Multiple windows can help any developer but sometimes it isn’t enough. Application windows get piled on one another and it takes precious seconds to sort things out. And those precious seconds add up.
Linux has this neat feature called Workspaces that are virtual sets of monitors you can flick back and forth between. Extremely useful.
How one variant of Linux does it.
Some clever chaps wrote an application called Desktops to do this in Windows. It’s an extremely lightweight application, both in terms of memory use and installed footprint. You really don’t have any excuse not to try it yourself. It won’t leave a mess if you decide you want to get rid of it.
Desktops doesn’t have all the features of the Linux workspaces, but it gets most of the way there. The extra desktops don’t have Aero effects. A handful of applications will freak out if you try to run them on more than one desktop. And you’ll need to customise your notification area should you want to always see the icon.
(Dexpot apparently is a more feature-rich alternative to Desktops, but I haven’t used it personally.)
Desktops on my computer, showing previews of the four “desktops”. Each desktop incorporates both monitors, they switch as pairs not individually.
I realised I could take this one step further. My last foray with Desktops was so successful my left hand started to ache from shortcut key overuse. Event a simple Ctrl+number becomes painful if you do it several times per minute.
Now, my G110 keyboard, like many “gaming” keyboards has programmable keys. What I did next should be obvious:
I like how even in the Logitech software, the keyboard has dust in-between the keys. I guess it’s inevitable.
In the last couple of hours I’ve been flying between desktops.
Do you doubt the usefulness of all this? Let me tell you how I normally divvy things up:
- Desktop 1: Social. Where I can read emails, instant message, play music, and open a browser to look at non-work-related stuff when I deserve a break.
- Desktop 2: Development. Code goes on one monitor. The other monitor has documentation if I’m doing well; a debugger if I’m not.
- Desktop 3: Testing. Here’s where I run up what I’m working on. It could be an application, or a website in multiple browsers.
- Desktop 4: Misc. FTP client, image editor, command line, file browser — whatever other crap I need to do what I’m doing.
It’s compartmentalised. The stuff that needs to be side-by-side is; the other stuff isn’t getting in the way yet it remains only a keypress away.