How to Enable Fractional Scaling in Ubuntu 20.04

Enable Fractional Scaling Ubuntu Featured

If your laptop comes with a HiDPI display and you are running Linux on it, you will find that all your icons, windows and text are too small to see properly. This is where fractional scaling comes in. Here we will show you how to enable fractional scaling in Ubuntu 20.04 (Gnome).

What Is Fractional Scaling?

Fractional scaling is a way of upscaling your icons, application windows and text so they don’t appear squashed in a high-resolution display.

Gnome has always supported HiDPI, though it is limiting, as its upscale factor is only 2: either you double the size of your icons or none. In most cases, a scale factor of 2 makes the icon size too big, which doesn’t provide an optimal user experience.

This is why fractional scaling is important, as it allows you to scale to a fraction rather than a whole integer. A scale factor of 1.25 or 1.5 will give the best user experience.

Enable Fractional Scaling in Ubuntu 20.04

Ubuntu 20.04 comes with Gnome 3.36 which provides native support for fractional scaling. It is not enabled by default, though it can be easily found in the Settings. Do note that this is still an experimental feature, and many people have reported issues, particularly screen tearing, with fractional scaling. If you are using a Nvidia graphics card, the fractional scaling may not work well either.

Also, enabling fractional scaling may increase power usage, lower speed and/or reduce display sharpness. Use it at your own risk.

1. On Ubuntu 20.04 Desktop, click the Apps Overview icons (at the bottom left of the sidebar launcher).

2. Scroll down to find Settings and click to open it.

3. Once you are in the Settings, go to “Displays” on the left pane.

Ubuntu Settings Displays

4. You will see that the Fractional Scaling option is disabled. Move the slider to enable it.

5. A Scale option will appear allowing you to select a scaling factor of 100%, 125%, 150%, 175% or 200%. You can start off with 125%.

Ubuntu Settings Displays Fractional Scaling

6. Click the green “Apply” button at the top right of the window. The desktop size will instantly change and a pop-up will appear asking if you want to “Keep Changes” or “Revert changes.”

7. Click “Keep Changes.”

That’s it.

You can try different options to see what looks best and save it. If you are having issues with it, you can just disable it in “Settings -> Displays.”

On a side note, I have been using fractional scaling for a few months on Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop and have never had an issue with it. If you are having an issue with fractional scaling on Ubuntu and can’t live without it, you may want to consider switching to Linux Mint or maybe just install the Cinnamon desktop.


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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