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I just switched from two 19" monitors running 1280 X 1024 to two 22" monitors running 1680 X 1050. If I run typical apps full screen now, they tend to have a lot of unused white space.

Examples:

I'm typing into Firefox right now, and even with the sidebar open (which contains all my bookmarks), this superuser page still has 2.5" left and right margins. That's a lot of pixels I could be using for something else.

I recently opened a Microsoft Word document, and even with the gray track changes column showing to the right of the document, I still had two 3"-wide bands of used space on either side.

I tried changing the Reading Pane in Outlook from "bottom" to "right", but there's really not quite enough width to show the folder list, the email list, and the contents of the selected email without scrunching things a little too much, so I ended up preferring the reading pane on the bottom.

Some applications seem more useful right away, like PowerPoint (where you can make the Slides/Outline pane wider) and Excel (where you can see a lot more columns), but in several cases, I'm not realizing any benefit of the wider screen.

Questions

Now that you have a widescreen, what do you use your extra width for?

Do you have any tips for the applications I mentioned or other commonly used applications?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You're thinking wrong.

You're thinking "How can I modify existing software to better use a widescreen monitor", when really you should be thinking How can I now use my computer more efficiently. Stop maximizing. Maximizing stopped being useful about 5 years ago*, we have screen resolutions in the 1000s of pixels both ways now, and enough hardware to run countless programs at the same time.

Start using multiple applications at the same time! Wheras before you might have a document on the secondary screen to refer to while you work on the primary, have both on one, and then use the secondary for either even more reference material, or something completely different (I keep IRC channels always-open, cover them up with the docs to whatever language I'm using at the moment, so I can look up functions and arcane chants very quickly).

On windows 7, use Aero Snap, on Vista and below use software such as GridMove or a suitable Autohotkey script (It's really not my area, but AHK serves my needs brilliantly)

Buy a 5 button mouse, you're spending lots on your output, so you should beef up your input. Autohotkey, or software such as Logitech's SetPoint, can empower additional buttons, or combinations, to help you with your workflow.

Perhaps try sidebar software, such as Desktop Sidebar, Google Desktop, or Vista/7's built in sidebar. Join Twitter, and keep a client always-open to keep track of news and current events. Basically, a widescreen monitor, in the right hands, is a wonderful thing.

2 is computing paradise.

*at least, programs stopped being easier to use maximised. It's still great for those times you just need a little extra space.

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Thanks, I like your answer As for Aero Snap, I haven't upgraded to Windows 7 yet, but it looks like a very helpful feature. –  devuxer Nov 18 '09 at 19:59
    
The window management stuff in win7 is really nice, but it still only helps if you're thinking about it right :P –  Phoshi Nov 18 '09 at 20:06
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I still end up maximising on wide monitors. The new apps have all these built in toolbar thingies that eat up all the extra side space. Multiple monitors just gives more maximised apps that can be displayed at a given time! –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 18 '09 at 20:12
    
Some software works best maximized, true, but the vast majority can be used windowed just fine :P –  Phoshi Nov 18 '09 at 20:21
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Ah, square is VERY different. Horizontal space is so much... spacier than vertical space. –  Phoshi Dec 14 '09 at 14:49

Movies! And Aero Snap from time to time.

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Is multitasking too easy an answer? Sometimes because of data that I'm taking from one program to another I like the ability to see what I am doing and what I want to do. I also have files that I'm copying that may take an exceptionally long time set so that they are still on my screen instead of minimized and I can watch when they wrap up.

I guess more than anything, I use a widerscreen to clutter things up and have more in front of me at the same time. It saves me from having to ALT+Tab all of the time.

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I get what you're saying, but multitasking is the reason I have two monitors and not one :) I'm just trying to get more out of each monitor. –  devuxer Nov 18 '09 at 19:53

I'm slightly amused. I've also got two wide-screen monitors and find myself wishing for more space. I guess I just fill up all that space with lots of applications that I use for my work. I suppose if all your doing is browsing the web, not many sites are catering to widescreen yet.

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I think the problem is that most apps are probably designed for 1024 pixels of width, so you really need about 2048 pixels to have two apps side-by-side on one monitor, but mine only go up to 1680 X 1050. Now if I move up to an even large size (like 1920 X 1200), I could probably squeeze two full application windows on one monitor, but right now, I'm thinking about things like, it would be nice if I could use this space to show history and bookmarks at the same time. Or have my search results appear in one pane and the main browser window in another. Stuff like that. –  devuxer Nov 18 '09 at 19:37
    
I've got 3 1680x105 22" monitors and I'm trying to find space for a 4th now. I'm not sure it ever ends. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Nov 18 '09 at 20:12
    
Yes on a 1920 I mostly always have two web browser windows side-by-side without a problem - it's useful. And some other apps as well.. but there's stuff like Visual Studio, Photoshop and Lightwave that really just enjoys the extra width instead... moving the Windows taskbar to the side also gets you more of that precious vertical space - in Windows 7 the taskbar actually looks ok on the side, finally –  Oskar Duveborn Nov 18 '09 at 23:26
    
I've actually always put my task bar on the side (since Windows 2000) :) Doesn't look too bad the way I have it set up. –  devuxer Nov 19 '09 at 0:34

You could run a side bar, or place the taskbar on the side.

Wide screen is very good for watching movies on VLC or Youtube, and even though I have one 1680*1050 moniter I still find myself running out of space.

I tend to put all MSN / xFire convos to one side and browse the internet on the other side.

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I have a similar setup, I generally have a lot of open windows. I can't imagine life with out the alt+mouseLeft window move and alt+mouseright window resize. There is a windows port of this capability called WinMover.

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Does either monitor have any fun ports apart from VGA/DVI, such as RCA or coax? If so, you can use the secondary monitor as a periodic TV-watching or SNES-ing output or the like.

As for using window space effectively, I can't bear to have more than 2 things open on my screen at once, so I tend to use Aero Snap (Win-Left and Win-Right) often, but not much more. Then again, it's only a 19-inch 1366*738 (or something similar), so that might have something to do with it.

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