How do you arrange your screens/multiple desktops?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

Where is the editor, the console, the browser, team chat apps, etc.? Do you have a consistent routine, or do you have flexibility here?


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At work I have two monitors, plus the laptop, on the left, on a stand that brings the top of the laptop screen to the same height as the top of the other monitors. The laptop usually has Slack, Zeplin, Chrome open, maybe Safari open. The two monitors are just terminals, usually mostly occupied with vim, one term running Docker, and another for playing music (using either mplayer or a small TUI mplayer wrapper I wrote).

-----  ---------------   ---------------
|lap|  | vim  | vim  |   | vim  |docker|
|top|  |      |      |   |      |------|
-----  |      |      |   |      |music |
       ---------------   ---------------

I keep the laptop and right monitor pretty sharply angled, something like this:

 /             \
/               \
    keyboard      \

So I'm usually looking straight ahead at the just-vim monitor.

At home my setup is fluid, because I have too many computers laying around, but right now from left to right there's the Windows laptop (for FL Studio), Linux laptop for personal projects/whatever, 27" monitor, and then the work laptop goes on the far right when I'm working from home. With one keyboard in the middle (kind of in front of the Linux laptop), shared (no switch, I just plug it into whichever computer I'm using).


Don't have constant routine but what I need to work on or use the most is on my laptop's screen (15.6")which is right in front of me. Something that aids me, be it a browser tabs with what I need, some other piece of code or anything else is on 2nd monitor (21") which is on the left of laptop. Everything else which might be useful is on the right monitor (17").
It highly depends on what and in what I'm working. Different setup for VS, Ecplise, Android Studio, casual situations...


I'm a unity developer so I have a 4K monitor horizontal in the center with two 24" monitors vertical on either side of the main. On the right I have visual studio and on the left I have chrome.

The only annoying thing is when I switch to photoshop, audition, handbrake, etc because I don't like having to switch back and forth on the 4K.

Also, pro tip if you do use 4K monitor on windows with scaling turned to 150% (so the text is actually readable) some unity windows will actually disappear into the void if you maximize a torn off one. Switching back to 100% scaling brings them back but ughhh took way to long to figure that out one day. :)


Lenovo laptop, always with the lid closed.
A single 21" (at work) or 25" (at home) screen.
Linux Mint desktop, so, one taskbar and really thin.
I have a 3x3 workspace grid. I normally organize as following:

  1. Browser, opened for working related stuff.
  2. Empty
  3. Empty.
  4. IDE (s).
  5. Text editors (for repos that do not use an IDE). Also terminals, local or remote.
  6. Empty.
  7. Communication: slack, email, etc.
  8. Browser with personal stuff (if any).

I've used two displays for some time (laptop + monitor), used to use the laptop's one for terminals.
Stopped this habit since displays tend to have different resolutions and your eyes have to adopt, bend you back, etc. Not a good idea. Although, many people have really good, long and strong arguments about it.
Also, laptop keyboards are not as comfortable for coding as a normal one, so, having the laptop in my hands was neither an option.

Over the time, one gets really fast changing workspaces, and is better over Alt+Tab, since you always know for certain where's that program you're looking for.

Also, once people in your team know the thing about the workspaces, pairing is really easy. The keyboard is easy to share/move around, the place where people look at is "in a mid point" and we stay focused in one position.


My desk has a lip on it as it is a corner desk. I can't have more than my 27" iMac screen on it but I have 6 virtual desktops:

1 - Atom, all things code related (even Chrome tabs specific to code) and Trello

2 - Productivity apps: OmniFocus, Evernote, Timing 2

3 - Blogging tabs and Ulysses

4 - Reading Tabs in Chrome

5 - Email app Spark and Gmail tab

6 - Spotify/iTunes and Calibre Open Source ebook manager, Rambox chat aggregator since Franz is no more.


Always Mac on the right with slack, then the big monitor with Vscode left, Terminal bottom right and postman/safari top right ( 4K gives you a lot of space 😂 )


My setup is like so:

External screen 1 - External screen 2      
       \                   /

My external screens are raised 20cm in comparison to the level of my laptop. Usually I have the browser on external screen 2, IDE on external screen 1 and my terminal and miscellaneous stuff on my laptop.


Wesley gets it. Same arrangement here.

         [          34" widescreen     ]
[laptop] [         curved monitor      ]

I often don't even have the laptop screen open, if I do, it's email/chat/Spotify.

I like the giant widescreen monitor. Ironically, I like having only one program / one window open at a time if I can.

The huge monitor does give me the flexibility to put two or even 3 windows side by side.

I'm on macOS, so I use Spectacle to use shortcuts to move windows around. The commands only conflict with Xcode.


Just curious — anyone using a vertical monitor orientation to write code?


One person I know who did used vertical for email. It was a narrow screen though. But, it got it off your main screens.


I tried but could not get used to having one monitor vertically and one horizontally.
I used vertical setup more for reading documentation more than coding itself.


I have a similar setup as Wesley. Two 22 inch monitors, one each side of my mac book.

Browser and evernote goes to the external monitor-1 (To the Left). I don't keep any other windows besides the work(mostly Android studio) that I'm currently working on my MacBook screen.

External Monitor 2 is set vertically which I use it for terminal primarily for the purpose of logs. I do open the terminal in my MacBook Screen, If I'm writing any script. But usually my terminals are in the vertical monitor.

@taylor Initially it was little weird to look at vertical monitor. But I got used to it. Been using it for 4 months now.


I did for a while and liked it but never formed the habit, and I set my next monitor up horizontally without thinking about it much. Would be interested to hear what others prefer here.


A coworker who tried it had similar feedback. He's not a developer per se, but someone who occasionally writes prototype code. One large, wide monitor with multiple columns in Sublime etc was his choice.

I'd love to be able to get something wide enough that I can comfortably do 3-4 columns in Sublime.


I used it for a few days. Could not get adjusted to it, as all other applications, other than the IDE, felt out of place on it.

  1. Browser
  2. IDE (internal terminal)
  3. Chats 1/1/1. Outlook, Slack, Telegram. And Spotify on the background in the first third, cause Outlook is not that useful usually.

All of them are virtual. So IDE is in the center, and two others are left or right of IDE.

And I prefer single screen setup same way as Cory House.


Similar setup here
IDE in the middle, browser to the left, miscellaneous apps to the right.
I summon the terminal from whichever screen I'm on with ctrl+`


I'm using a Mac with 2 externals monitors (left and right):

  • I'm using 4 virtual desktops in mac
    • 1 slack
    • 2 browsers
    • 3 Skype
    • 4 Whats app

  • Right monitor: Full screen Windows VM

  • Left monitor: everything else in a messy desktop, email, Trello board, terminals, etc, etc

[Update: 27-Aug-2017]
I maintain two setup:

  1. Office: Windows Laptop
    Laptop screen with Outlook, and Slack
    External Monitor screen with VNC Viewer connected to Dev VM running VS Code / Vim / Emacs and Browser

  2. Home: 13" MacBook Pro
    Desktop1 with Outlook, and Slack
    Desktop2 with VNC Viewer connected to Dev VM running VS Code / Vim / Emacs and Browser.


Currently I have my laptop on the left side of my Dell U2515H monitor. But I am going to build a little mount to place my laptop in. And then I want to buy a second monitor.

It depends on the future, but a vertical oriented monitor would be great for possible logging/system monitoring from a command line: using tmux to multiplex.


Three virtual desktops on the Mac:

  1. The left one is my browser and occasionally opened apps like the calendar, todos, pages or something, oh... and Spotify.
  2. The centre one is my Editor and Terminal.
  3. The right one contains all my chat apps (Discord, Slack, Telegram, ...), Twitter and the e-mail client.

Either looked at on the internal macbook screen (like now, while I'm typing this) or mirrored to an 24" monitor sitting on my desk.


I work with a 24" screen and multiple workspaces (Ubuntu Gnome):

1 - Browser (with multiple pinned tabs like Inbox and Github )
2 - Terminal (Terminator with column/row splitter)
3 - Sublime Text(two column mode)
4 - Slack
5 - Spotify


At home I use one massive 34" curved monitor and typically have PyCharm, console and GitHub on either side.

At work I have three 28" monitors and typically have PyCharm, console, Swarm+Jira, and Perforce.


Two monitors, larger 23" is the primary, smaller display secondary on left.

Primary {


    IDE / Editor


Secondary {

    "Team chat" (IRC)

    Browser (Sometimes, only if needed for whatever I'm working on in the primary)


And terminals everywhere. I had a drop down terminal in my primary but for some reason that now does not want to move away from my secondary.


I have 3 monitors at work. The right monitor is the main display and I hide my taskbar over there.

The left monitor is in portrait orientation and holds my console/terminal. That's my only consistent window placement. Everything else floats or moves around as needed.

It's funny to watch people try and use my computer


I'm of the "one monitor to rule them all" persuasion. I like to have everything directly in front of me, so I don't have to turn my head to do something. I've found that constantly looking off to the side causes me neck pain, so I prefer the 1 large monitor with what I'm working on front and center.

Usually that's a giant terminal window that takes up the whole screen, split into panes with tmux. Sometimes I'll also do columns with a browser and a terminal next to each other.

I try to minimize distractions, so chat and email are in the background with notifications disabled. I check them at specific times during the day and that's it.


I have two machine: Linux and Windows, connected with a KVM switch and Synergy.

In general, I do development on Linux, whose monitor is to the left, and web testing and email on Windows, to the right.

I use virtual desktops on both, so in general:
Work Work Work Browsers-I-want-to-finish Email Chat-&-IRC Tweetdeck Spotify

On virtual desktops where I'm working, I usually have my editor on the left half of the screen and 2 terminals top-right and bottom-right.

When I'm on my laptop, esp. when using a 2nd screen, I miss having my 2 monitors being independent of each other, but in general, I do the same re: terms and editor, there too.

[               ]
[               ]
[ 24" 1920x1080 ]
[               ] [ laptop ]
                  [ 1080p  ]
                  [ 14"    ]

Using i3, I only have windows on one screen.

I have a single workspace on my laptop screen, mostly used for Mattermost or reference things (it should look like this).

Most of the time I work on the external monitor, with workspace 2 being my browser and workspace 3 containing whatever I need to code (vim, terminal, ..). On workspace 10 I have my communications (Thunderbird, Gajim).


I have one 4K monitor and usually have terminals along the bottom (single window, multiple panels), text editor in the left and browser to the right. Slack and everything else in the background or another desktop


Pair of matching 22" screens: One directly in front of me; the other just to the right and angled toward me.

Active work goes on the forward screen: Editor, browser, terminal, email, etc. Passive/Reference stuff goes on the right: Skype, browser inspector, virtual machine sessions, database tools, etc.

I also run with a virtual workspace as well. It's not used all that often, however, if I have too many windows open, or need to spend some distraction-free time in a virtual machine; I'll jump over to a second dual-screen workspace.


I use Ubuntu as my operating system, two virtual desktops, the left one I use for the browser, and the right one I use for the coding related stuff, (VSCode, Multiple terminals, etc...).

I got used to the switching, and it's really good in my opinion.


MBP pro 2017 with touchbar. One desktop is for social media mail slack etc. One is my coding desktop (chrome debugging, Xamarin in VS for Mac and mobile simulators) one my browsing one and one for everything else. When coding this setup runs on mbp and second display.


I have the latest iMac 5k 27". I just have two desktops, one for developing and other for everything else: mail, etc…

27" at 5k is a lot of space. Visible at all times:

  • Two iTerm terminals: one for my front-end, another one for my backend
  • Sublime, plenty of space!
  • Spotify
  • Skype

1 display for communication (chat, email, git, asana etc)
1 display for code, source files, resources, active workspace, CLI etc
1 display for the result (unity3d preview, test results, or the website if is a website etc with hot push or auto refresh, monitoring if debugging servers, etc)

Everything raised on the eye level, when I'm standing straight.


2 monitors

per concurrent project - one virtual desktop with:

  • right one: Dev-Env / Command line
  • left one: running app/website and documentation

team chat: is on premise - other distractions (email, social media, ...) are on different virtual desktops


Prefer transparent windows to multiple monitors or virtual desktops. e.g., It's easy to watch a tutorial and try out the code in the foreground. Likewise to have documentation/code reference open while coding.



two externals plus laptop,

on the left: first external screen with IDE and Code (main screen)
in the center: second external screen with browser/debugger (research screen)
on the right: laptop with slack/email/other distracting stuff (communication screen)


Main Monitor (DELL U2717D)

  • Browser
  • IDE
  • Terminal in Full Screen

2nd Monitor (MacBook 15")

  • Slack
  • SourceTree
  • TweetDeck
  • everything else

Macbook pro (late 2016) on the left with two HD Dell monitors (center and right). MBP for iTerm, center is browser, right is Atom editor. Most everything else hangs out in the background of center.


Sublime text on my laptop. Terminal and browsers on the widescreen. I have only recently started using a dual monitor setup so I'm still playing around with it. :-)


Usually editor and inspector are on the right monitor, the browser on the left monitor. I'm think to get one more only for the inspector :D


My IDE/Editor on the left monitor, browser on the center monitor and I have found it helpful to have an extra monitor for RDP or Database although not necessary.


I just have a laptop, so no problem here.


I went to a 46" 4k, and found myself using longer editor windows, with room for many side-by-side.

46" is slightly too big; a 40 or 42 would probably be better.