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How to Effectively use a Single Monitor

nabsul profile image Nabeel Sulieman ・2 min read

Original post: https://nabeel.dev/2020/03/27/single-monitor/

Many people I know love working with multiple monitors. Personally, I'm not a huge fan. The only times I find myself using a second monitor are
when I'm on a video conference (or watching a video) and want to keep working while I listen. Other than that, I'm generally a single-monitor user.

I feel like using a single monitor helps keep me focused. Instead of moving my head left and right between monitors, I use keyboard shortcuts to quickly switch windows on my screen. With many people working from home these days, I imagine many don't have the space for two monitors anyways.

Here are some tricks I use to make the most of my single monitor:

Virtual Desktops

I use virtual desktops the way many people use multiple monitors. In Windows, you can press win+tab to view all your windows, and at the top you'll see a list of virtual desktops. Press the + sign to create as many as you need.

Switching between virtual desktops is fast and easy: hold the ctrl and win keys down, and press left or right to move between desktops. If you're not already comfortable with the alt+tab keyboard shortcut, then I highly recommend mastering it to quickly switch between windows.

Split the Screen

The most common justification I hear for two monitors is: "I need to see two documents side-by-side." For most cases there's a simple alternative: Split Screen. In fact, I would argue that split screen is better than two monitors,
since the two documents can be placed closer together (or even overlapping!)
to make side-by-side comparisons even easier.

In Windows I use win+left and win+right all the time for this purpose. That keyboard shortcut will automatically size a window to occupy
the left or right half of your screen respectively.

Invest in a Good Monitor

In my home office, I use a 27" Dell LED monitor. Not all 27" monitors are created equal. Consider getting a high-quality monitor and not the cheapest one possible. And definitely consider getting one high-quality monitor over two low-quality monitors.

Your Laptop is your Second Monitor

My laptop is my primary work machine. I have docking stations at work and at home, so I just plug in and start working wherever I am. Usually my laptop's screen is turned off while I'm plugged into the docking station. For the few situations where I want a second monitor, I simply turn that screen on.

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Discussion

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I can add that you can also turn off windows animations to speed up moving between windows and virtual desktops. It works pretty nice if you like instant actions.

 

Well, we could argue that a big 27" monitor is not that different than 2 more common 21" and if you go for a wide one is just a technicality, specially if we are talking about 1440p or 4K, which should be the case, in my opinion 27" is too big for 1080p.

The big difference is that is usually cheaper to get 2 smaller ones than a big one, the fact that you don't have to buy both at the same time and that you can get one IPS and one TN, for example and take advantage of both worlds.

 

As a Mac user, utilizing Divvy and Contexts make one screen feel like 20!

 

Ultra widescreen monitor is also an option

 

2 Ultrawides and 1 Vertical 27 inch does the job ;)