Zoom It – Take a Really Close Look!

We all love Macs. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing here and you wouldn’t be reading. I especially love my 27″ iMac with its shiny and huge display, which even lets me display all my Photoshop work including an insane number of palettes. It’s awesome, but there’s one drawback: sometimes, I have trouble seeing all the details. Not just in my design files, but finding buttons, reading text or sending a detailed screenshot can be challenging. Simply sitting back comfortably removes me so far from this enormous screen that even normal text becomes nearly illegible.

The obvious solution was to make everything bigger: to zoom into my design files, to increase the font size in the browser and my text editors – but it was tedious at times when I only needed a portion of my screen enlarged. To my delight, I stumbled upon Zoom It by Appatic Inc, a handy little tool that turns your mouse cursor into a highly customizable loupe. Read on to find out what I experienced with Zoom It.

System Preference vs. Third-Party App

I know what a lot of you will be thinking right now: why should you buy an extra tool if your Mac already has a zoom functionality built in? For those of you who didn’t know, yes, there is an option to zoom your screen and you can activate it in your System Preferences via the Universal Access panel.

Activate zoom in Mac's system preferences

Activate zoom in Mac's system preferences

Personally, I’ve tried it and it never seemed to work right for me. For starters, having a non-US keyboard layout, it’s rather difficult to use the keyboard shortcuts. Also, the behavior of the zoom isn’t really what I wanted. I don’t need the entire screen to be zoomed in, I usually just want a certain portion enlarged and keep an overview of the rest. There’s probably an option to customize the system preference better, but considering the average user, it really seems a bit tricky.

In that light, using an affordable third party application becomes quite attractive

Take a closer look. No, closer!

Now, during my research for an app that could accomplish what I wanted, I found Zoom It. Simply said, it behaves like a virtual magnifying glass, enlarging certain parts of your screen that your mouse hovers over.

Zoom It allows you to take a closer look - at everything

Zoom It allows you to take a closer look - at everything

It doesn’t matter what you are trying to see: whether it’s text, the layers paletter in Photoshop, or even a video. Zoom It will allow you to see more than you did before. The magnifyer is always centered around your mouse cursor and it’s very snappy. There’s no lag when moving the loupe around and you can type, click or draw with your mouse while the loupe is active.

Of course, you can customize Zoom It to fit your specific needs. The app lodges itself in the menu bar from where you access several settings and the options window. If you’re more a fan of keyboard shortcuts, you’ll be delighted to see that Zoom It not only has quite a few of them, but also that they are fully customizable! If you choose to, you can have the Welcome Screen of Zoom It appear at every start of the app (for example when it’s launched at login). It will display all the shortcuts – and if you changed them, the screen will reflect that. A very handy reminder of the power at your fingertips.

Adjust the keyboard shortcuts to what you like them to be

Adjust the keyboard shortcuts to what you like them to be

As you can see, you have the option to have the loupe active the entire time or only when you need it, depending on the work you’re currently doing. Also, you can increase or decrease the level of magnification (how far you zoom in) and the size of the loupe itself (its diameter).

If you’re trying to read a lot of small text, it’s useful to have a larger loupe so you won’t have to move around your mouse too much. If you’re trying to point out that tiny shadow in your design to a programmer or draw your audience’s attention during a presentation, increasing the level magnifciation will help you get your point across. This also works perfectly when trying to show stubborn parents that there is indeed a button for certain actions, even though they keep denying that it’s there!

With increased magnification, you can see really pretty much everything

With increased magnification, you can see really pretty much everything

Additionally, the shape of the loupe can be switched from a circle to a rectangular shape – I think a loupe needs to be round though, but if a rectangle is what you want, you can take that route.

Prefer a rectangle over a circle? Zoom It has you covered.

Prefer a rectangle over a circle? Zoom It has you covered.


I was pleasantly surprised with Zoom It. Considering the price, I had not really expected a lot from the app, but it didn’t just do exactly what I wanted, it also offered customization options to make it fit my personal needs. I love keyboard shortcuts and to be able to activate the loupe and control it without having to resort to my wacom pen and tablet is a huge advantage in my book.

Have you ever had the need for a loupe tool? If yes, what solution did you find? Let us know in the comments.


Zoom It acts as your virtual loupe and increases portions of your screen. The best aspect: it's fully customizable.



Add Yours
  • built-in: you dont have to use shortkeys. you can hold down control and scroll with your mouse/trackpad (I don’t have an us keyboard layout too, so thats the way I use it normally).
    Just set the zoom option to off (like in your 1st screenshot) and open the “Options…” on the right. The last item will let you choose a hotkey. And you can specify antialiasing on/off.

  • Try checking the box that says “Zoom in a window”.

    It gives you a square loupe, but it’s built in and free. Also the default key to zoom in is to just hold the control key and scroll with the mouse / trackpad; I imagine that should be fairly easy on any keyboard.

    • Thanks for the info. I’m using neither mouse nor trackpad but a Wacom tablet. I haven’t found a way to replicate that method yet.

      • Julia, If you are using a Wacom Intuos4 you can configure the Touch Ring!

        (you can use the Touch Ring to change your brush size in Photoshop, Scroll in Apps/Windows – system wide, and much more …)

      • Here’s how I configured my wacom so one of the buttons can be used for zoom it:

        1 Go to system preferences
        2 Click Bamboo
        3 Click Pen
        4 Choose the pen button you want to use and select ‘keystroke’ in the drop down
        5 Input the keystroke you are using to bring up zoom it

    • Is this in Lion only? I’m using SL and I don’t see it. I don’t really want it either, but I’m curious.

  • The control key option does not work for me..

    • check out the advanced options ;) you have to specify a key first

  • its a shame that the zoom is a tad bit pixelated but seems to be a rather cool app. but hmm, normally on my macbook pro, if I would like to zoom into anything I’d just hold down [control] and just use the 2 finger scroll, seems to be a lot easier and intuitive then the standard shortcuts

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