The Large Display Paradox

As displays increase in size and prices drop, more and more users will end up with relatively large displays by default. Nobody buys 15 or 17 inch displays any more; soon, it won't make financial sense to buy a display smaller than 20 inches. Eventually, if this trend continues, everyone will have 30-inch displays on their desktops. This is clearly a good thing. You can never have enough display space. But there is one unintended consequence of large displays.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

haha. you windows users. Suddenly the Mac way of maximizing a window only to us as much space as needed make a lot of sense. :stuck_out_tongue:

The window manager ion ( handles windows very much like that.

There are a few operating systems out there where hitting the maximise button doesn’t enlarge a window to cover the entire screen. Instead, it maximises to what the application actually needs. If it only needs 1024x768, that is exactly what it will get.

I use 2 monitors at work with an OS which doesn’t follow the above mentioned rule (yes, its Windows), and what I really hate is windows, message boxes and popups which jump into the middle of the desktop, which is usually inbetween the 2 monitors. It drives me nuts to no end. Microsoft applications are every bit as guilty as almost all other apps.

Until recently I worked primarily with two monitors. I had a third one for a little while, but it was taken for other uses. I would develop applications on one screen and debug them on another screen. It was truly a productive environment.

However, the computer though was old and pretty slow. So work was kind enough to get me a new system. It’s much, much faster, and the monitor is much larger. However, there is only one monitor port on the video card!!! So now I work on a single monitor. While the computer is faster, my productivity is hurting. At times I wish that I could get my old, slow system back. I’ve even considered purchasing a new video card myself. However, the vultures have already gotten to the “spare” monitors…

I would rather have two smaller monitors than one big monitor. It really is a world of difference. I’m envious of you.

I feel like such an idiot. Five years ago, I bought an awesome computer desk. Which, sadly, only has room for one 23" monitor. Seemed like gobs of space at the time.

I experienced this as well about two years ago when i started using two 21" monitors. But not long after that I traded in my desktop and have been using a laptop with a 13.3" widescreen display almost exclusively (home and work). So now I’m back to the one maximized app at a time paradigm. And unless I’m mistaken, more and more people are buying laptops than desktops these days. And even further down the line, people will start using their TVs as primary displays, which obviously requires a completely difference kind of interface.

I’ve experienced a bit of what you say when I went to a wide-aspect monitor and wondered what to do with that extra horizontal space. I agree with most of what you say about window/application management. However, I really don’t think it’s the place of the operating system to have window management embedded. I come from the Linux community where the window manager is an individual choice. Call it chaotic if you will, but there’s definitely more configurability that way. I would say more should be handled by individual applications, and less should be done by the operating system proper.

When you wrote about the Mac maximize button, I was wondering why someone hadn’t come up with an application exactly like this one! In fact, the only multi-window application that I use effectively is the Visual Studio and the only reason it works for me is because of the snappable tool windows. This is great!

I had a wide screen monitor rotated 90 degrees so I could see more lines of code at one time - awsome!

As was mentioned above, this is exactly why OSX ‘maximise’ works the way it does, and it truly makes sense. Yet the Windows crowd constantly bitch and moan how it sucks because it doesn’t work the way it does in Windows.

Day to day I use a 3 monitor, high rez setup under Windows, and the ‘maximize’ is pretty much useless.

Apologies for the rant hides

Suddenly the Mac way of maximizing a window only to us as much space as needed make a lot of sense

Actually I think both the Mac and Windows need some work in this area.

What I’m proposing here is different-- maximizing to a space that the user determines, not the application. Big difference. One of the big complaints about the Mac way of “maximizing” is that you never actually know what will happen when you click that button. Could get larger… could maximize… who knows what will happen? It’s a form of mystery meat navigation.

Compare that with dragging an app to a grid slot on a target monitor, which produces exactly the size you want and expect.

I frequently have apps that need to be maximized across both displays. I agree that many apps do not benefit from that much space, but some apps will always need as much room as you can throw at them.

Actually, you failed to note the REAL problem about large displays. You can’t hang them off a good swivel mount arm, they weigh to dang much. Personally, I won’t live life without my arms, and until they make better arms or lighter displays, that alone will limit me around the 20" market.

If you haven’t tried them yet, I highly recommend it. YOu want convenience? It isn’t dragging a window around your displays - IT IS DRAGGING YOUR DISPLAYS AROUND YOUR DESK! Trust me - try it and you’ll NEVER EVER go back.

Just make sure you get the GOOD arms, not the ones that are just lamp mounts with stronger springs. Try something like this :

Might be just me, but I find having just one single 19" monitor keeps me more focused. It might be a psychological thing. When I had two monitors, I ended up having many things open at the same time and was distracted by the other screen. With just one screen, I could totally focus on the task, and I could quickly do alt-tab switching when checking programming reference API docs while coding.

Note also the trend toward for some people toward using ‘smaller’ screens, such as the growing number of designers and artists using their laptop as their main work machine. Nowadays, having a smaller laptop screen - say 13" or 14" might be preferable to a larger widescreen 15" model as it is more compact.

Screen size may very well be capped at the 22" limit for desktops and 14" for laptops. Bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Xepol, I have thought about getting a triple monitor stand to free up a bit of desk space, such as the Ergotron DS-100:

But why would the monitors need to articulate/move? Also, articulated display mounts are very, very expensive…

No, Mark and Mark, that’s not how my Mac works. This lets you define the area you want to expand to regardless of the contents of the window. I’m sure it can work on Mac too, but it’s not that way by default, you have to drag the corners and line everything up.

This way, on my 1680x1050 display, I can keep a roughly 1024 wide area on the left for browsing and text editing, and a roughly 640 wide area on the right for chat, FTP, stuff like that.

Anyway, I use GridMove, I like it, my Mac does work differently in its stock state, and I bet there are similar things. Then again, the wonderful journaling filesystem has failed beyond the help or DiskWarrior or anything else I can find so I won’t soon be able to test anything out-- I do like the eternal blue screen with a little spinner in the middle.

Duuude, are you using AutoHotKey?
That’s THE power tool for Windows. I use it for automating and hotkeying everything, including window management.

“What I’m proposing here is different-- maximizing to a space that the user determines, not the application.”

That’s exactly what I had in mind with this design (which I pimped here in your previous post on maximizing):

(Scroll up a tiny bit to see the directions in red.)

You want your content creation window (graphics, audio, film, 3d) to be as big as possible. You want your tool window to be as dedicated and predictable as possible. Not that I like the program, but the Gimp’s window structure makes sense in that regard - and the toolbar’s dimensions can be adjusted.

3D Studio Max’s toolkit can’t be torn off the main screen to reside on a monitor somewhere else. Takes up too much screen real estate. Photoshop’s windows may move around but it doesn’t always get it right (or if the window is maximized on another monitor, things suddenly disappear. It’s not always clear if they’re “in” the window or “beyond” it.

The absolutely ridiculous version of “tearing” is of course found in Office 2000 or so where even 2-item menus can be made into miniature windowlets without organization. What you need is some kind of grouping/flock-like behavior; dragging each windowlet for a total of 20 times to the same part of the screen is, well, stupid.

For doing lots of stuff in parallel (coding + word processing + reading newsfeeds) having a monitor for each is overkill, and the grid system makes more sense.

The laptop example explained above has made for some great user interfaces - Ableton Live and Mackie Tracktion for audio production, for instance. It even plays nicely with more screens as each part of the interface can stretch.

bleh, accidentally posted before I finished.

The main reasons I can see for the screens getting smaller are:

  1. the price of LCD monitors. A nice 22" display is still a bit expensive for the average user, and many are happy with a much cheaper 15" or 17" display, especially if they had a CRT of similar size.

  2. the resolution of the displays. Since many people still run with lower resolutions and LCDs look best at their native resolution, many people may be reluctant to buy a large LCD that either won’t look good at their chosen resolution or may display text at resolutions they feel they will have trouble reading. This, of course, goes back to the whole dpi debate…