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Who needs a second screen?

A programmers perspective

For a long time, I was a strong advocate of a two screen setup whenever I could. Although I still see some benefits in having more real screen space, I have changed my general attitude. The reason for this is that having virtual workspaces gives me a very similar experience. And this wherever I want.

As a student, I am only rarely working from the same place. Sometimes I code at the university, sometimes I am sitting at a friends place and another day I am somewhere on the road. If you are comfortable with your virtual workspace setup nothing hinders you from coding with 100% efficiency because the only thing you need is your laptop. In the past, I was pretty frustrated when I could not work at home where I had my second large screen. However at some point, I realized that I could be as efficient using virtual desktops.

It took me some time to get used to but after some initial acclimatization I do not miss my bulky 24" monitor. Your eyes are only able to focus on a tiny part of the screen anyway, having to look (and moving your head!) at another monitor or simply changing the content of your one screen does not really make a difference. Furthermore, having your virtual second (or third!) screen with you at all times is a huge boost!

An important aspect is to make working with workspaces as smooth as possible. For me this means creating my own custom shortcuts, as I always have my hands in the home row on the keyboard. As a Vim user, it is natural to map moving down to the next workspace to Alt+j and up to Alt+k. For moving a window to the next workspace I chose Ctrl+Alt+j and Ctrl+Alt+k respectively. For me, this setup makes working with workspaces a breeze, as these keys are in my muscle memory anyway. Moving to the arrow keys is a hassle which I want to avoid by all means - so do not hesitate to change the default keycombinations.

Give it a try and ditch your large second screen at your primary workplace. Configure shortcuts that allow you to easily switch workspaces and move windows. You will soon notice that you are back to your old productivity levels and feel that you are no longer limited when working on the road by not having a second monitor.