Productivity App: GammaToggleX

One of the most overlooked aspects of web development is gamma correction. I’m no expert on this, but if you’ve never heard the word, gamma, it’s basically a term used to describe your monitors brightness, contrast, luminance, color, etc…

Many people don’t know this, but Macs and PCs use very different gamma settings. By default, a Mac uses a setting of 1.8, and a PC uses a setting of 2.2. As a result, Macs tend to run lighter, with less contrast than PCs. Color can also differ greatly between the two gamma settings. For instance, a color that is very yellow on a Mac, may look much more orange on a PC.

When developing any content for the web, you should always look at your design / colors in both gamma settings, especially if you design on a Mac. That design you just finished on your Mac, may look way to dark when you display it on a PC. Alternately, if you work on a PC, your design may look washed out on a Mac.

If you work on a Mac, you should have a look at GammaToggleX. It’s an awesome little utility for toggling between monitor gamma settings with the stroke of a few keys. If you’ve been using a Mac since the days of OS 9, you may remember this utility as GammaToggle Fkey.

GammaToggleX is shareware, and costs $15, but you can use it for free, for personal and non-profit use.

You could go into your ‘Displays’ system pref, and set up a new 2.2 display profile, but using GammaToggle is much quicker. You can just jump back and forth without opening up your system prefs. I personally set GammaToggle as one of my startup items, so it’s always running.

The goal is to make things look good on both platforms. But, as Mac developers, we unfortunately have to remember that most of the world is using a PC. We don’t want the things we do to only look good to a small percentage of the internet.

As a side note to this, if you do any video work that will end up being displayed on a TV, you definitely want to look at it in PC gamma (2.2) while you work. Televisions also use 2.2 gamma, so video that looks good on your Mac may look too dark on your TV. I’m actually surprised, and a little annoyed that Apple chose to use 1.8 gamma, as 2.2 is a little more standard. Sometimes it seems like they intentionally make things a little more difficult for cross-platform developers.

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