Hack makes Photoshop and Illustrator readable on Surface Pro

UPDATE: The January 15, 2014 release of Adobe Illustrator CC (version 17.1) makes this hack unnecessary. The new software now features HiDPI display support. 

Blog reader Luis (last name withheld on request) has discovered a clever hack that scales the Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator interfaces. I’ve tested his solution on my Surface Pro 2 with the CC versions of both programs and it works exactly as advertised.

PhotoshopCCOriginalAdobe’s microscopic UIs flunk the patented Surface Pro Artist fan finger test.



Though not exactly touch friendly, the scaled UI won’t cause eyestrain and is very easy to target with the pen.

CAUTION: Editing the Windows registry is not for the faint of heart. Only advanced users should attempt this fix. Make sure to backup your registry before making these changes. Refer to this page from Microsoft for more information on registry editing: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/256986

Below is Luis’ note:

Hi, I’ve found a way to make Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to respect Windows PPI scaling, AKA, make their UI usable instead of microscopic.

The reason these apps have such tiny UIs is because they tell Windows, in their internal manifest files, that they are high DPI aware and that Windows does not need to scale them.
As you can easily see, that’s not the case, not even by a long shot. Our objective then is to replace Adobe’s bogus manifest, by one that tells the truth, that these applications are not high DPI aware.

The problem is, the manifest is internal, stored as a resource inside the .exe file, you can change it, but then you’ll break the file signature making Windows complain every time you try to run these apps. So we’re going to use an external manifest file, however, since Windows XP SP 2 internal manifests have precedence over external ones.

We need to change that and here’s what you have to do:

1. Enable Windows to prioritise external manifests by creating and setting this registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\SideBySide\PreferExternalManifest (DWORD) to 1
as mentioned here (no need to install the mentioned hotfix, just create the registry key)

2. Create a Illustrator.exe.manifest file in notepad, paste this text inside, save it, and copy it to the same folder as Illustrator’s exe file

3. Create a Photoshop.exe.manifest file in notepad, paste this text inside, save it, and copy it to the same folder as Photoshop’s exe file

4. Run the applications, no need to restart or anything else, and their interface should now have an acceptable size, but a but blurry as usual with this kind of scaling.

This has worked for me and made my Surface Pro a much more usable device. I hope that by divulging this information we can force the hand of [expletive deleted] Adobe to support High DPI interfaces.

I also hope that Microsoft doesn’t patch this to stop it from working in the future, but seeing as this is a workaround for corporate apps to run I’d say we’re reasonably safe (for now…)



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