Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror has been writing about the value of multiple monitors for years, and I have to say that I completely and totally agree with him, especially after the last week. You’ve seen what my desk at work looks like. (Although I’m thinking of getting rid of the 4th monitor. It’s a bit too much). At my previous job, I talked the boss into a dual monitor setup, and was ultimately responsible for getting dual monitor setups for everybody in the office. It’s amazing what a difference it makes for productivity.
Personally, I love the 3 monitor setup. My typical development environment is set up as follows:
- Left monitor: Emulator/Debugger/Logging tools, etc.
- Middle Monitor: Code – either a collection of text files, or IDE. Depends on what I am working on.
- Right Monitor: Reference Materials – usually one or more Firefox windows with a couple of dozen tabs open between them.
This allows me to quickly glance between windows without requiring a mental context switch. This is especially useful when referring to code and logging/debugging info at the same time or to code and reference material – without having to keep switching windows and risk dropping all of the variables that I am juggling in my head.
Over the past week or so for Christmas break, I’ve been home, so I’ve been developing on the laptop. I finished adding support for Tiny Tiny RSS to FeedSpider! (Now if HP would just release the thing to the app catalog…) But, it meant that I was stuck using the laptop’s tiny 17” inch screen. (Yes, I know, it’s a big laptop. But it’s a drastic change from dual 23” monitors.) I tried using Spaces and that is almost as good – at least the best experience that you’re going to get on a single screen. For my environment, it is very useful to be able to tie apps to individual spaces and switch between them with a keystroke. But, you’re still stuck mentally context switching.
So, I’m spoiled. While the laptop works, I don’t think that I could ever go back to a single monitor setup permanently. I’m looking forward to getting back to the office and getting some development done on a real setup.