Before I made the switch to linux, my only computer was a single macbook. Great machine, and in addition to not being able to (really) use Awesome, I was pretty frustrated by the lack of screen space. I was (and do) need to filter through lots of different kinds of documents and I felt like I was spending half my time sorting through any of the several dozen (!) windows that I kept open. As a result one of my chief requirements for the new system was having the ability to run a 2 monitor (dual head) setup.[^DH] I was even willing to sacrifice [1] some raw power for this.

So here I was with a dual head setup, and a sort of lackluster idea of how to use all this new space, aside from the visceral knowledge that needed more room. I've tried a few things to try and use the space, but I continue to feel as if I haven't found the right way to use this space.

I should preface this by saying a word about my window management software: it revolves around the notion of "tags," which are similar to virtual desktops, so while I only look at 1-5 windows on each monitor there are many more than 5 windows open and running at anyone time.

My first attempt was to create task-centric virtual desktops, so that there were tags for windows that had to do with work, tags that had to do with fiction writing, tags for browsing the web, tags for chatting, tags for interacting with the system and so forth. This was an epic failure, as the joys of a multi-tasking operating system are that they allow you to have a number of different processes running in parallel, and if you have you window manager setup to constrain your to one task per screen then you've basically shackled your computer into only being able to do two things at once. Which is both distracting (as you end up hiding needed windows, or disregarding the established tagging systems. I also found that in an attempt to use both windows, I ended up using the middle half of each monitor more than I used the outer half.

My second attempt was to have a primary/secondary monitor setup, with my keyboard in front of the left screen which had most "action" related tasks (writing, email, etc.) and the right screen was for reference materials (web, chat, pdfs, etc,) and I've tried both organizing tags based on task/sphere, and also based on window type (so that "work" happened in more ad-hoc spaces). Neither works particularly well.

My current attempt is still largely based on the main/reference mode of operation, except I've made things a bunch less rigid, and mixed things up a bit to see if this makes things a bit easier to work with. I have background processes on the left monitors: email, web, file management on the left; org-mode files, and chat on the right. And then, I have writing spaces and adhoc workspaces on the left, with work and some project-specific workspaces on the right.

I'm not sure that this is the best thing. There's a dynamic workspace/window tagging library, but I haven't really tried it out, and I want to test things out on the laptop (one screen) first.

There's got to be a better way of doing this. On one level this is a problem of riches, (how do I use all this space I have), but on another it's a much more simple problem that addresses focus and the way that we present/organize information on our screens Thoughts?

Onward and Upward?

[1]It turns out that monitors these days cost a quarter of what they cost 5 years ago. In point of fact I was able to get both monitors and a new computer for what a single LCD cost the last time I had a desktop computer. Imagine that.