Is bigger (monitor) better?

33 Comments

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?

33 Comments

Shellly

Due to the location of my desktop computer (my computer is at the other side of the room from where I sit) I use a 26″ Panasonic widescreen TV as my main monitor. I also have a 19″ monitor beside my desktop but its hardly ever used because I can’t see it from here!! If there was room at my desk for a chair without taking all the space at that side of my room then I would prefer using the smaller monitor. My laptop that is right beside me is 19″ widescreen and at times I find the screen too big, perhaps cause its close to me whereas my desktop isnt? So in some circumstances (for me anyway) bigger is better but not always. I personally wouldn’t want a bigger screen than the one I use.

Richard Crowley

I’m not convinced that bigger is better. I am, however, convinced that widescreen is better. The ability to have two non-overlapping terminals (both still 80 characters wide) is the only reason I code on my PowerBook and not the Linux box (with a traditional display) sitting right next to it. To me the size argument (at any size beyond 17 inches) gets more into eyesight than actual usable space.

Johann Romefort

I m doing a lot of coding, and I tried several display configurations: 2×23″ on PC, and recently I had to make the choice for a new computer. I choosed the a 30″, and I am very happy with it, since i can have a very global view of my Eclipse workspace, together with a lot of lines of code. When I was using two displays I used to have one dedicated for surfing/mail/IM and another for coding, which could led to some serious distraction. On my mac i m using a virtual desktop, so I can switch easily between different workspaces, and watching movies on a 30″ is great (which led me to sell my tv).

Khurt Williams

The bigger the better. Less scrolling when reading. Can see more code in window while coding. Ideal size would be about 20 inches. 30 inches is too big for field of vision when one is sitting 20 inches away.

djchuang

I prefer a dual-montor setup than a huge single-monitor, though that might be only theoretically speaking. If someone has a 30″ monitor for me to use for a while, I’d be happy to take one on a test drive :)

My wife’s workplace is getting almost everyone a dual-monitor setup, working off the notion that more desktop space can offer more productivity. I know it does help me to have email open on one monitor, and a web browser on another. The thing with one screen is that when you click the “maximize window” button, it’d become unmanageably huge, whereas on a dual monitor system, you’ve got well-defined screen sizes that makes work feel normal, and you’d also feel twice as productive.

-gary

Two more decent sized monitors, or one large and one small, is a much better setup (more productive if you ask me) than a very large single, but two large hurt imho. I went from two 18.1 4×3 to two 24 16×10 and I spend much less time using the second monitor than I used to because it is more difficult to turn your head almost 3 feet to the other side of the second scrren.

Zavi

Personally I’d prefer a bigger monitor for my main working space and a second would be great for all other tools that I’m currently using for the project though 30 inches may be overkill. I don’t think anyone can say until you sit in front of it.

When it comes to apps like Illustrator/InDesign/Photoshop the more pixel resolution you screen allows the better.

shannonclark

I just ordered my new desktop – a 24″ iMac and a 23″ Apple Cinema diisplay. I am really looking forward to having 47″ and lots of pixels. My laptop has 1400 x 1050 and that’s nowhere near enough and I really, really need more – so I can have all my working areas open at once, have widgets (usefully) etc.

Ian Cabell

I haven’t tried the dual monitor setup, but I have found that “You Control Desktops” offers the “virtual desktop” scenarion Mark mentions above. Except for the keystroke needed to get to the other desktop(s) and the fact that they’re not visible until I go there, having four desktops available is a great screen-clutter buster.

Rulepark

Maybe we should write an article about CHAIRS. Let’s about Chairs.

rulepark

Bigger the monitor ,the better for ur viewing comforbality, but not oversized! 30″ is not an ideal screen for webworkers. My recommendation is at least 19″. So the range would be in between 19″ to 30″.

The other thing that concerns me the most when viewing the monitor is ur CHAIR! Chairs have been the most important TOOLS after ur mouse and keyboard. A good chair will determine the quality of the time well spent infront of ur BIG monitor. Trust me, when u are reading and article, with ur back hunch, you will get ur body to complaint to u later. Also, I found that when u are writing an article, is really important to feel really relax.

Staska

For me it’s dual monitor’s. No question. 2 23″ LCD monitors will cost less and you can do more with them. I don’t know about Mac’s, but on PC these are 2 separate spaces. So if you maximize a window it will open on one screen. The other screen is for other apps. No resizing, no adjusting, no need to find the right size for the window… Just move the app to other screen and it stays there.

Even if there’s some good software to split 30″ screen into 2 logical spaces, why should I bother? I already got that with dual monitor set up and I got 16 more inches of screen real estate.

The only reason to use 30 incher for me would be as a TV/Media center replacemnt

Jason Baldwin

One more thing: I, too, am somewhat overwhelmed by the 30″ monitor. I’ve tried them out at the Apple Store, and it’s just too much. Photos look great full-screen, but it’s not a good way for me to work.

I prefer the dual-monitor setup, as Dave L. notes, being able to maximize two application windows simultaneously, like being able to keep e-mail up while doing something else in the other window.

Mark

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_desktop

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.

Jason Baldwin

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.

Jarin Udom

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.

Paul Watson

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.

Chris Coyier

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.

Dave L

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.

Brandon Checketts

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.

Jeb

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.

jesse ezell

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.

Jason

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.

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