There is a lively discussion around an Apple-sponsored study that conteds that 30-inch monitors make people more productive. The productivity gains, he said, occur because workers using larger monitors can avoid repetitive tasks such as switching between overlapping application windows. Instead, they can have more windows […]

There is a lively discussion around an Apple-sponsored study that conteds that 30-inch monitors make people more productive.

The productivity gains, he said, occur because workers using larger monitors can avoid repetitive tasks such as switching between overlapping application windows. Instead, they can have more windows open side-by-side on a larger monitor.

I am not quite sure.

Lets see – I am not built like an American (polite way of saying that I fall in the short category) and as a result, when sitting behind a big screen I find myself completely overwhelmed by the size of the screen. A friend of mine has a 30-inch screen, and I always find myself turning my head left to right or vice versa, when looking, reading or performing a task on his machine.

Sure I can have multiple windows open on the screen, but they in fact act as a distraction most of the time. My personal home office set-up is a 20-inch iMac, and a 20-inch Apple Display. I have Parallels installed on the machine, which allows me to run Windows on one screen, and Mac apps on the other. Since I don’t use the Windows apps as often (just to make sure the various sites are running well on the other browsers etc.) I can focus on Mac-only screen.

I tend to minimize most of the apps, and only keep the application (hence the task) that needs my most immediate attention open. It is easier to focus if the computer screen space is more defined, and in fact constricted. I find that I write better when I use a laptop, sitting with just my YoJimbo open.

What is your take on this argument?

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  1. Yes, the bigger the monitor the better. It allows for better multi-tasking. I actually have a triple monitor setup. One 24″ Dell and two 19″ dells, one on each side. I can work on the main screen, wether it be coding or what have you while I can review the result or sample on the right monitor that I need to work from. This keeps me from having to flip back and forth between a couple programs to work. My left monitor is usually reserved for Remote Desktop so I can connect to my laptop and view the outlook messages as the “emergencies” come in.

    When I have to go onsite with my laptop to work (some clients just like face time), I’m not even as quarter productive as my home office setup.

  2. Personally, I think 2 decent sized monitors are better than 1 big one. It is nice to be able to multitask with Outlook or IE on one monitor and your work on another.

  3. Recently I was using a duel monitor set up and fell in love with it. I am flabergasted at how much more work I can get done. I can work with my database on one screen and Outlook or Firefox on another screen. It was a great experience and I am now looking for a new laptop with the duel monitor capability so I can have the same set up.

  4. Brandon Checketts Friday, October 13, 2006

    In my opinion, the more screen space, the better. I have dual 20″ displays on my main PC. When I have to work from a laptop, it’s incredibly difficult to see everything that I’m used to and productivity goes down the drain.

  5. I have a laptop with an external 19″ monitor (a dual-screen desktop) plus a Mac Mini with a 17″ monitor and I use all three screens[1]. Bigger monitor(s) seem better, but I often maximize my current application in one screen and use the other screens for other apps. If I had a 30″ monitor, I’m not sure I would move away from this behavior and thus I’d still be flipping through apps; I guess I appreciate the segmented nature of having multiple monitors. Then again, I haven’t had the opportunity of working with a larger screen, either.

    [1] I use and recommend Synergy for sharing a keyboard and mouse across a network.

  6. I could see how the 30″ might cross that line of diminishing returns, but generally I think bigger is better. I went from a clunky old 19″ dell monitor to a 24″ iMac and it’s surely upped my productivity.

    You also can’t ignore other monitor features like brightness and contrast ratios, which make your monitor more pleasureable to look at, which increases productivity.

  7. I run dual monitors and think it is better than an equivalent screen size on one monitor e.g. a 30″

    The reason in my way of thinking is that it is easier to maximise a window to each monitor than try and arrange two windows side by side on one monitor. This is mainly for web-dev where I have a text-editor open in one and the browser open on the other.

    I also turn off the second monitor when I don’t need it, a nice power saving.

  8. I recently switched from a Powerbook and 19″ Dell monitor setup to a 24″ iMac. With the iMac, I can now have every commonly-used panel in Flash 8 open at one time (which is nice), but with the Powerbook/monitor setup I could have the code window open on the Powerbook screen and everything else open on the monitor. I will probably end up getting a second monitor for the iMac.

  9. Jason Baldwin Friday, October 13, 2006

    On one temp job six or so years ago, I had a 21″ and a 15″ (both CRT), which began my love affair with dual monitors. In my last full-time position, I had two big, beautiful 21″ LCDs side-by-side. Working in design, it’s a lifesaver and huge productivity boost to undock all the tool palettes in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a host of other applications and spread them all out on the secondary monitor, leaving the whole of the primary’s real estate for the image/publication/etc. Since going solo almost a year ago, I feel like I can’t get nearly as much done with a single monitor. Once it’s financially feasible, I’m getting at least a 20″ in addition to the 19″ I work on now.

    That said, I’ve been working on-site on a contract for the last couple months on a single 23″ Apple Cinema Display, and the extra real estate has done nothing to boost my efficiency; it’s really the dual-monitor setup that works best for me.

  10. I would like a larger monitor, but even then I’d insist on a good virtual desktop (VD) manager.

    The Mac should have had this feature natively *years* ago, sophisticate that Apple is, although I understand that this feature is coming. Windows has had its PowerToys version for some time, but few people seem to know about it.


    I’m still a Linux user, because it does what I need to get done better than anything else. So on my machine I have four virtual desktops defined, and they’re logically laid out in 2 rows and 2 columns. At any one time I can only “see” one, but by moving my mouse to the edge of the physical display, the next desktop on that edge pops into view. If I move my mouse to the bottom of the physical display, the next desktop at that edge pops into view.

    email and IM *always* occupies VD-1, FireFox VD-3, and develpoment windows on VD-2 and VD-4. So to get from email to the browser requires that I slew my mouse up and down across the display boundaries.

    My layout:
    | vd-1 | vd-2 |
    | vd-3 | vd-4 |

    So by using virtual desktops, I have the near equivalent of four physical displays. The only difference is that I cannot “see” those desktops until I slew to them. Contrast this with multiple physical displays, which can be seen with peripheral vision.

    Lack of a good virtual desktop scheme is one of the reasons why thus far I can’t justify moving to a Mac as a full time machine. I just can’t drive a Mac as well as I’d like to, and I won’t retrain my muscle memory to make-do without better window and desktop management.

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