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Summary:

Many web workers talk about the benefits of larger or dual monitors. I currently have a 17-inch monitor, and although it works well, I can see how I can benefit from a more spacious and organized virtual desktop. But the truth is, not all web workers […]

Many web workers talk about the benefits of larger or dual monitors. I currently have a 17-inch monitor, and although it works well, I can see how I can benefit from a more spacious and organized virtual desktop. But the truth is, not all web workers can afford that kind of workspace upgrade – including me.  For now, at least.

So how can we achieve a more effective desktop without shelling out some cash? First, I need to get as much workable surface area as I could from my existing setup and find a way to use it better.

The first thing I did was to install RocketDock (nlauncher is another alternative). This program allows Windows users to have a Mac-style application dock. Naturally, this would make my desktop’s appearance neater.

I didn’t want to clutter my dock, so the only buttons I added were for the programs I use everyday – including my web browser, Photoshop, Excel, and ToDoList. As you can see from the screencap, I placed the dock at the left side of the screen (as you can see from the screencap), which is the area my mouse cursor spends the least time on. The reason behind this is because I didn’t want to accidentally access the dock.

Since I only have a few items on the dock, I needed a way to launch the other files and programs that I don’t use as often. This is where an easy-to hide keystroke-based app launcher can come in handy. My tool of choice was Launchy, but other programs such as Enso Launcher work in roughly the same way.

You can access almost anything with keystroke app launchers, so you can use them exclusively without something like RocketDock. However, I find that it’s less of a hassle for me to access my favorite programs via mouse rather than keystrokes.

Getting rid of the Windows taskbar was something else I had to take care of. Since I already had RocketDock and Launchy (which were more customizable and minimalist), it became redundant to keep the default Windows taskbar. When I was looking for ways on how to remove it, most of what I found was code that you had to input into the registry. I’m not a programmer, so this seemed very intimidating. But I did find a simpler approach myself:

  1. I opened the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties panel by right-clicking on the taskbar. I unchecked “Lock the taskbar”.
  2. I resized the taskbar until it was a thin blue line.
  3. I opened the Properties panel again by right-clicking on the blue line (what was left of the taskbar). Then, I unchecked “Keep the taskbar on top of other windows”.

Doing the above things has given my new desktop two (2) benefits over my old one. First, it gave me a slightly bigger surface area to work with. With the taskbar gone, my work area got a bit bigger. It’s not 24-inch big, but the change is still noticeable.

Second, I’ll have less access to distractions such as games, instant messaging windows, and other less important applications – mostly because the access points (whether via RocketDock or Launchy) will be out of sight as I work. One of my main problems with the old setup was that everything was so accessible, I found myself doing some unneccessary multitasking (working while playing Spider Solitaire and writing on my personal blog).

There are other things you can do to maximize your current monitor size without spending much money. You can install virtual desktops such as Dexpot and Deskspace. These programs mimic the functionality of having more than one monitor.

Of course, you don’t have to do all these things. Enormous willpower and efficiency can also do the trick. But both these things are a lifelong work in progress for me, and if there are some tools out there that can help me, I see if I can use them.

Larger monitors are beautiful and functional, but until I can afford them, I’ll have to stick with maximizing my old school monitor. After all, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter so much what you have – what’s more important is how you use it.

Do you sometimes wish for a larger monitor? Have you used multiple virtual desktops or any of the above methods to somehow simulate it?

  1. I use ultramon to split my windows taskbar between multiple monitors. Once you use this feature you won’t want to go back!

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  2. I just move my taskbar to the side of my desktop. It takes up about as much space as your Rocket Dock. I also use Launchy.

    I’ve tried Windows Virtual Desktop Manager from the XP Power Toys suite. I didn’t find I used it that much.

    My ideal setup requires a minimum of 2 monitors with an instance of Ultramon.

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  3. I do a similar thing to my Windows test box, only no Rocketdock.

    The one thing not mentioned in this article that is apparent from the screenshot is that you removed the recycle bin from the desktop, which can be done easily using TweakUI.

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  4. If you have a widescreen display, moving the Windows taskbar to the right or left side of the screen also maximizes your vertical space while taking up a fairly small section of your horizontal display. It takes a little getting used to, but once I moved my taskbar to the right side of my screen I had a hard time figuring out why it used to hang out at the bottom.

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  5. The monitor is your most important piece of equipment. Larger screen = more productivity.

    22″ LCDs are plentiful at the < $250 price point…

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  6. Somatika Xiao Saturday, July 12, 2008

    I currently run dual 22in monitors side by side, windows sidebar on the left side of my left monitor, and the taskbar on the right side of the right monitor.

    This article I strongly believe will help many, but any web worked worth there weight in suger will grab a second monitor.

    Having a decent dual monitor display is part of the foundation for professional web working,

    Advantages:

    1. Giant 30% productivity increase.
    2. Keeping a unobstructed workflow relives stress (Well it dose for me, and many others)
    3. Work hard – Play Hard, dual monitor setup is much more then just a tool for work.

    PLUS: dual monitors make the lady’s go crazy!

    at < $250 price point, you would be ignorant not to get one asap.

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  7. Just another guy. Saturday, July 12, 2008

    I think people are missing a few points to think about. For those using dual monitors you are using 2 times the electricity. For those using CRT’s you are using more electricity than a dual LCD would take if you get a 20″+ CRT. So in savings you have to think of the overall costs. 2 smaller LCD’s off eBay don’t look so bad after you realize that they would use less energy combined than some 19″ monitors.

    So a 15-17″ monitor may be a consideration if you need to work more productively AND you can always turn one off while you take a break and watch a movie or just boot the PC to browse only or IM only etc. It is a flexible and less costly viewing choice.

    BUT, the tips here and increasing resolution on your monitor in control panel(increase text font dpi or size to if you hate the little fonts) is less money and you do get more real estate to place windows and drag and drop for speedy file management.

    Also learning to tile windows ect. can help and using online applications in a tabbed browser could maybe help since you may have the browser open already. f11 will give you full view mode in a few browsers and also out of full view mode. This makes it pretty efficient without installing apps and taking up hardrive space, just use a web 2.0 online app like google documents, in browser IM clients ect. that all are in tabs. One full view window and then you can close that and go back to regular windows mode for people stuck in their ways. But upping the screen resolution AND increasing text size a bit to help can go along way to getting some free extra screen real estate in of itself with no installation or change in work habit.

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  8. I’ve come across a handy ff extension that has alleviated one of my most common needs for more real estate. It’s called “split browser”.

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  9. As for multiple monitors, it’s a must. Your more productive. No if ands or buts about it. I run three 24″ monitors and a 19″. Yes it uses more electricity but it’s easily offset by how much more productive it makes me. My very first investment in any home office I was building would be a minimum of 2 monitors (3 if it’s in the budget). If you bill hourly I bet you’d make up the difference in the first month of use.

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  10. So you are basically saying turn your pc into a mac? (dock, spotlight, spaces)

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  11. [...] taskbar, namely the use of Taskbar Shuffle and toolbars. However, since then I’ve moved on to a different way of organizing my desktop, taskbar-free. But if you can’t live without the taskbar, this video is worth a [...]

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  12. [...] taskbar, namely the use of Taskbar Shuffle and toolbars. However, since then I’ve moved on to a different way of organizing my desktop, taskbar-free. But if you can’t live without the taskbar, this video is worth a [...]

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  13. [...] summarize my preferred Windows desktop tweaks into a single article. Follow the link to check out the one true Windows desktop. posted by admin at 11:24 am [...]

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