How and Why I Use 4 Monitors

I got my start with "multimon" back in the days of Windows 2000, perhaps a touch earlier. But for certain I had two 19inch CRT monitors hooked up to my machine. I was so overwhelmed with how empowering this was. I could follow instructions on one monitor and actually do them on the other. I could view web pages and watch a video. It was actually pretty amazing for it's time since it actually took two separate video cards to make the magic happen.

Years later, I upgraded to a 3 monitor setup. By this time video cards were powerful enough to handle multiple displays from a single card.

Now, with technology being what it is, I have 4 monitors connected to my Mac Pro using an RX 580 video card. Why? Primarily because I can. Four video outputs means four monitors. Using less would be wasteful. 🙂

Seriously, the 4 monitor setup is actually incredibly powerful and productive. Everything I need and use during the day is open and ready for me. I don't have to constantly switch between apps or search for the window that contains the piece of information I just had.

As I've mentioned in other articles, there are 4 32 inch monitors hooked up, 2 in a vertical orientation, 2 in the standard landscape orientation.

My main screen and the one to the right of it are landscape. On the second monitor is TaskPaper in a half screen size. I work in this for several hours a day. I have my ticket notes, the checklist of steps I've completed, the next step in the series, my test data, and any other notes I need for my work.

Next to that, taking up a 1/3rd of the screen is CopyLess. This is a list of everything I'm copying and pasting as test data. I don't have to keep opening and closing apps or covering one with another, the data is right there ready to be used.

Taking up the next 1/3rd of the screen is AYBO on top, and MiniNote underneath. I use AYBO to confirm the calculations on the web site I'm testing. MiniNote is used to jot down ideas or something quick I need for a few minutes. It's also the way I transfer notes, SQL code, JSON, and other bits of information from one machine to another.

I have a completely separate iMac set up for testing, and this is a fast and efficient way to push data over to it. I also have MiniNote on my home machine so links, notes, and those tidbits show up there are well.

To the left of the main monitor are the two vertical monitors, side by side, slightly curving around. These are both used to display lots of daily information. Each screen has 3 quadrants.

At the bottom is Slack, so I can keep an eye on the conversations, including deployment notifications. On top of that is another browser so I can see two pages at the same time. I can be "admin" in one, and standard user in the other. At the top is a bit of whimsy at the moment with a seasonal video playing on a loop. It's a fireplace scene with the snow falling. It's visually appealing and entertaining.

Monitor 4 is set up the same way with 3 quadrants. At the bottom is 2Do with reminders and tasks for the day. Above that in the middle is TextSoap, where I clean and reformat text as needed, which happens a lot during the day. On top of that is iMessage so I can be reached through the Mac for those who have a phobia about sending an email.

In many cases, the top quadrant of both monitors gets swapped out. Sometimes it's a chat client, sometimes a calendar, sometimes Mail, sometimes it's an image displayed in PhotoStickies.

There is a lot of information there, but it's all at my fingertips. Everything I need for the day is ready and waiting. About the only app I have to "switch" to is DevonThink Office Pro, or DevonAgent, which is fine.

To keep track of and position the windows, I have both Magnet and Keyboard Maestro. Magnet handles the quick sizing such as half size to the left or right of the screen, as well as resizing to full screen. Keyboard Maestro handles the layout and resizing of apps on the vertical monitors.

In this way I can resize LibreOffice Calc on the vertical screen for long spreadsheets. I can expand Skim for PDF reading. I can resize the browser to show a long table of figures on the page. I can bring things to the fore, resize, full screen and put them back using hotkeys. This keeps the desktop consistent.

What this gives me is an extremely efficient way of getting my work done. I can see everything I need at a glance. My flow of productivity isn't interrupted by having to switch around apps or remember where I left something.

Most people will think this is completely overkill (and it is) until they use it. Then they want to set up something similar for themselves.

A place for everything and everything in it's place.

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