The size of the toolbar icons hasn't really changed since Photoshop 1.0.
What resolution display are you using? The icons are designed for a 72-100 dpi display, and would show smaller on a 200 dpi display (Apple "retina" displays).
The monitor display resolution is 1920 x 1080 which is what Windows 7 recommends. I reduced it to 1600 x 900 but the icons on the desktop are then about an inch wide and 1 1/4" high and all text is just too big. My last Photoshop was CS2 and it was just fine without doing anything to change it, but in this CS6 the icons are tiny. It's rediculous. There are numerous inquiries on Google asking the same question so I am sure it is not anything that I am doing wrong.
Whoops! In my question I asked what was the FIRST version of Photoshop to use the full size icons - I meant to aske what was the LAST version to use the full size icons as I plan to buy it and sell the one I have. If there is no way to increase the icons to full size (which I understand there isn't) then I want to latest version that had them at that size. Sorry for the confusion.
I do not have Photoshop Elements, I have Photoshop CS6. I bought a new computer with Windows 7 operating system pre-installed (as usual) then I installed the academic version of Photoshop CS6, choosing all the "recommended" features and none of the "advanced" or "custom" setups. The fact that so many other people have had the same problem, as can be seen if you Google something like, "how to enlarge tool icons in photoshop," shows that this is a very real and not imaginery problem. I have a 23" screen which is 10" high and 20" wide. Of the 10", the icons are crammed into 4" of it. Of the 20", the icons make up 7" of it. In smaller screens the icons are going to be even smaller. I have a photo of my screen that I took with a screen capture program that I would like to post so people can see what I am talking about but don't know how to find the part of the forum where I have seen photos posted.
If there is no place to post photos in this forum it is probably because I am getting this one mixed up with the Canon forum I also subscribe to. If anyone would like to see the screen capture photo of my Photoshop program please send me your email address and I will get it to you. My email address is email@example.com.
You are somehow convinced that you once saw big icons in Photoshop.
You didn't. You must be remembering wrongly.
Whether the current icons are "too small' is a matter of judgment, but there is no known way to increase them, save for jimmying the display resolution. That's almost never a good idea with an LCD display (which should always be run at its "native" resolution).
Here are sceen grabs of the icons from the last several versions of Photoshop. Click the image to see it full-sized.
Click the little >> in the "title bar" of the panel to change it from two column view to one and vice versa.
All of the above icons appear to be full size to me. Here is a screen shot of Photoshop CS6 on my 23" monitor at the recommended resolutionof 1920 x 1080. I think the icons should be the same on any monitor with 1920 x 1080 resolution so if someone could measure how long the vertical tool bar is on your monitor then we should be able to determine right now if mine is smaller than normal. The vertical tools on mine take up 3 7/8" on the vertical tool bar.
It must be the late night and tired eyes. I thought I measured yours at 5". After going back and forth measureing a number of times I see now that they are the same size. I probably should feel embarrassed but for some reason I'm not. Maybe it's the dark color and the eye strain of trying to see what was clear to me before when the background was white, or maybe it's having a the larger monitor than I had before, but anyway, it still looks smaller to me and it is harder to read and more tiring to my eyes. Thank you Noel, Chris and others who I have been driving crazy with my claim, for your patience and persistance in forcing me to see the light. Maybe I will feel embarrassed tomorrow.
The icons in photoshop cs6 don't have as much contrast as earlier versions, which can be harder on the eyes.
Also, you can change the interface color in cs6 by going to Edit>Preferences>Interface or pressing Shift+F1 darker
and Shift+F2 lighter. (there are four interface color options)