So you set your Mac up with a second monitor, which was really exciting – but now you’ve no idea what to do with all that space. It’s a first world problem, sure, but if you’re wondering how to get more out of your multi-monitor setup here are a few thoughts and ideas
Research On One Screen, Output On The Other
Most of us have jobs that require us to, at some point, gather information and act on it – it’s just part of what working on a computer means. Once upon a time this meant having a paper information source on your desk alongside your computer, but these days your research is more likely to be happening online.
On one monitor, this can get annoying quickly: you’re constantly switching between the app you’re working in and the information you need to do that work. With multiple monitors, though, all you need to do is turn your head.
It’s for this reason that I usually have a browser window open on one monitor, and whatever I’m writing on the other. Obviously this is because I’m a writer, but I think the pattern applies to most people’s work – a programmer, for example, would have specifications and documentation on one screen and the current project on the other.
If you’re not sure what to do with your second monitor, try this first.
Use A Screen Entirely For Communications
It’s probably not a good idea to look at email constantly, or to be in touch with the world while you’re working. For some jobs, though, it’s necessary: clients expect quick responses. If you’ve got a second monitor you’re not sure what to do with, use one to keep tabs on your communication situation.
The site I write for uses Slack for group communication, and I also try to stay on top of email during the day. For me, a communcations monitor would look like this:
For you it might look different: for example, you might do most of your chatting using Facebook. If that’s the case, I recommend using Current for Mac so you can chat outside the timeline.
Of course, you could also just set up Messages to work with Facebook chat, if you’d rather not buy an app for the job.
The apps you use don’t matter, what does is the idea: using one monitor to stay on top of communications, so you can keep working (and focused) on the other one.
Keep Tabs On Particular Information
Some jobs require that you stay up-to-the-minute on particular pieces of information. For example: if you buy and trade stocks you might need to monitor prices constantly.
So having an app like Stock + on one monitor is a good idea. If social networks are more you’re thing, of course, you might prefer Tweetdeck. Again, the apps don’t matter: just use one display to keep track of information, and another to do your work.
Use A Dedicated Widget Display
Widgets, it seems, are a dying breed: Apple is working on making the Dashboard irrelevant, and iGoogle died a long time ago. Just because widgets are less popular now doesn’t mean they’re useless. In recent versions of OS X, you can turn the widget into a dedicated Space that stays open.
Head to System Prefrences > Mission Control to change this setting:
We’ve pointed out Dashboard widgets you’ll actually use; odds are you can probably combine them to make an screen full of useful information. You can then, as outlined in the above section, keep tabs on this information throughout the day.
If you’d prefer not to use the dashboard, you can also turn any Dashboard widget into a dedicated Mac app.
Myself, I prefer to avoid Dashboard entirely and use Übersicht’s beautiful widgets instead. These are drawn directly on your laptop, meaning you can see them in combination with any other
It’s a bit of work to set up, but it’s entirely worth it.
Business On One Screen, Party On The Other
Working late sucks, but a little bit of a diversion can make it that much better. When I’m stuck working after 5 pm, I like to use one monitor to watch a hockey game while I wrap up my work on the other. I can watch the game out of the corner of my eye, and turn my head to watch when something exciting happens. It’s not productivity central, but it gets me through that final stretch.
Or, if you’re done with work entirely, you could just play a game on one screen while watching something on the other. Embrace your ADD – your workday is done, after all.
Assign Specific Apps To A Monitor
Here’s a tip you might not know: you can actually assign apps to launch on a particular monitor. On the dock, right-click the icon of any app then hover over “Options”. You’ll see the option to assign the app to a particular monitor:
If you use a particular app exclusively on a particular monitor, this can save you the time of dragging it from one screen to the other.
Just Put It Away
If you don’t find any of these suggestions useful, I’ve got another piece of advice entirely: put that second monitor away. You don’t need it. It’s wasting space on your desk, it’s wasting energy, and it’s wasting your time (you just read an entire article in an attempt to justify your second monitor’s existence!).
Of course, I could be wrong. That happens (a lot). If there’s any use for a second monitor I’ve overlooked here, please fill me and your fellow readers in using the comment form below. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
What do you use your Mac’s second monitor for?