I frequently prefer to boot into the command line mode (CMD + S on boot) instead of booting to the normal GUI-imposed version. I do most of my work in the terminal, so it's nice to save some time and bypass all the unnecessary UI.

However, on retina machines, the command line mode displays at a 1:1 ratio (instead of a 2:1), meaning all text is very, very small. I really want to reduce the resolution it displays at by a factor of two. Is this possible, and if so, how?


I found this for you


Slightly more advanced due to the nature of the command line, the free utility called screenutil gets the job done immediately with a quick entry into the Terminal.

Launch Terminal and drag and drop scrutil into the command line to use it once, but if plan on using it often it’s a good idea to toss scrutil into /usr/local/bin for easy future access. Once installed, changing the retina display to native 2880×1800 with screenutil is achieved with the following command example:

scrutil s 2880 1800 16

The command will report back the resolution change, the 16 at the end is color depth so you can set that to something else if you’d like. You can set it back to the default resolution either through System Preferences or with scrutil s 1440 900.

There is also this:


 *    c++ setgetscreenres.m -framework ApplicationServices -o setgetscreenres
 * USE:
 *    setgetscreenres 1440 900

#include <ApplicationServices/ApplicationServices.h>

bool MyDisplaySwitchToMode (CGDirectDisplayID display, CFDictionaryRef mode);

int main (int argc, const char * argv[])
    int h;                          // horizontal resolution
    int v;                          // vertical resolution
    CFDictionaryRef switchMode;     // mode to switch to
    CGDirectDisplayID mainDisplay;  // ID of main display

    CFDictionaryRef CGDisplayCurrentMode(CGDirectDisplayID display);

    if (argc == 1) {
        CGRect screenFrame = CGDisplayBounds(kCGDirectMainDisplay);
        CGSize screenSize  = screenFrame.size;
        printf("%d %d\n", screenSize.width, screenSize.height);
        return 0;
    if (argc != 3 || !(h = atoi(argv[1])) || !(v = atoi(argv[2])) ) {
        fprintf(stderr, "ERROR: Use %s horres vertres\n", argv[0]);
        return -1;

    mainDisplay = CGMainDisplayID();

    switchMode = CGDisplayBestModeForParameters(mainDisplay, 32, h, v, NULL);

    if (! MyDisplaySwitchToMode(mainDisplay, switchMode)) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Error changing resolution to %d %d\n", h, v);
        return 1;

    return 0;

bool MyDisplaySwitchToMode (CGDirectDisplayID display, CFDictionaryRef mode)
    CGDisplayConfigRef config;
    if (CGBeginDisplayConfiguration(&config) == kCGErrorSuccess) {
        CGConfigureDisplayMode(config, display, mode);
        CGCompleteDisplayConfiguration(config, kCGConfigureForSession );
        return true;
    return false;

Save that as a pure text file named setgetscreenres.m, then compile it in Terminal using the command shown in the code (assuming you're in the directory where the file is saved):

c++ setgetscreenres.m -framework ApplicationServices -o setgetscreenres

Move this file somewhere on your user's $PATH, and then use it by typing ./setgetscreenres hor_res vert_res, where hor_res and vert_res are the desire horizontal and vertical resolution.

Disclaimer: I have not tested it!

  • 1
    That definitely looks promising. Unfortunately it seems the site that scrutil was hosted at is now down, and I can't find a place to get it. – Josiah Dec 8 '14 at 19:25
  • 1
    sorry for that, I did not check it my self since I do not have your set up.-- a GUI user :) – Ruskes Dec 8 '14 at 19:38
  • 2
    Ok I uploaded it here: github.com/ponychicken/screenutil – Leo Dec 10 '14 at 10:13
  • 1
    Thanks for the find! However, after trying the utility I found that it doesn't work in single user mode. Trying to use it simply gives me an "invalid display" message. – Josiah Dec 12 '14 at 3:31
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    @DanPritts refer to the answer I posted regarding displayplacer. It works on Mojave. – Jake Hilborn Apr 9 at 22:02

Years ago, I used cscreen to map a Keyboard Maestro shortcut to a shell script. It might work for your purposes.


The dev updated it for Intel machines a couple of years ago but did not have a retina machine for testing.

I expect we will all have to deal with this problem eventually.


I wrote a command line application that supports multi-display resolutions, rotations, mirroring, and positioning called displayplacer. In addition to GitHub releases, you can also install via Homebrew: brew tap jakehilborn/jakehilborn && brew install displayplacer

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