IDEs in the past, I personally think it’s the best out there. On top of that, every major update bring a couple of new amazing features.

Yesterday the 14.1 update of the IDE was released. As usual I rushed to download and install the new version, after a quick glance of the release notes. But as a first, I ran into a major issue.

I’m usually use my desktop or my laptop for programming, but a while ago I got myself a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, to carry around more easily. I also use this for programming. The Surface Pro 3 has a very high-resolution display, which makes whatever is displayed look nice and crisp. But if you use the native resolution, everything will also be very tiny. Microsoft has solved this issue by having Windows do DPI scaling of applications. This essentially simply scales them up to make everything readable to the user. Some applications support this and those that do provide a very nice upscaled crisp interface.

Up until now, IntelliJ has not supported high DPI displays, and as a result, the native OS would just scale it up, making text look slightly blurry, as well as other elements in the UI. To resolve this JetBrains has worked on adding support for these displays on all platforms into their IDE. This is where it got messy.

After installing the new version, and running it, I quickly noticed that there was something wrong. My code looked very crisp for sure, but it was incredibly tiny. Also icons on the toolbar had been shrunk down to a small size. To find the answer, I had to dig through some of JetBrains’ bugtracker issues and found a fix for the problem.

The problem is that (for some reason) the IDE does not detect that I’m running a high-DPI display. So solve this, you have to force it into the HiDPI mode. You can do this by editing the vmoptions files for the IDE, which are located in the same folder that holds the IDE’s binary files. For example “C:\Program Files (x86)\JetBrains\IntelliJ IDEA 14.1\bin” on Windows 8.1 x64. Add the argument -Dhidpi=true to the end file. Be warned though, there are vmoptions files for both 32-bit and 64-bit, make sure you change the right one, or change both to be sure.

It’s clear that there’s still a few issues for JetBrains to work out, even in HiDPI mode, the text in the tip of the day window is pretty small, but they are well on their way towards properly supporting these displays.

6 thoughts on “IntelliJ IDEA 14.1 HiDPI issues

  1. Jean-Paul say:

    I loved this post. Gave me the exact information for the same challenge I had on my Surface Pro 3 after moving from a MacBook. Brilliant and I can read my screen now.

  2. Roman say:

    Thanks! Had exactly the same issue on my retina MacBook with bootcamp

  3. frank say:

    Thanks. One minor issue though (in Linux):
    I still had small fonts in the menus and project tree after this. Fixed it by setting “Override default fonts” under “Appearance” in IDEA.

  4. Ryan say:

    I have the same issue but I am a little unsure how to carry out the steps. I found the file in the directory you specified but Windows would not let me modify it. Would you mind explaining exactly how to do this. Much appreciated.

  5. Todd Bradshaw say:

    Thanks! It also works for CLion

  6. Nick Wilson say:

    Ahh much better, thank you. I had a little bit of trouble editing the x64 version in Windows using Notepad++, so I ended up copying the file to my docs, editing it, then pasting it back into this directory. It then prompted me for admin access, and then worked. I suspect this would answer Ryan’s question above.

    I also bet opening Notepad/Notepad++ as an admin and then opening the file would let you edit it right in that directory.

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