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The SUM of all pixels – what does high DPI mean to the way you work?

Have you heard of “high dpi” devices? The chances are you might be using one already. High dpi is to do with the density of pixels on a computer screen. It really stands for pixels per inch, but is commonly referred to as ‘dpi’, a legacy of ‘dots per square inch’ from printing – how many dots of ink a printer could get on the paper. The more dots, the better the quality of the image.

Why are you telling me this? [The audience asks, hopefully having made it this far…]

With the growth of useful business devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Surface Book, as well as increasing proliferation of high dpi screens from other PC manufacturers, not to mention Apple’s Retina display (it’s Apple, so they made a brand around high dpi so it sounds like they invented it), business software users are discovering that some of their software doesn’t look quite right on their shiny new devices.

[As a side note, dpi is not the same as resolution. Resolution is the size of a screen, but increasing dpi is about the density of pixels on that screen. So while the screen may not change in size, the density of pixels is increasing, thereby giving you more ‘real estate’ on the screen. (Also often seen as things getting smaller on your desktop.)]

"YOUR SOFTWARE LOOKS FUNNY ON MY NEW COMPUTER"

This happened to our Synergy desktop software. The (sort-of) good news for us is that we weren’t alone – it also happened to lots of Microsoft’s own software, lots of banking applications, and many other enterprise systems. Really to any desktop software that was written to work to a maximum specification in a time before we knew anything about high DPI.

As Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Surface Book (and other high DPI PCs) became more commonplace in our clients’ businesses, we got more and more calls about Synergy not working on those screens.

SUM SAVES THE DAY

In the release we’ve just put out for Synergy (4.9.6), we’ve corrected this issue for almost the entire application. This was no small undertaking. It required our developers to innovate (come up with) a solution and manually update over 500 forms and pages throughout the application. This hasn’t been done before so there’s no documentation on how to fix this issue.

Overall, this has so far taken over 105 hours of developer time, plus a further 80+ hours of QA, beta testing and documentation.

Let’s just pause and think about that for a second. 185 hours? 185 hours of a senior designer’s time at an architectural or engineering consultancy would equate to somewhere around $28,000 to $37,000 of billings.

The good news is that all clients who are on our support, upgrade and maintenance (SUM) plan get this update as part of the deal. That’s right – we just spent 185 hours fixing our software because you all bought new computers! (Actually, so did we...)

That is a very clear illustration of the value of Synergy support, upgrade and maintenance (not to mention the continuing enhancement of the application).

WHY ARE THESE DEVICES SUDDENLY SO POPULAR NOW ANYWAY?

Is it simply an evolution of devices? Or is it that the new Surface range is that good? We asked some clients why they found themselves upgrading their hardware to high DPI devices.

Let's face it, we often just like shiny new things and buy them without any idea what the consequences may be. Which is fair enough. Synergy v5, for example, is pure cloud software that you use through a browser. It doesn't suffer from high DPI issues (another reason we’re building it).

It’s also the nature of technology to continually evolve for better, and differentiated, products. Most PC manufacturers don’t differentiate on high DPI. TV’s do, though (and Macs). But all strive for better definition, clarity and resolution (see point above about resolution).

So there you have it. Synergy SUM got our clients 185 hours of development resources to make our software work on the new generation of computer screens. Bet you’re glad you’ve got that support on your side…

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