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Ask Slashdot: Monitor Setup For Programmers 312

First time accepted submitter oxidus60659 writes "I currently work as a programmer for a small business. They have provided me with a laptop and a 27" BenQ monitor on a Neo-Flex stand. The problem is that my main screen is the tiny laptop right in front of me. The 27" monitor is on the left at a very different height position. I want to put the 27" monitor directly above my laptop so I'm looking up rather than to the left for all my coding on the bigger monitor. The stand does not have a high enough setting to accommodate this. What would be a good stand that can mount to a desk high enough to be above a laptop? What kind of monitor setup do you use when programming?"
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Ask Slashdot: Monitor Setup For Programmers

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  • by Eunuchswear ( 210685 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:47PM (#43061783) Journal

    Use a real keyboard, mouse and monitor - why do you need to look at the laptop?

    • This. ^

      It's a complete no-brainer.

      • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:41PM (#43062243)

        "It's a complete no-brainer."

        It's only a no-brainer if by that you mean a brain wasn't used in coming up with it.

        This suggestion is not very efficient, and it is not ergonomic at all.

        Looking down at a laptop on your desk is NOT a good, ergonomic working position. Simply substituting another monitor wastes good monitor space.

        The solution? Put the laptop up on a stand next to the other monitor, and use both.

        For good ergonomic working conditions, the top of your monitor(s) should be at about eye level. So place your main monitor at about that level, and raise your laptop up so they are side-by-side. Especially if the laptop has a high-resolution monitor.

        That gives you the maximum screen real estate, AND the most ergonomic setup.

        • The solution? Put the laptop up on a stand next to the other monitor, and use both.

          That's half of the solution. The other half is get used to using the laptop as the secondary display. It's smaller, and should be used for reference information/e-mail/whatever while the big screen display is the one you do your actual work on. That's how I have my desktop set up (admittedly, in this case it's the difference between a 22" display and a 24" display, but it's the same logic). The bigger better display gets used as the main display, and the smaller one that's a bit finicky gets used for inform

    • Use a real keyboard, mouse and monitor

      Yes. Always.

      why do you need to look at the laptop?

      Mo' screenz 's mo' better.

      • I use 14" laptop for coding. Helps me focus. I used to have huge monitors, but they were distraction. Sometimes it would be nice to have more real estate when debugging, but I've learned not to miss it.
    • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:21PM (#43062087)

      Use a real keyboard, mouse and monitor - why do you need to look at the laptop?

      Not doing this is either illegal, or close, in the UK: []

      Except for infrequent short-term use, a real keyboard and mouse is necessary, and a docking station or stand that holds the laptop screen up to the correct level (top of screen just below eye level, at least an arm's length away) or a separate monitor.

      (I had the annual "watch this video on using computers" thing on Thursday. We all laughed at the poor production and daft people in it, but I think everyone went back to their desks and adjusted something that wasn't quite right.)

    • The laptop screen is still useful for a secondary monitor - think tool palettes, documentation, log file, etc.

      Just be sure to logically position it to match where it is physically with the DE's display management tools.

      • This, definitely. And rotate the external monitor to portrait mode. Both orientations have their strengths, so why not have both available simultaneously? If you haven't tried it you'd be amazed the difference it makes when you can see an entire function / code block at a glance without scrolling, and I find the lack of clutter from having only a single full-screen program window on the screen more pleasant as well

        My own setup, after several months of adjusting and optimizing is a portrait-mode 21" monit

        • Get something like one of these - dual-arm Ergotron [] mounting system or equivalent. That one comes with a laptop platform in case you don't have two monitors, and the arms have cable channels, so you should be able to move things around frequently without too much effort or risk of tangling the cables. The screen bracket is on a swivel, so you don't have to stick with the portrait/landscape orientation.

          Only downside is that when switching between orientations, I didn't get a monitor with an accelerometer,

      • But the laptop monitor probably has a very different pixel density as the large monitor, so even if you place it at the right height, it'll probably be difficult to use them together.

        When dealing with a worker as expensive as a programmer, getting a second monitor of the right size, or even go all they way up to three, pays off extremely quickly.

        • But the laptop monitor probably has a very different pixel density as the large monitor, so even if you place it at the right height, it'll probably be difficult to use them together.

          Nah, I did this for years and it was barely noticeable. One does not overlap windows between screens.

          When dealing with a worker as expensive as a programmer, getting a second monitor of the right size, or even go all they way up to three, pays off extremely quickly.

          Absolutely. The best I've seen is one big 16:10 in the center

    • I was going to say, "if the problem is that the main screen is your laptop screen, then don't have that be your main screen. If you can't figure out how to do that, then you might want to rethink your vocation."

      If you need me screen real estate, buy another screen. This ain't hard

      • If you need me screen real estate, buy another screen. This ain't hard

        Unless you're on a macbook. Which for practical purposes limits you to one external monitor. (Yes USB solutions exist, but so far they suck IMO.) That's for the 2011 mbp - maybe they fixed this shortcoming in the 2012 model?

        • I think for the retina display Macs, there are 2 Thunderbolt ports and an HDMI port, so you can go to 3 monitors without doing anything fancy with daisy-chaining thunderbolt.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I think for the retina display Macs, there are 2 Thunderbolt ports and an HDMI port, so you can go to 3 monitors without doing anything fancy with daisy-chaining thunderbolt.

            Yes - the 650M graphics chipset supports up to four active displays, so you could use three external monitors and still have the laptop screen available.

        • one really big external monitor is almost certainly better than two medium-sized monitors, though - no gaps, so head/eye movement is reduced.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly. My setup is pretty straightforward. The notebook (Lenovo X230) sits in its dock with the lid closed. I have two monitor arms attached to the desk. One holds a 27" 2560 x something monitor directly in front of me and the other arm holds a 24" 1920 x 1080 monitor in portrait orientation (for documentation) that sits slightly to the right.

      At home, I have a duplicate dock but just my own personal monitors (smaller, but still two of them). The only time you have the notebook open is when you are using
  • by Jethro ( 14165 )

    Why don't you just put the laptop off to the side and put the big monitor in front of you?

    Definitely use a real keyboard and mouse, too. If your laptop can do a docking station, get one of those (some laptops only have VGA-out on the laptop, but have HDMI on the docking station).

  • Not sure what environment you are using, but it should be fairly similar for Linux/Mac.
    In Windows, you can go into the Display Properties and select which to be the primary monitor (which the task bar appears and which Windows open on by default), you can also click on a monitor picture to select it and use the UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT keys to position the monitor relative to the other monitors exactly as it is physically so that the mouse cursor lines up when moving the mouse across monitors and to/from the corr

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ziggitz ( 2637281 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:55PM (#43061837)
    I'm not usually one to complain about the broadness of these ask slashdot questions, but this one essentially boils down to furniture advice.
  • I have a pair of 22" monitors mounted in a vertical configuration using the DS-100 Vertical []. It's a bit pricey (I did get it on sale at NewEgg), but it's ridiculously strong and sturdy. You can just install one of the monitor brackets at the top of the pole and have plenty of room for a laptop below. As an alternative, you can try their cheaper single monitor arms [].
  • Pick any monitor you wish, then put it on a pile of books. you can get it as high as you wish

  • []

    Makes working with a large screen and multiple windows so much nicer.
  • I use a big (30" 2560x1600) monitor, a standard keyboard and mouse, and a tower computer box on the floor

    When I absolutely must be mobile, I use a laptop

    I despise the thing, and try very hard to avoid it

  • 1) set up your laptop to show the Desktop on the large screen

    1a) important screens ( code, compiler, text to read from screen ) on the large one, unimportant ones ( logs, system perf monitors, whatever ) on the laptop

    2) use a real keyboard and mouse

    3) you will work on the large, main screen, and watch occasionally to your right for logs, sys perfs etc.

  • I got provided with 2 24" widescreen monitors, which gives pemty of screen real-estate, but makes for very wide anglew viewing. After a period of frustration with panning my eyes across the width of them I realised I could orient them vertically since they were on rotatable mounts. This turned out to be great -- the extra height fits more lines of code on screen at a time, and works nicely dual screen. I reccomend such a setup to anyone.

    • Interesting. Do you use sub-pixel anti-aliasing? On Windows, many of the newer fonts (Segoe, Calibri/etc.) have been optimized for use with ClearType -- I'm curious how well these look when the sub-pixels are stacked vertically.
  • Sorry if this hijacks the posters question a little...but it's the first thing that came to mind when I saw the topic. I'm not sure if others have found the same, but in cases where I've needed a KVM, including my current setup at home, I've spent what seems like man years of my life screwing with KVMs. A KVM that does NOT totally suck is an animal that does NOT exist.

    My current setup works with many quirks that constantly screw with me, and it took forever to get to this point. I went through two KVMs t

    • by Jaruzel ( 804522 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:41PM (#43062249) Homepage Journal

      I know your pain. I've been through many problematic KVMs. :(

      However, I've recently bought one of these: []

      Works wonderfully, between my docked Dell Laptop (work machine) and my no-brand tower desktop (personal machine). Monitor is a Dell 24" ultrasharp, keyboard is a dell branded one, and mouse is a Logitech MX518.

      This KVM just 'works' - I really am impressed with it. Hotkey is scroll-lock twice plus enter, which is an extra keypress compared to other KVMs I've used, but never fails to switch. It even comes with a proper button on a cable should you wish to use that instead of the hot-key combo.

      Hope this helps.


      • by karnal ( 22275 )

        This isn't a plug for KVMs, but between my two windows stations at work - I have a laptop with 2 23" screens and a desktop with a single 22" (used to be 2, "upgrade" from the desktop side eliminated one due to graphics card incompatibility). I use Input Director to shift the main keyboard/mouse focus to the desktop and back.

        I'd bet there's software out there for linux/windows hybrids etc to cover this. I gain the additional screen and resources of a second machine - while being able to display network sta

        • by Jaruzel ( 804522 )

          I also used Input Director for a while, until I realised that it doesn't work if the remote/slave [Windows] machine is 'locked' or awaiting a Ctrl-Alt-Del login (which is required for Domain based machines) - real shame because I was really started to like it ...


  • You want to take care of your main screen first (you'll thank me later). It should be about level with your eyes for good posture, and not too close. I'm using a logitech mk605 laptop stand, but any will do. Or you could swap your secondary and main screen. Get external keyboard and mouse anyway, they are always much better than laptops'.

  • First, get a USB keyboard and mouse that you can plug into the laptop (directly or via a hub), so you don't need to use the laptop's keyboard and trackpad. Then set up your display configuration to duplicate the desktop on both monitors. Now you can close or almost close the laptop and slide it under the monitor, or off to one side, out of the way while you work. Alternatively you can extend your desktop across both monitors, set the 27" monitor to be your main display and use the laptop's screen as a secon

  • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <> on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:18PM (#43062047) Homepage

    Placing the large monitor higher up will give you a real crappy working position, pretty much the opposite of the most natural, which is to look slightly down on the screen. Do what everyone else told you, use a dock for the laptop and have a real keyboard and mouse.

    • by bipbop ( 1144919 )

      This is the point I came here to make. Looking to the side all the time is bad, but so is looking up all the time!

      The OP needs to solve a different problem.

  • The solution I recommend, which is how my desk is setup, is incredibly simple. A USB keyboard and mouse. Less than $50. Now make the big monitor your main desktop. Piece of cake.

    I'm trying to understand this question. It seems really simple. Is there something I'm missing here?

  • by seyyah ( 986027 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:20PM (#43062065)

    Just sort it out man.

  • My laptop is fairly powerful in all aspects except for the utterly useless for programming 1366x768 screen. I got a 27" monitor that supports up to 2560x1440, 'borrowed' and old USB keyboard and mouse from work, put the laptop on a chair next to where the montior sits (I don't have room for a desk). That's it, make sure the air ducts of the laptop aren't blocked and the only time you'll need to touch it is to turn it on. Put the laptop screen onto the lowest power setting too!
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:24PM (#43062111)

    Well, all have answerd how you can do it, I have karma to burn so here is the not so obvious answer:
    You are an idiot and should not be programming. If you can not think outside the box (Get it? Box?) then you are obvious not able to do so when programming demands it.
    So the obvious answer would be to get a new job.

    • by Fox_1 ( 128616 )
      I'm with you, no karma in it, but I also can't reach the OP to slap sense into them.
      Are we really wasting time on this question?
      This is the: ' I need 3 highlighters in different colours in order to study crap ', delay, delay, delay, because the OP has no clue what to do. The perfect setup isn't going to suddenly make you 100x more productive. Besides it's actually easier to adjust your setup after you done some work. Once you know what you are doing you optimize, rather than some kinda weird guess at fu
    • I mean seriously. This is like:

      >Hey there new programmer
      Err, Hello?

      >Weren't you supposed to be here at 9:30 ?

      Umm, yes but I couldn't come up the elevator.

      > Why not?

      Well I didn't know which floor.

      > Isn't the floor written on that big board near the elevator?

      Oh ah, well I suppose it could have been

      > So how did you get here?

      I just walked up the stairs and stopped on each floor to see if I saw the company name

      > But we are on the 32nd floor?

      Yes, it did seem to take a while, especially the knoc

  • I use one of these [] and I'm happy with it, but there are plenty of different models available for various different uses.

  • I have a similar setup with my large monitor above my laptop monitor. I have the big monitor sitting atop a stack of old catalogs. I hadn't even considered shopping around for a solution but I'm not very uptight about the tidiness of my desk (massive understatement).
  • At home, and at my last job, I had dual 24" monitors attached to a laptop. At my current job, I have two monitors on a desk mount with a desktop pc. I found that two large monitors in front of my face with a real keyboard and mouse is the best setup. I use the laptop screen as kind of an "auxiliary" monitor. I put things that distract me over there.
  • Build it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kimanaw ( 795600 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:39PM (#43062235)
    Timely post. I've been struggling w/ the same situation, and just wandered around HomeDepot awhile until I found the parts. I looked for an actual storebought solution, but didn't find anything that can support 27" monitors.

    (Long version)

    I've been working from home for 15+ years, big laptop on a big lapdesk, in a recliner. Decadent, yes, but productive.

    About 6 months ago, I built myself a standup workstation to force me off my big arse, and added a 27" monitor above my 18.5" laptop. Loved it: more screen, felt more awake, back felt much better (highly recommend the standup to anyone having weight/back/etc issues from sitting all day)

    Then I started jogging on the treadmill 30-45min a day. For all its great benefits, working at the standup tired my legs before my jog, so I went back to the recliner, but missed the 2nd screen. So I took another spin around HomeDepot and grabbed some parts and built what I needed...though it took several iterations.

    Hints: don't use cheap aluminum braces, the weight of the monitor torques it too much. I'm picking up a beefy steel brace today. Unless your stand will be attached to some other furniture, and be fairly short, use metal (1.5" conduit or similar), rather than wood for the poles. I used a wooden closet rod, and it definitely bends a bit. I've been able to compensate, but will probably upgrade to metal in future.

    And as a base for the whole. thing, look for a hefty patio umbrella stand. I happened to have an old one lying around that does the trick, but it may need more weight.

    This probably sounds like a lot more effort than you had in mind, but sometimes the best solution is homebrewed.

  • Hopefully the laptop they provided you isn't some undockable consumer version unit but a business class unit that can be - Dell's laptop docks for their business class laptops can support two monitors, and I would assume HP's can to. Get a real keyboard, mouse, dock, use the 27 as the primary, and if you feel like it, get another monitor as a secondary.

  • After quite some hefty turmoil in the last few months I downgraded my long-term lifestyle expectancies a bit and took on a job as a web-developer (LAMP, HTML5/CSS3/Ajax - the whole lot). The job pays 10000 Euros less than my last one but is in a neat small company building and maintaining PHP applications for a boring but solid vertical market. ... Anyway: The the companies boss has a policy of providing a top-grade work environment. I got a brand new 27" iMac - we (5 employees, 2 part-time freelancers) all

  • laptop vs. desktop , its in the word
  • I hate typing on laptops. Unless I am working at a customer site, I plug my laptop into the network and use it as a file server, and do my actual work on a workstation. I use two 24" ViewSonic monitors running at 1920x1080, and a Filco Majestouch 2 keyboard. I have almost the exact same setup in my home office as I do at work; the difference is that at home I use a keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches that are super loud, while work I use the version with Cherry MX Brown switches that don't have the lou

  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @02:26PM (#43062529) Homepage Journal

    if you want the big screen above the laptop, put it on a stack of telephone books. if that confuses you, ask an old person ;)

  • if you have a laptop and another computer, then use rdp to use the monitor for both. if just the laptop, ignore the fact the laptop has a monitor, and use the large monitor alone.

  • Really, if you have a 27" main monitor, the 13" of the notebook (albeit full HD) is nothing more than additional tool space ...
    Also, as for the keyboard - while it may be nice to be able to use the Notebook keyboard (I do that right now), I would hate using it 8-9 hours per day for coding ... how much "getting used to" do you really need to be able to use it in an emergency situation? From a ergonomical POV, I've not yet seen a single notebook keyboard that can keep up with even lower priced regular keyboar

  • The outlet is about 8 feet away but my power cord is only 7 feet, what should I do?
  • ... or other large chunk of dead tree, then put your laptop in front of it.

  • Worked for me. Sheesh how hard can it be? No cardboard boxes? I've used bricks before but if you're not a cheep skate like me then go to a shop that sells office furniture?
  • I mean I'm a software engineer and my company gave me a laptop. But what was the point of that instead of a desktop? The vast majority of the time I'm at my desk developing and a desktop of the same price would have been faster, had a bigger hard drive, and more memory.(So most of the time when it matters I have a slower machine because of the laptop.) I guess there's 2 situations where the laptop would be better, in meetings and when anybody goes to a customer. So let's see, I'm not one of the developers t
  • Sissy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:03PM (#43062769)

    Seriously, be a man. Drill a hole in the floor with a jackhammer. Stick in a 2x4. Pour concrete. Nail monitor to the 2x4. Grab a beer. Done.

  • My laptop becomes my secondary screen and I use the 23" monitor as my main screen with email, help files, and references on the smaller 15" laptop screen. When in this configuration I'm using an external ergo keyboard and mouse, which really did make a difference when it came to my wrists.

    I found this set up works wonders for me.

  • Works great, stable, and as a plus you can take it home on the weekends!
  • Seems like the wrong question - really, you're making this overly complicated. The right question is: how do you work with a laptop attached to a big monitor.

    - Low budget: Set the darned monitor on a couple of books, to raise it above the laptop screen. I know people who like to work this way: laptop monitor with menus and info, big screen for coding.

    - Almost as cheap: Shove the laptop off to the side, turn off the screen (or close it), and attach a real keyboard and mouse.

    - More expensive, but the "right"

  • I am rephrasing the OP's question to the better and the eternal: What is the ideal monitor / hardware setup for programming?

    First you want more than one monitor. But you don't want those monitors to be too big. Personally I don't like going over 24" as my head feels like it is going to swivel off looking at two 27" monitors. Plus if you develop for 27" it will look crappy on most people's little screens. Next you want as much memory as possible. Often when programming many elements of your development env
  • I've made a number of happy purchases at [] They are expensive, but really good.

  • and you fail.

    Programming is all about solving problems and you can't sort out your own monitor. Might be a good time to find a new profession. I program on my laptop screen and have the browser open in the full hd monitor. I also have a standard mouse attached because touch pads are irritating to me.

  • Use one real monitor, a real keyboard and a real mouse and switch between applications using Alt-Tab or something equivalent. Colleagues of mine switch constantly between the two and take significantly more time to switch context. Constantly dragging windows from one monitor to the other is really silly and IMHO illustrates how you aren't in control of your environment.

    YMMV but, in any case, consider the cost of context switches and minimize that.

    Also, in my experience, changing position frequently al
  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @08:20PM (#43064187) Homepage
    Programmers need to be resourceful and good at solving problems. If you can't see that this simply requires a stack of books in the first instance (TODO: optimise this later), then you've failed at an extremely low hurdle my friend. Perhaps you'd be more suited to burger flipping?

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.