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on-screen display (OSD)

What is an on-screen display (OSD)?

An on-screen display (OSD) is a control panel superimposed on a computer monitor, mobile device, television screen or another electronic device display that enables users to select viewing options and/or adjust components of the display, such as brightness, contrast, and horizontal and vertical positioning.

How do on-screen displays work?

On-screen displays usually comprise a menu that is accessible by pressing a button on the monitor, mobile device, TV remote control or another type of input device.

Once the menu is open, users can use the up and down arrows or other navigation keys to scroll through the options and make their selection.

Some on-screen displays also enable you to change the display in real time, such as increasing or decreasing the screen brightness.

Where can I find the on-screen display menu on my device?

The on-screen display menu is usually on the bezel of the monitor, on the side of the mobile device or on the remote control for a TV.

It may also be accessible through a shortcut key on a computer keyboard. For example, on many Dell laptops, you can press the Fn +F2 keys to open the on-screen display menu.

TV on-screen display controls example
Example of on-screen display controls superimposed over a television's Roku application

What options are included in on-screen displays?

On-screen displays commonly feature options for adjusting the picture quality of a display and making other changes, such as the following:

  • adjusting screen brightness;
  • changing contrast levels;
  • selecting viewing modes, e.g., standard, movie, game; and
  • activating energy-saving features.

What are some common applications for on-screen displays?

On a computer monitor, buttons usually activate an on-screen display on the bottom of the monitor. As an example, one button may bring up a display of the brightness and contrast levels, which may be adjusted by pressing the monitor's up or down arrow buttons.

iPhone on-screen display controls
Example of on-screen display controls brought up on an iPhone by swiping down on the right side of the mobile device's display

On a television screen, an on-screen display can usually be activated either through buttons on the television set itself or through the remote control. Television on-screen displays are becoming increasingly complex and interactive.

Besides the visual calibration options, the on-screen display may enable you to view program information, search for programs or put certain channels under parental control.

On a mobile device, an on-screen display may be activated by touching the screen in a certain area or by using on-screen buttons. The on-screen display on a mobile device may enable you to adjust the device's brightness, volume or other settings.

On many electronic devices, such as digital cameras and camcorders, an on-screen display is used to change the device's settings. For example, on a digital camera, the on-screen display may be used to change the resolution, white balance or metering mode.

In software programs and operating systems, on-screen displays are often used to provide information about the status of a process or task. For example, on-screen displays are commonly used to show the progress of a file download or installation.

On-screen displays are also used to provide information about video playback features, such as the display time, current playtime and remaining time.

This was last updated in October 2022

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