Multi-Resolution Delphi Applications

Multi-Resolution Delphi Applications

When designing forms, it is often usefull to write the code so that your application (forms and all objects) looks essentially the same regardless of what the screen resolution is.

Don’t worry, you won’t be concerned about run time resolution or the system font size (small fonts / large fonts) or resizeable forms after reading this article.


  • Decide early in the form design stage whether you’re going to allow the form to be scaled or not. The advantage of not scaling is that nothing changes at runtime. The disadvantage of not scaling is that nothing changes at runtime (your form may be far too small or too large to read on some systems if it is not scaled).


  • If you’re NOT going to scale the form, set Scaled to False. Otherwise, set the Form’s Scaled property to True.


  • Set AutoScroll to False. AutoScroll = True means ‘don’t change the form’s frame size at runtime’ which doesn’t look good when the form’s contents do change size.


  • Set the form’s font to a scaleable TrueType font, like Arial. Only Arial will give you a font within a pixel of the desired height. NOTE: If the font used in an application is not installed on the target computer, then Windows will select an alternative font within the same font family to use instead.


  • Set the form’s Position property to something other than poDesigned. poDesigned leaves the form where you left it at design time, which for me always winds up way off to the left on my 1280×1024 screen – and completely off the 640×480 screen.


  • Don’t crowd controls on the form – leave at least 4 pixels between controls, so that a one pixel change in border locations (due to scaling) won’t show up as ugly overlapping controls.


  • For single line labels that are alLeft or alRight aligned, set AutoSize to True. Otherwise, set AutoSize to False.


  • Make sure there is enough blank space in a label component to allow for font width changes – a blank space that is 25% of the length of the current string display length is a little too much, but safe. (You’ll need at least 30% expansion space for string labels if you plan to translate your app into other languages) If AutoSize is False, make sure you actually set the label width appropriately. If AutoSize is True, make sure there is enough room for the label to grow on its own.


  • In multi-line, word-wrapped labels, leave at least one line of blank space at the bottom. You’ll need this to catch the overflow when the text wraps differently when the font width changes with scaling. Don’t assume that because you’re using large fonts, you don’t have to allow for text overflow –
    somebody else’s large fonts may be larger than yours!


  • Be careful about opening a project in the IDE at different resolutions. The form’s PixelsPerInch property will be modified as soon as the form is opened, and will be saved to the DFM if you save the project. It’s best to test the app by running it standalone, and edit the form at only one resolution. Editing at varying resolutions and font sizes invites component drift and sizing problems. Make sure that you set your PixelsPerInch for all your forms to 120. It defaults at 96, which causes scaling problems at a lower resolution.


  • Speaking of component drift, don’t rescale a form multiple times, at design time or a runtime. Each rescaling introduces roundoff errors which accumulate very quickly since coordinates are strictly integral. As fractional amounts are truncated off control’s origins and sizes with each successive rescaling, the controls will appear to creep northwest and get smaller. If you want to allow your users to rescale the form any number of times, start with a freshly loaded/created form before each scaling, so that scaling errors do not accumulate.


  • In general, it is not necessary to design forms at any particular resolution, but it is crucial that you review their appearance at 640×480 with small fonts and large, and at a high-resolution with small fonts and large before releasing your app. This should be part of your regular system compatibility testing checklist.


  • Pay close attention to any components that are essentially single-line TMemos – things like TDBLookupCombo. The Windows multi-line edit control always shows only whole lines of text – if the control is too short for its font, a TMemo will show nothing at all (a TEdit will show clipped text). For such components, it’s better to make them a few pixels too large
    than to be one pixel too small and show not text at all.


  • Keep in mind that all scaling is proportional to the difference in the font height between runtime and design time, NOT the pixel resolution or screen size. Remember also that the origins of your controls will be changed when the form is scaled – you can’t very well make components bigger without
    also moving them over a bit.


    Read on, to find about properties like Align or [Anchors] that help you design the GUI.

    Once you know what issues to bear in mind when scaling Delphi forms on different screen resolutions … you are ready for some coding…

    When working with Delphi version 4 (or above) several properties are designed to help us maintain the look and layout of controls on a form.

    Use Align to align a control to the top, bottom, left, or right of a form or panel and have it remain there even if the size of the form, panel, or component that contains the control changes. When the parent is resized, an aligned control also resizes so that it continues to span the top, bottom, left, or right edge of the parent.

    Use Constraints to specify the minimum and maximum width and height of the control. When Constraints contains maximum or minimum values, the control can’t be resized to violate those constraints.

    Use Anchors to ensure that a control maintains its current position relative to an edge of its parent, even if the parent is resized. When its parent is resized, the control holds its position relative to the edges to which it is anchored. If a control is anchored to opposite edges of its parent, the control stretches when its parent is resized.

    procedure ScaleForm
        (F: TForm; ScreenWidth, ScreenHeight: LongInt) ;
       F.Scaled := True;
       F.AutoScroll := False;
       F.Position := poScreenCenter;
       F.Font.Name := ‘Arial’;
       if (Screen.Width <> ScreenWidth) then begin
         F.Height :=
             LongInt(F.Height) * LongInt(Screen.Height)
             div ScreenHeight;
         F.Width :=
             LongInt(F.Width) * LongInt(Screen.Width)
             div ScreenWidth;
         F.ScaleBy(Screen.Width,ScreenWidth) ;