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Why I Stopped Using Multiple Monitors (medium.com)
116 points by henrik_w on Mar 27, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments



>> to display multiple things simultaneously? If my email or social media feeds are available at a glance, then I’ll check them constantly

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!


That top comment is the one that really invalidated most of the article. Multiple monitors is to give you enough screen real estate for all components of task. It is not to stream twitch and watch Twitter scroll as you try to write in a text editor.

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.


Seems pretty simple.

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.


>>> to display multiple things simultaneously? If my email or social media feeds are available at a glance, then I’ll check them constantly

Actually, what is this social-media-at-work thingy?

Is this accepted in US? Elsewhere in Europe? Should it be?


Now you know why people are at work for so many hours in the US.


Europe too. I'm guilty of that myself; I always keep at least Messenger tab open (for communication with my SO) and I check HN frequently.

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.


> 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.

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 also have Telegram running and I check HN when I am stuck.

I guess a few people misunderstood me. I'm not talking about 100% separation between work and personal life[0], 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 :-/

[0]: 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 have two chrome profiles on my work desktop. One, my work profile has gmail, calendar, drive, keep, spotify, and fb messenger pinned. The other has nothing pinned, but is logged in to reddit, hn, my personal email, youtube, etc.

I get my work done and no one seems to care.


Actually, what is this mobile-phone thingy?

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".


At work, I use a single monitor with Windows 10 to avoid a few bugs and annoyances, such as one monitor not returning when unlocking the desktop, or having to rearrange all my windows onto the multiple screens when docking the laptop, or sometimes just when returning from a break.

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.


> At work, I use a single monitor with Windows 10 to avoid a few bugs and annoyances, such as one monitor not returning when unlocking the desktop, or having to rearrange all my windows onto the multiple screens when docking the laptop, or sometimes just when returning from a break.

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.


My work laptop will forget my window arrangement maybe once per week, maybe less than that. I mean, it restarts at least once a week and forgets everything, but there's nothing I can really do about that, so I don't fault the system for that.

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.


I guess you'd have enjoyed SCWM[0], a window manager built with the cassowary[1] as a backend: Window layouts could be constrainted to get effects like "If I move my emacs-window to top-left, the xterm with the log output on top right moves to the left and hides behind it, same for the other xterm on bottom left, which will go up and hide behind emacs." Adding state based on whether you are using a single-monitor setup or a laptop with an attached 42-display wall would have been added as yet another set of contraints.

[0] http://scwm.mit.edu/ (does not respond at the moment)

[1] http://constraints.cs.washington.edu/cassowary/


I've a windows 10 multi monitor set up, I've never experienced any of the issues you describe.


When you must read email or chat immediately, unhiding it compulsively and/or worrying that you might be missing an update is a far worse "multitasking" than concentrating on something useful until a notification pops up in a peripheral monitor.


I swapped a dual setup for one 34(?) inch ultra wide screen, which when combined with i3wm means I have the space I need to see different things at the same time, but without having to look too far.


If you like Moom, try Magnet, its like a better thought out Moom.


Having moved from Magnet (previously Window Magnet) to Moom some time ago, I fail to see how Magnet is "better thought out" when Moom can do whatever Magnet does as well as having the ability to also draw over a freeform grid and define custom layouts and grid sizes. The only thing Moom can't do is splitting in thirds on bottom edge drag. Both are great anyway.


I disagree heavily - Having a secondary monitor with documentation / work plans on it is enormously useful as you can glance at it without having to do anything more special than turn your head.

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.


I don't program in Android as my main focus at work but have been doing to quite a bit lately and I have to say thank god for my three monitors.

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:

[emulator][docs][code]

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.


Yeah, I don't understand how you can work having your documentation on a different virtual desktop; am I the only one who often is ACTUALLY LOOKING at docs when I type code? If I am doing something new where I am not sure of the syntax, I need to actually be looking at the reference while typing my version of it. Whenever I am forced to have one screen (e.g. I am on my laptop away from my desk), I end up having to switch windows 4 or 5 times (look at docs and try to remember a bit, switch windows, type a bit of code, switch back to see the next part, read, switch back, etc). I often try to work around this by making my coding window very small so I can fit both docs and code on one screen, but that ends up meaning that I can't see much context in the code, and scrolling to find other code has the same issue (scroll up to look at a different function, scroll back down, etc).


tl; dr; A single application does not represent a single mental task/context.

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.


>> In fact, I would go so far as to say that three monitors is optimum

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.


I agree with your disagreement!

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.


I have a wide screen and don't use it multi-tasking but more to stop switching so much. My web development setup. One third code and terminal, one third the app i'm developing open and one third design or requirement docs.

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.


Agreed, I keep slack on left for work convo's/important issues, or I swap that out for browser testing frontend stuff (full stack developer - laravel + lots of jquery and some vue) -- I usually use the right monitor for code, and the middle monitor is my usual browser testing window unless I'm comparing code files then I'll have middle/right both be editors, and test on the left.. I also use i3 on arch linux tiled windows/workspaces mean I can keep non-work stuff on a wholly separate workspace so it's out of mind, like my thunderbird that I use for emails from side projects I'm working on, or my gmail app (wmail), etc..


Yeah I have 3. I can & do use just one when I work from home on a laptop, and I've long been a fan of "uni-tasking" so I totally see his point. But it tends to be not-as-fast. My usual modus operandi with 3 screens is to have one instance of the IDE in the middle for whatever I'm working on, one instance on the right for the relevant dependency or example I'm following, and then on the left is usually some type of docs or Stack Overflow. Or Hacker News if it's break-time. When my neck starts to hurt from looking left for too long, that means it's time to get back to work!


I would say four is even better - I have one dedicated to terminal with logging output which might be different/additional to the actual end output of my program, but I agree with your sentiment and disagree strongly with the article. The final nail in the coffin: Limiting yourself to a single monitor is not going to solve your distraction problem.


I use Windows 10's virtual desktop to hold stuff that I want instantly available but not always visible. Plus it makes it easy for me to work using the same muscle memory when I'm at my desktop or on my laptop.

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.


and a fourth monitor for slack/email/... seems like it would work very well also.

I currently have 3 monitors at home (thinking about going to 4) and at work with 2 I definitely miss having a third available.


There's a raft of articles where people share their forays into minimalism. Minimalism is mostly a way to show cultural value, like wearing black turtlenecks or making your children take piano lessons. We add maxims like "less is more" to justify these things but "less is more" is such a vacuous justification you can discard it without thought.

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.


Hey, great that a single monitor works for you. It doesn't for me though.

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.


This is very much dependant upon use case. If you're in the business of managing loads of systems, being able to have console sessions open to all the various places you need to touch as part of your current task is invaluable. If you're a programmer working on a single thing at a time, that's great. If you're in operations, a "single task" may involve dozens of separate interactions with separate systems, and being able to have everything presented to you at once is a huge benefit.


I'll second this.

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.


Well, my productivity has risen dramatically. The choice argument fails for me, because I use 2 monitors for the applications I use most frequently, and the 3rd monitor is a catch all for everything else.

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.


> Virtual Desktops For the Win

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.)

[1]: (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.


FWIW, you can disable the "Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use" option in the Mission Control Preferences panel.


Frustratingly, when you disable this option, new fullscreen windows will always be appended to the END of the list. If you have 3 spaces and click the green pill on a Safari window on space #1, it will become space #4, after all the others, instead of space #2.

Reported to Apple, "works as intended". One more reason to never use macOS' built-in fullscreen mode.


I was so happy when I found that setting. Was so frustrating before.

I'd imagine the default is meant to function more like iOS


Thanks anon !


Completely agreed.

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.


Apparently Apple has enabled a feature to reduce/remove the motion when switching, not sure if that fixes point 1 above, but worth a try: http://apple.stackexchange.com/a/255220/183228


This changes the sliding animation to a cross-fade. I don't think it's any faster than the sliding animation.


Same, this absolutely kills my flow when I'm expecting a certain screen after switching desktops and then OS X seemingly arbitrarily puts it into another random desktop.


Try TotalSpaces. Fixes a few of these problems.


On my Mac, I can 3 finger swipe to quickly switch between multiple virtual desktops. This takes less than a second and it doesn’t require me to turn my head and refocus my eyes on content in a different spot.

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.


The truly monstrous users like myself use both systems: 3 monitors, with multiple virtual spaces on each. I can't have it any other way. The primary spaces on each monitor are a) IDE, b) Chrome, c) Terminal. The secondary space on monitor 1 is database tool, monitor 2 is Postman for API testing, monitor 3 is a split-screen of email and Slack.

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.


In our office we have six screens on most desks. Are first we thought it was a little over the top but it's hard to imagine cutting back now; you can lay out everything at once and it's just there - no switching. The only odd thing is we need water cooling in the desks to keep the heat down, but it works nicely.


I really think it helps that the three-finger swipe is interactive, i.e. you can swipe at your own speed and even decide to go back in the midst of the gesture. I often peek at the adjacent spaces only to come back to my current space - it feels like looking left and right without moving my eyes. Using non-interactive keyboard shortcuts is much more disorienting IMHO.


Don't know what the guy is doing, but at my previous workplace one of the most frustrating things was that due to hot desking and a policy of everyone works with laptops, they didn't believe that analysts required multiple monitors.

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!


Next, he should cut down his desk so that he can only fit one piece of paper on it. After all, it's better to focus on one thing at a time.


Also there's too many drawers. How can you find anything when there are so many storage bins to choose from? One giant laundry basket, or a bathtub, if you have lots of stuff, should do just fine...


You can definitely take it to an extreme. If you only read one word at a time, why show multiple words on the display? Why not a single character!

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?


I prefer a single monitor not just because it's more convenient, but because it really does improve focus. My screen represents my train of thought. I don't have 3 applications and 4+ files splattered in front of me. I have a single application, with no more than 2 files, that represents exactly where I am at that moment in my thinking. And I move from screen to screen fluidly with Spaces. I also use a large font size so I don't see more than 40 LOC on the screen at a time.

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.


> And I move from screen to screen fluidly with Spaces.

> 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.


I just have three Spaces at a given time: browsing is #1, chat is #2, code is #3. VMs are optional #4.

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.


>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.

Not if you always keep the same apps in the same place in spaces (I keep: browser: #1, terminal #2, editor: #3).


I won't even use a single external monitor, for the simple reason that acclimating myself to a bigger monitor would, I'm pretty certain, make me feel less productive in the common case where I only have a laptop screen to work on. I'd rather invest effort into making myself more productive on the laptop screen than on things that make me more productive in the specific case where I'm at my desk.


> Many developers believe multiple monitors improve productivity.

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"


I remember when two monitors were a new thing that someone did a productivity study and found that getting 50% more real estate (i.e., half again as many pixels or a few more inches diagonal) on your single monitor was as effective as having a second monitor the same size as your old one.

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.


Heh, I run two 30", one landscape, one portrait. I have 6 code windows open on the landscape and I can run a browser with the viewport set to 1280x720 and have a crapload of space below for the debugger/console. Below that, a term used for transferring my current iteration to my test server. On the other side of the landscape monitor I have an old 20" 4:3 rotated to portrait mode, two term windows, one tails and the other is in psql.


Someday I'm going to write a Medium article titled: "Why I Don't Care About What You Started or Stopped Doing."


I can hardly imagine being productive on a single monitor anymore. After having three 19" monitors for a couple very productive years, I tried switching to two 27" monitors. It added up to more space, to be sure, but I spent way too much time managing windows.

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.


> After having three 19" monitors for a couple very productive years, I tried switching to two 27" monitors. It added up to more space, to be sure, but I spent way too much time managing windows

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"


For me, the larger screens made for either more wasted space or more effort to figure out placement of windows on each screen.

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.


Yeah I'm much the same. If I've got one monitor, give me 32" with as many pixels as you can get. Two monitors, give me 2x24"; Three monitors, 1x24" central, 2x22" side panels.

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.


Try a decent size 4k screen. I find a single one to be enough as it gives me effectively 4 1080P screens.

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.


This is actually a really interesting topic. My laptop screen broke down a while ago and I moved so I'm now forced to use only one monitor for now after a long period of using multiple (mostly 3) monitors. It feels like I am actually able to focus better and am less strained by unnatural monitor positions and the constant switching between monitors. I guess your focus is always only on one thing, and whenever you need to switch focus you can just bring that into the foreground instead of switching your eyes to look at somewhere else. This actually doesn't cost that much productivity. In most use cases one monitor is really enough.

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.


Why can't this be a matter of preference? A lot of people in this thread saying "you're wrong, it DOES increase productivity!" and others saying "no, it DOESN'T increase productivity!" It seems obvious to me that it's not necessary or sufficient for max productivity, but if it's part of your productivity strategy (or not) then great.

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.


The prevailing assumption is multiple monitors equals one computer with multiple outputs but I've usually run multiple machines. Financially its a rounding error WRT cost, I get more use out of old systems before the environmental damage of recycling them. I can run different architectures simultaneously. If the new machine fails on burnin testing the old machine is literally on its left side so I can keep right on working.

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.


It depends on what you are doing. I find programming on one monitor to be fine, but I have a schedule with email, excel workbooks to compare with Visio diagrams / Word docs, Web conferences, a soft phone, and my Surface happens to be touch/tablet with OneNote. Virtual desktops with multiple monitors works great on Windows 10, but other than when I am running a VM, I never use them.

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.


Alt-tab causes me to lose focus much more quickly than glancing to the left. As a front-end developer I ALWAYS have my text editor, test browser, and Web Inspector open.

Among all tasks, I've found using Web Inspector to be incredibly difficult on a single monitor, especially on websites with deeply nested markup.


Having used only one monitor for every and only recently bought a second one, I feel different. It's not about two equal monitors, but one for all the stuff that is static. A paper to be read, a formular to be used or just the notes that were taken before and are now used for implementation.


I'm firmly in the multiple monitor camp because, for me, switching between maximized windows or virtual desktop is a greater distraction than the more intuitive gesture of turning my head and moving my chair, while fiddling with windows is a quickly amortized setup cost that allows me to see what I want without further interaction.

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.


I mean, this sounds fine if you are able to actually focus on a single thing. Leaving aside for the moment the desirability or practicality of burying social media and other such distractions, there are times when work itself requires displaying more information than I can fit on a single screen. I usually have a code editor, one or more tmux sessions, a cloud console web UI, etc., and I have to move back and forth and reference different things in those windows constantly. It's a lot less work to shift my eyes and mouse to the left than it is to cycle through buried windows.


I used to have two thunderbolt displays. Now I only use my laptop.

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.


Most of our user base uses single monitors. All of our developers and testers use 2 or more monitors. We used to have bugs caused by the difference. An example which comes to mind was an acknowledgement pop-up (something happened, click ok to continue) which would pop up on the other screen. For single monitor users, it would pop up off-screen. Because I'm a stubborn single monitor user, I was able to reproduce the bugs.


I've tried full stack programming on one monitor and it took forever and was really frustrating. Multiple text editors/IDE's, test browsers, remote SERVER connections, SQL server admin consoles. Heck, a few command prompts. Constantly minimizing and maximizing. My browser had so many tabs open it was ridiculous. I'm totally not against one massive wide screen but they don't make them wide enough yet.


I use only the laptop monitor. Originally I did this because I did a lot of live support, and having to undock was a slight impediment to going to somebody's desk to work on an issue with them. The communication was more important. Once I got used to using just the monitor, I was happy having the same setup everywhere. Every now and then a manager tries to give me a giant monitor, but I just pass it off to the next engineer that might want one.

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.


Multiple monitors sure are a drag. This weekend I downgraded my primary monitor from a 32" 4k display to a 27" 1440p display, for the purpose of gaming at 165Hz instead of 60Hz (and wow, what a difference).

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.


Oh, and as for the actual utility of multiple monitors, I like them. I use a second monitor off to the side for lower-priority things. At home, music player and Discord. At work I usually have Emacs on my main screen and a terminal on the second screen. If I'm doing a lot with the terminal I'll just move the window over, but most of the time I just need to press up arrow and look at the output for a second, so it works fine. YMMV but I like having multiple monitors. I don't know if there is any productivity improvement, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.


I have been using a 15" laptop for dev work for quite some years now. I have an external monitor next to it but most of the time it stays off, only using it to test things on large resolutions.

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?


Use the right tools for the right job. If all I'm doing is putting together new code, then one monitor is fine. If I'm debugging, porting code or troubleshooting an oncall emergency then multiple monitors is better. Also, on a Mac I can more easily get away with one big monitor however on a PC I must have at least 2 monitors to feel ok. Of course, YMMV.


The reason I'm way more productive with multiple monitors* is not that I open twitter and want to look at it constantly, but because I open my code from different angles like: - comparing two pieces of code - opening code review and opening actual code in text editor on the other - opening a text editor for commit and looking at the diff on the other - open the documentation and look at the code on the other So I'm way faster at switching things or way better to compare things this way.

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 usually use one large monitor with my MacBook as a smaller sidecar for little things like music, billing timer, notes, etc. but there's one time when I've found two monitors come in really handy: if I'm mixing local terminal work and server-side terminal work. The most important thing when doing this kind of work is to ensure that you always know if you're working on your local or on a server. I've used different terminal colour schemes, even different terminal applications - but for me it's even better to have local on one screen and remote on a completely different screen.

(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.


I'm definitely on the one monitor train. For the longest time, I didn't even use an external monitor, just the one on my laptop. I like having a consistent experience when working from the office, or working remote. In this way, my flow is always the same, no matter where I'm working at :D


I used to _love_ multimonitor setups, but one of my employers had an open office with many different areas to work, including bean bags and other casual furniture that didn't have space for monitors. After relearning to only use my laptop, I'm loathe to switch back. Being away from your desk without the claustrophobic feeling is nice, and with enough tweaks I think you can minimize any negatives that come from the smaller screen.


I use dual 32" 4K monitors. I love it. I do computer graphics though that demands attention to detail. I love a full screen 3D editor (Clara.io) with some documents/task lists open in the other screen.

Say what you will about this setup, but I'd never go back. I am very productive in this setup.


my fingers did not like the constant alt+tab when I had less desktop real estate.

Perhaps I need to get USB foot pedals.


Tiling window managers are your friend


Multiple monitors are your friend


Best of all, multiple monitors play very nicely with both tiling window managers and virtual desktops. :)


Some tiling WMs on x11 allow to share virtual desktops between monitors, so you can move a whole virtual desktop from a monitor to another.

Spectrwm for sure, maybe xmonad inspired it.


I have an external 27" 4k monitor connected to my MBP and while I use multiple screens at times, it's only occasionally for productivity.

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.


Using multiple monitors is exactly the opposite of the emacs philosophy and the unix philosophy.

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.


Interesting. I bought a cinema 4k display for 2500$ and put it next to my 'old' 1920x1200 display. I find myself constantly using the smaller display and I don't know why.

This makes me just want to get rid of the smaller one and use the large one exclusively.


The main reason for multiple monitor setups would be, that they were cheaper than getting a single larger screen. But the general reduction in screen prices and the new class of ultra-wide screens gives alternative options to get a lot of desktop real estate. The only reason I sometimes prefer my dual-screen setup is, that when I have a full-screen application (vmware in my case) running on one screen, the other would give me additional desktop space like for reference documentation. I would never consider putting a normal windowed desktop application into full-screen mode. As my typical work requires to use multi-windowed applications, I like my desktop to be as large as possible.


It all highly depends on your context. Are you reading, are you coding, are you creating some art? I am usually perfectly happy with just one monitor but for example if edit graphics or read papers it is very helpful to have additional displays.


And if you're coding, are you doing something routine where you only need one file open, or are you e.g. trying to learn a new library or integrating unfamiliar systems, where having documentation or APIs open is essential if you don't want to alt-tab every second line of code written?

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 just bought a 34" 21x9 ultra wide monitor and am in a similar dilemma. I use ShiftIt (https://github.com/fikovnik/ShiftIt) for window management since I can assign a single keyboard command to center whatever window I’m working on. However, what I’d really like is for command/alt-tab to automatically place the active window in the center, the previous window to the left, and the second-most-recently used window to the right. I might have to contribute to ShiftIt to make it happen, unless someone here knows an app that already does that.


I tried multiple monitor setup for about 6 months and in the end I couldn't stand it. I used to put certain reference data on the second monitor - like a DB schema, or the layout of a particular communications flow etc...At first I liked it for that purpose. Then I started to get irritated at occasionally losing my cursor over the edge. Over time I also found myself glancing at it for no reason. Eventually I realized a paper print out of my schema or doc, sellotaped to the wall worked much better.

I reverted to single. Much happier. As mentioned elsewhere a tiling window manager (I use i3) is the key to making this productive.


Although I never found virtual desktops to be useful for me, I can't imagine learning new skills without a multi-monitor setup. I keep the tutorial (video, blog, ebook) on 1 monitor open and I have the IDE, text editor, browser, emulator open in the other monitor. For non-computer related stuff, I have OneNote open in the other monitor for taking notes as I'm working my way through the material. Multi monitors definitely have use, I probably can do the same with a 35" wide angle monitor (super expensive!) but I feel its more convenient when it is split between 2 monitors.


One thing I did realize is that I suspect a lot of the "1 monitor is good enough" comments are probably from OSX users.

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.


I prefer multiple monitors because they allow a more physical distribution of documents compared to virtual desktops. Having the document I'm going to refer to already in peripheral vision makes it much easier to switch to it than a switch to another virtual desktop and re-orient.

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.


As a data business analyst in large and small companies, I find myself working on very complex systems (people and apps), and a single monitor helps me focus. Occasionally I switch the second monitor on, but usually use it as an expensive document stand.

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.


I've been traveling with a lightweight 23" LG monitor for several years now.

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.


I don't agree. I maximize all the apps on my monitors. I like to see the max amount of data in each app. The secondary monitor is used to look at help, docs or something useful.

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.


I'm seeing a lot of self-righteous "I need the second monitor for the sheer amount of data my programming requires I have immediate access to". Ok, but speaking as someone who spends a few dozen hours a week in computer labs with College CS students, the second monitor does seem to collect an awful lot of non-task oriented material in that population.


I stopped using multi-monitor a few months ago, the advantages of just working from a single laptop started to outweigh the benefits of multi-monitors.

- 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.


I have a 2 monitor setup with laptop. One monitor for my google searches/documentation reading, the second holds my code/spreadsheets, and the laptop for terminal/finder/calendar. All my work is in front of me, nothing here adds to distractions, and I get my work done faster.


I dislike multiple monitors. Part of this is going to be age-dependent. I prefer to work from my hand-written notes and a pen-annotated paper-spec, so I don't really have much of a need for a second monitor for my primary task, so the second monitor is usually just a source of distraction.


I got used to using workspaces to expand my desktop and I've had a hard time making use of a second monitor even though I have one now.

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 wish I could do single monitor, but I need at least two - one with editor, one with browser for the app/site I'm building. Then preferably one for database admin/documentation/email/chat. Context switching between all that tends to slow me down I feel.


I also disagree. I work in government affairs, which involves a lot of legislative research and analysis. Having three monitors is extremely useful, particularly when I'm trying to bring together multiple ideas into one.


Perhaps if you have one of those huge 4K monitors, but I usually keep console on a laptop, and editor and browser on two external 24" monitors, and probably could use another one if only I had space for it on my desk.


Another reason for just one monitor: your neck will feel a lot better!


Try having one monitor in the centre and the second one off to the side. You'll always be using one monitor as the primary anyway so there's no reason to pretend they're equal.


I did that for a while, but I found I was turning my head reasonably often.. ended up giving me nasty neck strain. I went back to a single monitor and it cleared up nicely.

I am now using an ultrawide, but I think my next monitor will be smaller.


> Why I Stopped Using Multiple Monitors

> 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?)


Virtual desktops + Pomodoro work wonders for me, focus wise.

I still want to go back to having a secondary monitor, though.


I disagree. I use multiple monitors for work (2), and virtual desktops. And it works pretty well.


Virtual desktops + Pomodoro work wonders for me, focus wise.

I still to have a secondary monitor again, though.


"How I Beg The Question That Mac Spaces Aren't The Same As Physical Monitors"


Good, I'm not the only one who thought this article was completely ridiculous.


All the value in hot-loading front ends is with the multiple-monitor set up, imo.


"Why Everyone Should Adopt My Personal Preference"


TBF, i see a LOT more people in the comments here saying "you should use multiple monitors" than not.


In my case it's to have a single immutable desktop whenever I'm working at home or at a customer site. A 15" laptop screen is enough for me.


I'm unsure whether this is satire.


I've used multiple monitors for years. They keys are:

* 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.


Even with a 30 inch 4k monitor, a second 2k monitor is a great productivity boost, as one can keep windows opened (eg documentation, email app)




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