Just had no desire to read further, I started with the impression that there will be some strong arguments against multi monitor setup. May be for the author's needs a single monitor suffices, he earlier had a multi monitor setup, so he ended up using the excess which made him unproductive. That is not a multi monitor setup being useless problem, it is a problem of you not having a use case for multi monitor setup.
Of course if one is using a multi monitor setup to do multi tasking, that is not really recommended. But there are many tasks where a multi monitor setup makes you feel how you lived without one for long? Sample: When I work on an Xcode app, I have one primary 25" monitor fully dedicated to Xcode (IB, editor, inspectors etc) and the second 22" monitor dedicated to Xcode docs, browser with relevant docs/tabs (no email etc), terminal all arranged with Moom. Trying to do this on a 13/15" real estate will make me work at a snail's pace or even negative pace for the constant switching.
>> Deep work is becoming increasingly hard in our distraction
I think Cal Newport must be having a free healthy daily dose of laughter given every Tom is referring to Deep Work when talking about Focus!
Putting distractions in a separate 'workspace' and making conscious decisions to switch contexts is a good idea, but it isn't related to having a second monitor, IMO.
If you use extra screen real estate (on a big monitor of additional monitors) to get more interuptions (email, twitter, whatever) it's a loss.
If you use extra screen real estate to help keep you on task (i.e. source code, documentation, performance numbers, example code, etc) it's a win.
It's not really more complicated than that.
Actually, what is this social-media-at-work thingy?
Is this accepted in US? Elsewhere in Europe? Should it be?
Let's be honest here: rare is a person who can do cognitively demanding work 8+ hours a day for longer stretches of time. Especially when that's a job, and not one's true life calling.
I also personally find it hard to completely ignore distractions just because of other people - it seems rude to tell them all to stop calling / mailing me during work hours, even though I try so hard.
No one is capable of doing a full 8 hours of cognitively demanding work. I think Cal Newport detailed it out, but the most dedicated and focused people can achieve 6 hours of productive work. Most people can average 4. The 8 hours/day, 40 hour work week is a relic from manufacturing work that has carried over into the office. Between cubicles, open office layouts, meetings, the belief you have to be on premise to be productive, and the execs deluding themselves into thinking they're working the hardest, the US corporate area is not set up for productivity.
I guess a few people misunderstood me. I'm not talking about 100% separation between work and personal life, I'm talking about being a programmer, discussing on HN how distractions and interruptions ruins flow - and then running twitter and what not in the workspace. What do I know: some of my habits are weird but works for me but this stuff sounds weird to me :-/
: neither me, my wife nor my boss woukd like that - it's just too practical for my boss that I can make a note when inspiration strikes - outside of work, read work related materials whenever I come across them - even outside of work etc. My boss has stopped caring where I work from and when so as long as I work on my real job (working for a client now) I'll just work from home if my wife wworks night. I and my boss both make sure this is a win-win and my wife has an agreement to call twice or more if she needs to get hold of me before next time I check Telegram.
I get my work done and no one seems to care.
Is it accepted in the US to check text messages immediately? Elsewhere in Europe? Should it be?
The OP just fails to abstract away from "social media" to "distractions pushed into your input feed".
To compensate for the lack of screen real-estate, I start by being an individual with great eyesight. (Thank you, LASIK from 2005.) I use a high-resolution monitor and zoom everything. I have 2-3 tall-and-thin browser windows open taking ~25% of the screen width and going top-to-bottom. A tall-and-thin console or 3, a tall-and-thin Notepad++ window, and RDCMan set to take ~45% of the screen, for Windows remote desktop sessions. All manually overlapping, so they are just a click away.
At home, I use a single HDTV for my gaming HTPC. I do everything else on the kitchen laptop, an old Lenovo T400. Both also zoomed as needed.
I use Windows 7 and Windows 10 laptops that I dock with 2x 1080p monitors at home and the office. Both laptops remember the 4 displays uniquely and arrange things accordingly.
However, my home laptop forgets window layouts constantly - basically every other time I unlock it. I don't know what's different between the two setups, and I've never bothered to spend any time trying to 'fix' it, but windows is kind of inconsistent on how it behaves. Windows 10 definitely makes multimonitors much better, though.
 http://scwm.mit.edu/ (does not respond at the moment)
In fact, I would go so far as to say that three monitors is optimum since you can have your code on one, the output of your code (continuous tests/hot reload/etc) on another and documentation on the last allowing you to see all aspects of your work without a single keystroke.
The Android ecosystem is such that you are going to want documentation up at all times, and alt-tabbing back and forth would drive me insane. My monitor layout ends up like this:
and it works really well. That picture of the author's virtual desktops looks like a nightmare to me. I like using window snapping to put one thing per monitor and having it be big and static from that point on. No context switching, no keeping a mental index of which virtual desktop has that damn Gradle documentation hidden on it.
Yup! I work on web applications and run a three monitor setup roughly like this:
* Web Ui with what I'm currently working and the occasional api doc
* Editor with code and probably a few shell tabs
* Third for incidentals (hipchat, chrome dev tools, Jira Ticket, etc.)
On top of that I'll use Virtual desktops to switch between task sets or email etc..
Desktop 1 - Email/Jira Overview/HipChat/Toggl
Desktop 2-7 - What I'm working on right now or "quick bug" type stuff
Desktop 8 - pianobar, loose gmail/inbox window
The middle desktop set is usually pretty sparse, but it helps. One monitor doesn't have enough "logical" real estate to to maintain the context of a single problem for me. I wind up using multiple desktops and bouncing back and forth between them all the time, sometimes several times over a single edit because I loose context in the desktop switch.
I would say that it's not the number of monitors that's important, but the total amount of real estate you get from your monitors that matters.
I would rather have a single 46"-50" curved 8K monitor than a grid of four 27" 4K monitors running off my computer. I'd rather have fewer cables and a simpler setup if given the choice.
Practically speaking, with today's tech and prices, you generally do need more than one monitor to get all the real estate your heart desires, but hopefully that changes drastically in the next few years.
My primary setup is a desktop with two monitors. From time to time, I've wondered whether the second monitor is overkill. However, my most recent long stretch of using a single screen (by having to use a laptop on the road) has convinced me of how helpful a two-monitor setup is. With a single screen, there is a lot of window-switching when I consult documentation, whereas a dual monitor setup makes sure the documentation is always there and I don't need to switch between any windows (or virtual desktops for that matter).
Having said that, I'll share a few additional details that have helped me (though they won't necessarily help everyone else). Neither of my monitors is huge (by current standards), with the main one at 22 inches. I think a huge monitor would make it hard for me to easily maximize windows into a usable size. Also, I was glad to find a rotating monitor for my secondary screen, which I use in portrait mode, something that's helpful for long documentation. I think a third monitor would be two distracting to me. If I have to switch between reference documents, I'll just switch windows within the secondary screen. Then again, having a third monitor might be worth a try. If I ever try it, I might try having both the second and third monitor off to the same side, rather than to the left and right of the main monitor, since it'd probably be easier for to remember "For documentation, always turn my head to the right", rather than remembering which reference source is on which side of the main screen.
Yes its harder to manage windows but once its setup, I don't find that i'm fooling with windows all day, just a minute whenever I restart my computer which isn't that often.
My desktop monitor is a big one though (and 4k) and that helps. On it I do many of the things you say you do with multiple monitors.
I currently have 3 monitors at home (thinking about going to 4) and at work with 2 I definitely miss having a third available.
Yngwie Malmsteen's pithy thoughts on "less is more" (very short): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHZ48AE3TOI
If you want data, there are a few usability studies on the use of multiple monitors. The general consensus is that bigger monitors are better and two monitors are better than one, three or more monitors might be too many. These studies are easy enough to find on Google so I'm not going to link them here. Data will always beat maxims.
On a personal note, I find it easier to work with multiple monitors rather than one larger monitor, possibly due to software support. I'll want two web browsers up, side by side, on one monitor, and then the other monitor can hold editors and terminal windows. There tends to be pretty good software support for dividing a monitor in half, which supports this workflow very well on two monitors, but dividing a monitor in four is a bit rare. Stuff I don't really need like mail, music players, and the like get relegated to other virtual desktops.
I have 3 monitors and can't imagine going back to one. Different people work differently, but for me I see a significant benefit to being able to glance somewhere to check a job I'm running, e-mail, chat, reference a browser... It reduces the overhead of the context switch, so I can do it and be right back to where I was.
In the past I would change virtual desktops to check e-mail or chat, and once I was in that isolated desktop I would find it much harder to get back. It was better when I was able to set up a hotkey to "switch back to the last virtual desktop I was on".
At the moment I have two 32" displays and a 24" in portrait. I have my terminal sessions on the center 32", 2 browsers on the right 32", and slack and e-mail on the left 24" portrait. I came to this from using a 15" laptop all the time for 15 years.
Caveats: I use i3wm and use keyboard navigation a lot. I'm also a sysadmin, I could easily see programming being different.
I mostly work with operations, and I use a two-monitor setup for most of my work. It's setup so that my second monitor is left for my main focus or large applications, like the web browser or editor sessions, and my other screen is for "miscellaneous stuff" or multiple terminals when I need to follow multiple things at once.
I also use a tiling window manager (Awesome) because honestly I couldn't keep track of all my windows otherwise. I also very much like having separate virtual desktops for each screen, so that I can control each individually. With a tiling window manager it's also very easy to "banish" everything else when you need to focus on a single thing.
So, for example, when doing front end programming, 1 monitor contains my terminal windows where I am programming in VIM, running commands, etc (I usually have 4 open in each corner) while the other window contains the live reloading browser window.
The 3rd monitor has everything else. No paradox of choice, and seeing the results of my actions is a glance.
The physical spatial arrangement of my work tools is of tremendous value.
Personally, I've seen a much greater productivity improvement by getting rid of laptops, and only working with desktops in a specific work area with multiple monitors and a desk laid out in a way that helps with my productivity.
I am working less hours, and doing a lot more in those fewer hours.
There's a few things about virtual desktops on OS X (the OS I use at work) that just absolutely kill them for me:
1. OS X will re-order keyboard inputs when the inputs contain virtual desktop commands. That is, if you have two terminals open, one in one desktop, and one in another, and you type ^→¹ "hi", where "hi" ends up depends on how quickly you type the command. If you know the desktop on the right has a terminal, and you know what you want to run in that terminal, you have to switch, wait for the animation to complete, and then type the command; it's an artificial limitation on your speed.
2. OS X will re-order desktops. Which means I never know where, in this virtual space, the desktop I'm seeking is. The latest version of OS X made this even more annoying, because now if you do an exposé, you don't get thumbnails by default, so you can't even see where the desktop might have gotten moved to. (You have to grab the mouse and hover over the darn things.)
Compare this to the rather simplistic multidesktop functionality in MATE: desktops don't move. The switch is instant and keyboard input order is maintained. The space is 3D, not 2D. There are small thumbnails in your tray. (I could wish for some things from MATE, in particular, I don't know how/if it's possible to reorder whole desktops.)
: (change to desktop to the right)
(Also, OS X will occasionally just get stuck in the middle of a desktop switch. As in, I'll have no hands on the mouse/keyboard, and I'll be looking at the left half of one desktop and the right half of another.)
Edit: I forgot 3. OS X will combine desktops if the set of attached displays changes. I really wish I could have it just move the desktops to the laptop, not combine them. (Also, I really wish that when the external display was reattached, that the windows would restore the size and layout they had; as it is, today they all get resized to the size of the smaller laptop screen — which makes sense while they're there, but once the external is back, I want the sizes back too.) I have no idea how MATE compares here.
Reported to Apple, "works as intended". One more reason to never use macOS' built-in fullscreen mode.
I'd imagine the default is meant to function more like iOS
There's no way to make the animation delay be zero, probably because Apple wants you to switch desktops with the motion commands and they want the motion to seem natural, but I have always set them up with <modifier>-1, -2, -3, etc, so I don't think "I want to go right", I think "I want desktop #5". I don't care which direction it's in.
Also virtual desktops on OS X are completely broken when you plug multiple monitors in of different sizes. I always end up with hilariously mis-placed, mis-sized windows on both screens. This was how I learned about the "Zoom" item in the "Window" menu: even if you can't find the window decorations for a window (because they're outside the dimensions of your monitor), if you can cmd-tab to it, you can "zoom" it a few times and it will sometimes show up. Also, if you have any "memory pressure" at all, hope you're ready for minutes of beach balls when you plug / unplug the external monitor.
This reveals something odd about me, or about the author. Not sure which. It seems obvious to me that it's less context-switch overhead to glance at something that's already physically in my peripheral vision than it is to swap out what's physically in front of me for some different content. The latter means I have to take a moment to understand what I'm looking at, then find what I need. The former doesn't seem to have this "wait, what is this" part before looking where I need, which I suspect is because it was already in my field of vision and some part of my brain that would otherwise be keeping track of the patterns on the wall is keeping track of placement of things on that second monitor.
A benefit of this system are that email and Slack are on a dedicated screen, but on a secondary space of a secondary monitor. The distraction of those communication tools is completely out of the way; I specifically switch to that screen when I am willing to switch out of "real work". Yet it's not complicated at all - a single 3-finger swipe to the left on monitor 3.
At home, if I've got the repl, a terminal, only one code file open, and some documentation/stack overflow, I'm already at 4 windows.
At work, have rstudio, a database, a word and excel file with some documentation and suddenly one monitor feels minuscule.
You took away my office walls on which I printed out and hung up cheat sheets and reference materials, then you took away my cubicle walls on which I did the same, please don't put out articles that will make them take away my monitors!
But that's not the point. There's an optimal level of visual busy-ness. Doubling your screen real-estate looks cool, but is it actually better? For me it is not.
I had a friend at work who had a four-monitor setup, and then somebody quit and he got ANOTHER thunderbolt monitor. Once he had all 5 set up, he got so agitated by the quantity of data coming in that he couldn't get anything done. I would bet that everybody has that threshold. So how much stress was he feeling with 4 monitors? Probably some... maybe not more than his baseline daily work-stress, but did he need to take on that extra stress?
This is not some sort of self-imposed hipster handicap like a fixed gear bicycle- it really does feel more comfortable. I get so frustrated looking at coworkers' screens with 4+ files open, all in tiny text. I think, how can they work like that? No wonder that when someone interrupts them they lose all context.
> I get so frustrated looking at coworkers' screens with 4+ files open, all in tiny text. I think, how can they work like that?
That's what I think when I see someone working like you, flipping through multiple spaces, scrolling up and down files. To me, spaces add more overhead - I have to remember in which space various running applications or their windows are open.
And as far as 40 lines per screen, I often have to track through multiple files to figure out how things fit together - there are times when I've got IntelliJ split into three columns as I'm trying to follow some logic. Maybe this indicates that we've just abstracted things poorly, but it's hard to see how things could be significantly simplified.
But yeah, having to trace through abstraction layers is one area where my system does break down. My own code has gotten lighter and lighter on abstractions as the years have gone by, while others' code seems to grow heavier and heavier. Maybe it's my workflow influencing my coding style.
Not if you always keep the same apps in the same place in spaces (I keep: browser: #1, terminal #2, editor: #3).
That's simply because it does. You cannot tell me, or others for that matter, that a tiling window manager arranged across multiple monitors keeping everything relevant just a glance away is a useless feature and offers no real improvement in productivity.
> Humans can only focus on one thing at a time. So why are we spending money to display multiple things simultaneously?
Because utilizing even keyboard shortcuts to switch virtual desktops is slower than glancing left or right. Also, if you wish to compare the contents of two applications having them both displayed at once is a huge advantage.
> I ran a 34" LG ultra-widescreen monitor for a month. At first, I loved it. But after a few days, I was surprised to find my opinion soured. It was far too wide to maximize my windows, so I found myself spending too much time fiddling with windows.
If this was really a concern for most people, how have tiling window managers managed to flourished in recent years?
> Both Mac and Windows support virtual desktops now.
Which is why in my case I can still be very productive on my Windows laptop, but even more so on my multi-monitor desktop running i3.
> But I don’t waste cycles on this arrangement either. The far left virtual desktop is always my browser, the one to the right is my editor. So I treat virtual desktops like physical screens that reliably present the same content.
Wait. So why did you have so much trouble arranging applications before on a single wide screen? Why couldn't you just arrange the applications contained within these virtual desktops across a wide screen in the same manner?
You know what? New title: "Why I Stopped Reading About Someone Who Stopped Using Multiple Monitors"
Personally, I thought having multiple wide aspect ratio monitors was a complete waste. I don't turn my head that far when I work normally. But my latest trick, adapted from a coworker, is to put the second monitor in portrait mode. My CI build window is the top 2/3rds of the screen, and the log tail for the code I'm running or the build script I'm running are the bottom 2/3rds, which leaves enough visible in each window to discern when the other needs my attention. I'm getting a lot more use out of that monitor now.
And then I took a job with a startup and bought a laptop since they wanted me to show up in the office on occasion, and working with one monitor was like driving with one eye open. I started to get better at it, but there was so much extra effort involved in context switching. Even as it became muscle memory, it didn't come close to beating a simple glance to the left or right.
They offered a separate monitor, but I chose to go back to working from home and switched to three 22" monitors, which has been perfect for years (though I want at least one more now for testing non-linux apps).
Focus has nothing to do with monitor layout. I have three monitors, but only one thing is happening at any given time.
When I'm coding, email, slack, etc, are all off. It's a terminal on my left with git, and logs, a fullscreen IDE in the middle, and documentation and test application on the right.
When I'm shopping, it's reviews in the middle, shopping cart on the left, and search on the right.
When I'm catching up on slack / email, they're both open on separate screens with an extra for research (Github, etc).
When I'm editing photos, its the collection on the left, editor in the middle, research (editor docs, etc) on the right.
Focus is all about strictly doing one thing at a time. Multiple monitors is about switching contexts without losing focus. The only problem I have now is that I don't blink often enough.
Also, to the point about "Same Workflow When Remote", I just choose not to work while traveling any more. I'm not as productive, nor do I want to learn to be more productive while on the road. That used to be a dream for me; And then I really tried it; And I really sucked at it. I'd rather have my sit/stand desk, comfortable chair, and tea pot - all optimized for focus - than try to drive uncomfortably with one eye open.
That seems bit odd (in this specific case); half of a 27" display should have almost exactly the same screen-estate as a 19" screen (1280x1440 vs 1280x1024), and even Windows can do half (and quarter) screen layouts easily these days. So I don't really see why windows managing with 2x27" would be worse than 3x19"
With my three wide screens, I'm almost always running one window per screen - not necessarily full-screen, but still, one-per. With two larger screens, I constantly found myself trying to tetris my screens into an "ideal" layout.
I use a tiling window manager. If I have a single monitor I'll split it evenly, but I'll need as much space as I can - whilst using virtual desktops to avoid clutter.
If I have two monitors I'll tend to use full screen apps rather than split, but may occasionally split open a terminal or small chat window. By small I mean, a narrow vertical tile rather than a wide horizontal.
If I have three monitors, the extra width of large monitors starts to get annoying with how far around you have to look to see the farthest extent to left or right. It's easier to have smaller monitors (although still as high definition as you can get) and run them with full screen applications.
The big problem though with the large monitors is that you have to do too much window management. On a 22" screen a horizontally designed app at fullscreen is great. At 32" you start feeling like you wasted a ton of space off to the right. So you use your tiling WM to do a vertical split. At that point the horizontally designed app at 3840×2160 is now a vertical oriented app at 1920x2160, which is not at all what you want, so you adjust the tiling to make the 2nd frame smaller. But if the 2nd frame should also be horizontal, you have to move it to a different monitor... Thus ending up doing a load of annoying window management when your WM is supposed to do it for you.
So really, big monitors are just a tad annoying unless it's the only monitor.
In windows 10 I snap each window into its own corner.
When doing Game Dev in Unity, it gets left half of screen (1920x2160) so I can see scene and preview comfortably simultaneously, Pale Moon top right, Visual Studio bottom left.
If I need to look at long file in Visual studio, then it'll take whole right side of screen.
Outlook and MS Project in 4k is great with 2160P height for looking thru inbox or looking at a lot of tasks.
Though I guess programming, compared with other cases, does have a legitimate claim to using multiple monitors, especially when you're performing constant documentation lookup or running a live preview of the program, both of which can exist side-to-side with the code itself. I think the positioning of monitors is really key here. If you have to accommodate them such that all of them are in an unnatural position instead of the natural position that one single monitor can occupy, it can actually hurt your productivity. If their positions are mostly ergonomic, it should be much better.
I use a single monitor, mostly because I like being able to move around, from the desk to the couch to the coffee shop to my yard. I'm not going to bring a spare monitor into my yard.
I also program in 40 character width, so that helps a lot. I can have a console, debugger, and a browser all open side by side on a single screen. If I want 6 pieces of open open side by side on my laptop I can do it easily, although I pretty much never need more than 2.
I find workspaces work just as well as monitors. I have three, and I four-finger-swipe to move between them. I don't see why four finger swiping would be slower than turning my head or my eyes.
Evolution in hardware and software is very slow now compared to the 80s/90s/00s. My wingman PCs are perfectly adequate at displaying data sheet PDFs or acting as SSH terminals or normal web browsing.
If you're worried about electrical power my son has a raspberry pi desktop and that works fine. It can do everything we did with a computer in the 00s, which is pretty much unchanged today... Mostly he types school reports because the real keyboard is better than any ipad keyboard.
However, one major gripe I have with Windows 10 is how stupid it is with multiple monitors. If I click on a link, open a file, or open an app with the Start Menu, I expect it to open in the same window. Not Windows 10, I swear it has an algorithm developed just to pick the least expected monitor. It is practically a game of whack-a-mole. This alone is a huge unnecessary UX productivity loss that doesn't exist with a single display.
Among all tasks, I've found using Web Inspector to be incredibly difficult on a single monitor, especially on websites with deeply nested markup.
For me, the loss of adequate window resizing in recent Windows versions (you can still drag edges and corners, but not near screen borders) is a good reason to use the good tiled window management in Emacs as much as possible.
On a related note, Microsoft Office allowing multiple windows only with tricky workarounds is a strong advantage for LibreOffice.
The main reason I switched is because I got so used to working with the additional real estate that it became impossible to use my only my laptop. Since I travel a lot and work from coworking spaces, where I only have my laptop screen, it makes sense to adapt my workflow to that constraint. Having multiple monitors became a crutch that damaged my ability to work productively from a single screen.
There was another benefit, too. Even though I get that it's convenient to have docs/browser/editor up at once, I can really only LOOK at one thing at a time, and I found that I was getting lazy. If my brain can only hold things that I am actively looking at, then I'm not thinking very deeply about them.
Now granted, I'm old. As I age I notice things like tiny short-cuts that make me a little weaker over time. In your 20s or 30s, you have almost infinite capacity. You may not notice the top line dropping a little bit.
In my experience, external monitors made me a little weaker. Keeping my brain sharp allows me to keep up much better.
This has caused several annoying side effects. I used to run my 4k 32" monitor at 125% scaling, and my ancillary 24" 4k monitor at 225%. Everything looked fine, or so I thought. Now my 27" monitor runs at 100%, and this causes some internal Windows flag to change somewhere, making many apps on the secondary monitor look horrible. It just nearest-neighbors apps up to 200% instead of scaling them correctly. If you make the second monitor the primary monitor, then everything looks good again -- except you can't use Nvidia GSync on a secondary monitor, the whole reason I downgraded my main monitor. Amazingly, the mere existence of the 100ppi montior is what seems to break things. If you run it at 200%, apps on the other monitor at 200% still look terrible.
My theory is that things looked bad before, but the 125->225 scaling didn't look quite as egregiously bad as 100->200 does. But I'm picky about these things and think I would have noticed. So I don't know.
Some apps, notably Chrome, work just fine. (But Discord is an offender, and it's just Chrome, isn't it? That makes it all the more annoying.)
As an aside, everything looks pretty crappy at 100ppi. Fonts are blurry again. You can see the pixels in every photo or illustration you view. Upgrading to 4k a few years ago didn't make much of a difference to me, but downgrading is a huge difference. That said, Overwatch is soooo smooth. I can't wait until technology allows us to run games at 4k@120/144/165/240, however. I also miss the wider-than-sRGB color gamut.
There are a few reasons for that:
1. It protects my eyes. I felt much more tired with 2 displays glaring at me all day.
2. Most of the time it's just useless information sitting idle on my second screen. I rarely need to work with 2 windows at the same time and when I do (fe. when coding while reading the docs) I can just fit them on one screen. Though I usually just switch tabs in order not to copy paste and try to understand what I'm reading first.
I try to keep my mental load small, focus on what I am doing. I for one I'm not that good at multitasking (and after reading Thinking Fast and Slow I understand I'm not alone) so whatever is on that second screen will steal attention from what I'm focused on.
3. There is really not much "realtime" work I need to do so 1 min or 2 until I check my email/Skype is acceptable.
Anyone else doing the same?
I tried i3m today (the tiling window manager) but I realized it not gonna fit my workflow because I can't have 10 windows open and look at just two-three at once because you either maximize and then you can look at only one thing at a time or see 10 tiny windows at once.
* Having one big enough monitor with huge resolution is the same, but one with simply HD resolution is not enough for me.
(I've sometimes dug out an old machine so I would even have to use a completely different keyboard - but those aren't always available.)
But as a developer, I'm generally more happy with lots of terminal windows on one big screen - but that's just me.
Say what you will about this setup, but I'd never go back. I am very productive in this setup.
Perhaps I need to get USB foot pedals.
Spectrwm for sure, maybe xmonad inspired it.
Sometimes I'll have a chat window open on the laptop just because I'm waiting on a message, but usually, I'll just have Netflix or Youtube running on it to give me some background noise while I focus on work on my 27".
The 27" has been a huge productivity booster however. With Spectacle (which I recommend to everyone), I'll have 3 windows neatly placed: the browser, Sublime, and the console. It's a great setup for me. The screen is also the perfect size. Any bigger and I would be drowning in light and craning my neck. Any smaller, and I would not get 3 full working-size windows.
If anything, it can be described as the Bloomberg philosophy, modeling one's development setup after a Bloomberg terminal, designed for quick decision making based on data streaming in from the periphery of one's visual field, optimized for an OS without a good windowing system.
If you have a mouseless development workflow, multiple buffers in emacs offers the same power as multiple monitors, and uses less electricity.
For most programmers, having a multiple monitor setup (likely connected with gold plated Monster brand HDMI cables) is like having custom rims on your car... a decorative adornment that conveys social status and bling and offers little utility.
This makes me just want to get rid of the smaller one and use the large one exclusively.
A single wide monitor works for these cases as well, or even a single small monitor if you're willing to squint a bit. But I think the assertation that "single window = focus" is a massive over-generalization that ignores a whole bunch of what some of us coders do on a day-to-day basis.
I reverted to single. Much happier. As mentioned elsewhere a tiling window manager (I use i3) is the key to making this productive.
Frankly, inbuilt window management in Windows (especially with KB shortcuts) is far superior to that on OS X. The Win + Arrow Keys combinations just make multiple monitors so much easier to use.
You can get this on OS X (although it has never felt as nice to me) with BetterTouchTool, but I wonder how many OS X users who don't like multiple monitors have actually tried it with BTT installed.
The article notes the problem of having your mail open on the second monitor. There is an easy solution to that: close it. Sure if you then can't find anything useful to put there, you don't need a second monitor.
Of course all the marketing/finance/ops/pm people I support love to multitask and hack spreadsheets and email all day. I get the pros and cons for various flavors of developers, but EVERYONE with two monitors is total insanity.
Combined with 15" laptop and i3 tiling window manager this feels like my ideal setup, though I wouldn't mind trimming down to a 17" laptop sans external monitor. The external monitor is probably more convenience/habit than can't-live-without-it.
Saying that, if I ever settle down I'll probably go with 2X external monitors -- extra screen real estate can be quite helpful at times.
Using a single monitor means I have to position and resize all kinds of windows on it on a regular basis. Very unproductive for me. Eventually the Windows will be too small for my eyesight. This is a highly personal preference with everyone.
- the window-snapping is better on a smaller screen. Less fiddling to get the layout just right.
- the portability is great. Now I work from bed, couch, office, home, all in the same way.
The advantages of a second monitor over workspaces are not totally clear to me. It feels like the same context switch is required in either case.
My coworkers do laugh at me though.
I am now using an ultrawide, but I think my next monitor will be smaller.
> Too much monitor becomes a distraction. So when it comes to monitors, I embrace these maxims:
> Less is more.
> Quality over quantity.
> Location, Location, Location.
Good for you. Now, why do I care about your opin-- oh wait, I don't.
Seriously, this is about as subjective as it gets. Okay, maybe keyboard switch and cap selection is even more subjective, but that's it. There's hardly a point if any to make (apart from basic ergonomics?)
I still want to go back to having a secondary monitor, though.
I still to have a secondary monitor again, though.
* virtual desktops. This keeps each desktop simple and clean
* keyboard shortcuts to switch between desktops. This makes the cost of switching near-zero
* one monitor is used 90% of the time for 90% of the work.
* the second monitor is used for critical situations when virtual desktops don't work: more documents than will fit on the first one, writing articles (main) versus research (secondary)
With that workflow, I don't miss it working from a laptop. But it is useful for when I need it.