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Better late than never

Published by on January 19th 2012.

The previous version of RealWorld Cursor Editor was released roughly the same time as Windows 7. I tried to make that version of RWCE as user friendly as possible, masking the complexity of .cur and .ani file formats and presenting a consistent experience to the user. I have succeeded and failed at the same time. This is why...

The problem lays in the .cur file format. From a technical point of view, it is very similar to the .ico format and can contain multiple images in various sizes and color depths. But it usually does not, because Windows always uses the default 32x32 pixel image. This led me to the decision to hide the ability to put multiple images into a cursor from the users. Internally, multiple images were supported, but they were not accessible by default. This change helped newbie users to create working cursors and saved them some frustration.

But Windows 7 changed the game. Some people have noticed that the default Aero cursors in Windows 7 contained 48x48 pixel images alongside the standard 32x32 pixel images. I have provided an alternate GUI layout to the users who wanted to access and edit these cursors, but it was a click-intensive process. The next version of RealWorld Cursor Editor will handle the multi-resolution cursors in a more user-friendly way.

Multi-resolution cursors in Windows 7

After reading the previous paragraph, many of you may have rejoiced, so let me put your legs back on the ground. Windows 7 will NOT allow you to have a cursor as big as you want. Under normal circumstances, the 32x32 limitation is still valid. But why are those 48x48 images in the Aero cursors, you ask?

In the past years, Windows has gradually improved its support for high-resolution modes. In Windows 7, you can choose 96 DPI, 120 DPI, 144 DPI or define your own custom resolution. Higher DPI means larger fonts and icons. While the 96 DPI is still the default screen resolution, I use 120 DPI on my 23" 1920x1080 display. On a smaller display with 1920x1080 pixels I would choose 144 DPI. And here we are. At 144DPI, the default cursor size in Windows 7 becomes 48x48 pixels.

So, if you are running Windows 7 at 144 DPI (150% of the original) or more, all your cursors will be 48x48 pixels. If you select a standard 32x32 pixels cursor, Windows will upscale it to 48x48 pixels (and it would look ugly).

Making multi-res cursors with RealWorld Cursor Editor

The upcoming version of RWCE will simplify creation of multi-res cursors.

The cursor preview window will display all images of a cursor. Like this:

rsrc/cursor-preview.png image

You'll be able to click on the images to select them. (Dragging the preview to change the hot spot will be of course still possible.)

The New cursor and Cursor from image wizards will offer you the option to create a multi-res Windows 7 cursor. Similarly, the Change size command will allow you to change the cursor size to the Win7 defaults.

Why did it take so long to support multi-res cursors?

Windows 7 has been around for more than 2 years and almost no one has missed the 48x48 cursors. Running at 144 DPI is still not common these days.

Since none of the other cursor editors out there supports multi-res animated cursors properly, the whole thing is probably not a big deal. Yet. This may be the right time to start paying attention to it.

Should you start creating multi-res cursors now?

Maybe.

Majority of people are still using 96 DPI, but the situation may change soon. Almost all displays, even small ones, feature the FullHD (1920x1080) resolution these days and pixels are getting smaller and smaller. The upcoming tablet and mini-notebook screens are supposed to pack 1920x1080 pixels on a 10-inch screen. Running Windows at 144 DPI or even more on these devices would be a wise choice.

So, if you are creating cursors from high-res source images, letting the new RWCE create a multi-res cursor would be future-proof option that costs nothing. A win-win situation.

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