Blog Post

Transforming a Workspace From Desktop to Laptop Computing

MacBookLast spring, I bought my first Mac laptop (s aapl) to replace my aging Windows laptop (s msft). Mac fans may say the result was predictable: My shiny new MacBook quickly became my primary computer while my desktop PC gathered dust.

That change left me with one problem I hadn’t anticipated, though. My office wouldn’t function as well with a laptop as my primary computer. I had to rethink the whole layout. How did just changing from a desktop PC to a smaller MacBook manage to make my office totally dysfunctional?

Utilizing a keyboard tray and a small tower (especially one not stored on the desk), a desktop computer has a relatively small footprint on a desk compared to a laptop computer. In my case, I kept the monitor to use as an external monitor for my new MacBook, so that still used space. The only desktop space I cleared out was the footprint of the slimline CPU tower. The back of my narrow desk was cluttered with items like an external hard drive and my phone. Even with the CPU gone, I could barely wedge my MacBook onto the desk’s surface.

Having a laptop as my primary computer also left me wanting something I’d never wanted in my office before: a sitting area. I like using my laptop as, well, a laptop, when I don’t feel the need for the second monitor or other desk functions. I find it is more ergonomically comfortable, and I concentrate better. A comfy chair and ottoman in my office would mean that I wouldn’t have to use the living room couch with its attendant distractions to work laptop-style.

It took some creativity but I figured out how to relieve the desktop congestion and fit a sitting area in the room.


The first key was angling my desk into a corner and filling the “dead space” that was created behind it with the printer cart to create more desk surface area. (The wireless printer itself moved into my husband’s office.) This let me push the backup hard drive back off of the main desktop, and I can also push the phone and other external devices back there when I need the desk space.

The middle shelf of the cart holds two plastic containers that function as “drawers”, for computer cleaning supplies and office supplies. The bottom shelf holds my power strip and battery back-up unit, keeping them off of the dusty carpet.


Moving the printer cart, along with archiving files and retiring a file cabinet, created enough open space to create my sitting area. A hand-me-down chair along with an Ikea ottoman and lamp created my second, more casual, work area. As I sit there, I have a power strip and my file cabinet to my right. On my left is my reference bookcase.


Some other nice features that the new layout added:

  • The second monitor can be turned to be visible from the scrapbook table next to my work desk.
  • Switching my desk to the other side of the room’s window improved my view.
  • My scrapbook supplies are in my line of vision more often, reminding this workaholic to take a break and relax more often.

Still on my wishlist for my new space is a second MacBook power cord that can be left permanently at my desk while I have the other one for mobile use.

Have you switched to a laptop as your primary computer? What workspace adjustments did you have to make?

7 Responses to “Transforming a Workspace From Desktop to Laptop Computing”

  1. I use the laptop and external monitor combination. I have a Macbook Pro and an Apple Cinema 20 inch. I have the laptop open and use it as a second monitor.

    I am considering going back to a desktop but then would have the synching problems. I do a lot of digital photography and often like to show my work on my lap top. One solution would be to have all the data on an external portable drive. Though I am wondering about the point of that.

    One thing though about having two computers is you have a back up. I used to an ecommerce website couldn’t afford to down even for a day.

    I am really attracted to the new iMacs but the Macbook Pros are so powerful and the convenience is great. There is a law of nature that the minute I buy a desktop I end up traveling somewhere else to work for a few months :-)

  2. I have gone through this process a couple times and found that I still really prefer a full sized keyboard that I can tilt a bit. I’ve also realized that I don’t like look down at the laptop monitor (bad ergonomics) plus I prefer a 22″ or 24″ monitor to any laptop. While having a computer I can pick up and go with is useful the ergonomics just don’t work for me. Plus I don’t want to invest in a ton of add-ons to modify the laptop (keyboard, monitor, etc.).

  3. Sure you can – I used to have two monitors as well (for viewing two documents simultaneously), plus an external full-size keyboard (writing for a living) and mouse. My point was that they took a heck of a lot of space on the desk. Now that the CPU is neatly tucked away under the desk, suspended on brackets, and I have a flat 22″ LCD screen, there’s approximately 40% more space around me, even with the keyboard and mouse. No need for a second monitor as the wide screen accommodates two documents side by side excellently. Not to speak of the speed and hard disk capacity of the desktop.

    I do see your point about syncing, though. I’ve tried to solve that by saving my work documents “in the cloud”, in my case Google Docs.

  4. I too am looking forward to switching from a Laptop to a Desktop. And my reasons are a lot similar to Kimmo’s.

    A laptop has limited screen space, and the keyboard is crappy for use day in and day out. I am looking forward to building a 3 monitor desktop setup with an ergonomic keyboard, with more processing power and memory.

    It is cheaper to upgrade a desktop than a laptop and that way I can keep the machine upgraded much cheaper. But what I am looking forward to most is the multiple monitors…


    • You can use multiple monitors with laptops, too. Plus external keyboard and mouse. In my new office I will have an exteral keyboard and mouse and two widescreen monitors, but I will use my MacBook Pro so I don’t have to worry about syncing data between my laptop and a desktop machine.

  5. Actually, I’ve gone the opposite route: I used a laptop as my primary work computer for 3 years and switched to a desktop not so long ago.

    Reasons: The laptop’s 15-inch screen is really tiny compared with the desktop’s 22-inch one. I frequently need two documents side by side, so with the laptop I had to fit an extra monitor on my desk.

    Also, if you write for a living, you need a full-scale keyboard. It takes up more space on your desk.

    On the other hand, with the laptop it was handy to have all your business on one computer, whether “at home” or on the go. Now that my laptop is for road use only, I need to be careful to sync it with my desktop before leaving the office.

    If I’ve not used the laptop for a while, it frequently happens there are all kinds of updates waiting that need to be downloaded and installed in strange places, often at WiFi spots that charge for use.

    Financially, my present system of primary desktop/secondary laptop works fine, though. Even if the laptop is a bit sluggish, it gets the work done while on the road, and the desktop with its big LCD screen and more processing power frees up space in my working environment while at the same time increasing productivity.