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Novices: Calibrate your monitor (10.5)

Apple computers use LCD (liquid crystal displays) whether they are desktop or portable laptop models and since they just work when you switch on your Mac, you might not have given them much thought. Unfortunately, you may not be seeing things as they really are and some items might even be invisible!

You need to calibrate your monitor so that it displays pixels in the correct colour. This is something that everyone assumes happens by default, but it doesn't. Sometimes the colours are close, but not quite right, for example, a light red might appear slightly lighter or slightly darker than it should. You might notice this if you print out photos and compare the print with what's displayed on the monitor. You can't edit photos if the colours on the screen aren't exactly like they are on paper.

Another problem is that the interface for OS X, and some applications too, use very pale colours for certain elements. If the monitor is not correctly set up then these elements can disappear completely - they just become invisible! To see an example of this, open a Finder Windows and select list view. On a correctly configured LCD monitor you will see laternating white and pale blue horizontal bars, but on a badly adjusted screen the window background will simply appear white.

Calibrate monitorOK, you're convinced that you need to calibrate your monitor to get the optimum display, so how do you go about it? Click the Apple logo in the menu bar and select System Preferences. Click Displays in the Hardware section and then click the Color tab.

Click the Calibrate button and the Display Calibrator Assistant will appear. You just need to select the best option at each step and click the Continue button. You'll be asked to choose between Standard Gamma and Television Gamma. Select each option and see which you prefer - there's a small picture to help you decide.

Next up is the white point. Our eyes automatically adjust to the light, but computers (and cameras too) don't have the advantage of millions of years of evolution and they see things differently. Light can range from yellow to blue and you can choose from four settings. The neutral white or native white point of the display are best.

That's it. You can give your monitor calibration a name and it will appear in the Display Profile list in your color preferences. Just select it and you'll see things more clearly from now on.

Experts: Calibrate your monitor (10.5)

What if you have tried the tip above (try it now if you haven't), but the monitor display still isn't right? What can you do? Just try the advanced calibration method. This is totally different to the very basic calibration described above and it is much more powerful. It is harder to get right, but when it is, the quality of the display is enormously improved.

You start off exactly as before and you click the Apple logo in the menu bar and select System Preferences. Click Displays in the Hardware section and then click the Color tab. Click the Calibrate button and the Display Calibrator Assistant will appear. At this point you will see an option labelled Epert Mode - This turns on extra options. It doesn't turn on extra options, it completely replaces the standard calibration with a completely different set of tools and options.

At each step, and there are quite a few, there are three boxes. You click and drag the mouse in the left and right boxes while looking at the Apple logo in the centre box. The idea is to make the logo and background as similar as possible. On some steps, you can almost get the logo to disappear by making it the same shade as the background and this is the ideal situation because you are trying to get a neutral colour balance.

After all the tests you'll be asked to name your calibrated configuration and then you can select it in the Color list. Don't be afraid to experiment because you can't mess up the display. Evert time you change it you'll create a new calibration and it's added to the list. You can always select the previous calibration if you don't like the new one.

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