It’s been awhile since I last used a two-monitor setup. Usually I do all of my work on a 15″ MacBookPro or one of the plastic MacBooks. But I wanted a better monitor for the desktop when I’m doing photostuff, so now I have two monitors again. Last time was in 2002 when I was doing contracting, and the client’s product I was working on wouldn’t fit on a laptop screen. I used a secondary monitor for running the software.
Even back in the Mac II days I always got really annoyed with the “traditional” way of setting up multiple monitors: having it so the desktop areas had large coincidental areas of vertical or horizontal border, so you could have one window span both screens and have it look non-horrible. My problem was I would always overshoot one monitor and end up on the other. I had really come to depend on Fitts’s Law. So why not use that for the monitors too?
I use my monitors as distinct playgrounds: Code and whatnot on one and the client’s big-assed program on the other. Lightroom’s Develop pane on one, and the Library grid on the other. Photoshop’s editing area on one, palettes on the other. I never have one big window that straddles both screens. Hence, my arrangement, seen above, connects the monitors at one corner.
This gives me my sides as big Fitts’s Law targets, as shown in the cute kitty picture. I can slam the mouse to the side to get to the tools. The menu bar at the top remains a nice big target. If I want to go to the other monitor, I throw the mouse to the bottom-left corner.
This makes the mouse enter the second screen at the top-right, and I keep my Photoshop palettes and Nik plugins panel up near that corner for easy access. I twiddle what I want, then throw the mouse into the upper-right corner to get to the main screen. If I lose my mouse, I can just keep mousing up and to the right until I see it on the main screen.
Why not put the other screen to the right? I keep my Dock hidden on the right. With today’s wide-screen displays, horizontal real estate is cheap, vertical real estate is still precious (six more lines of code! woo!). Having the Dock Fitts-style on the right makes it very easy to access.
Why not off the bottom? I use the hard border of the screen when resizing windows large – grab the corner, resize larger quickly until hitting the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately the green jellybean rarely does what I want it to do.
I’m not saying this is the best way for everybody, but it works very well for me. If you get frustrated with your multiple-monitor setup by accidentally mousing into the other screen, give the corner-connection a try.