Coding on a laptop would you recommend an external screen or two?

Digging into and learning to code and I’ve noticed i find my laptop screen size a drop constricting even with key command and window switching i find the screen size limiting, does anyone else here use a laptop with an external screen or two to keep certain windows always up for coding purposes and would you recommend that and a better keyboard than what’s on the 16 inch mbp? . i’m used to doing this in my previous career where i use a large screen on a desktop for music things… thanks love fcc!

1 Like

@jantelisIt looks that you are used to a larger screen and i prefer you should stick to that because it makes you feel more comfortable. Lastly having two screens when solving problems is much better and faster when you want to refer to certain section in a document or code.

1 Like

Thanks I’m still so new at learning code but just something I felt but wasn’t sure if I was just basing If on my other career, I’ve been watching some videos , reading some apis and feel like i wanna see both at the same time and perhaps that would help my learning experience

1 Like

@jantelis it will also help you speedup the coding processing…

I’m doing exactly what you are describing. I have whichever website I am working on open in an external screen and the code on my laptop screen. I do it mostly so I don’t have to keep switching between open windows but, of course, you could also do it the other way around to see more code at once. So, if that’s something you used to do, I recommend doing it again.

I’ve been a laptop-only user for 15 years. My first was a 12" iBook G4. I’ve always needed a laptop as I’ve never had an office or even a desk for all that time. That means I’ve always gone for the smallest, lightest Apple laptop available, even if it was a little underpowered for the design work I did. I just worked around it, like I did working on a 12" screen with InDesign.

Fast-forward to the last couple of weeks – finally got a desk, an office (of-sorts) and a 27-inch iMac (all borrowed for a few months). And wow… so much more productive: browser window open with training material, another window for previewing my code, VSCode for coding, Simplenote for notetaking. No more constant swapping between windows. Lovely :grinning:

Laptops are great (if not essential) if you’re constantly on the move and don’t have the option of a fixed place to work. Otherwise, you’re better off with a desktop machine like an iMac.

As you’ve already got a laptop, and probably not looking to get a new iMac… if you can afford it, get a decent docking station, a single monitor (for now) and external keyboard & mouse.That’ll be about half the price of the cheapest new iMac. And in the next couple of years if you don’t really need a laptop anymore, you’ll be able to get a Mac mini to go with your setup for about two-thirds of the cost of a new iMac. (For coding you don’t really need a huge amount of storage space or processing power - unless you’re some sort of Unity/OpenGL/VR geek :crazy_face:).

I can work with a single built in laptop display, but not comfortably.

When I’m at work I typically have VS Code open with at least 2 files open side by side, my browser open, with dev tools open to the side, several running terminals (for local dev servers and general tinkering), and MySQL workbench.

Jumping between those on a single monitor gets old very quickly. At the very least I want to be able to have my code and browser visible comfortably at the same time, so I can instantly see the effects of changes without tabbing between apps.

1 Like

awesome thanks!! always cool to see how others work ( to steal ideas …i mean borrrow for productivity

thanks alot for that in depth reply. I still have my recording studio with a 38inch screen and old macpro 2010 but i don’t find coding in there that comfortable as it’s more setup for ideal speaker placement than anything else/ looks like i will grab a nice external single screen for my 16inch mbp and not gotta look into a good external keyboard for all that coding, is there one you would recommend thanks

i see, that make’s sense. really grateful for all of you replying. Now i gotta research good keyboards.

Well I’m trying to get used to the standard wireless keyboard that comes with the iMac but I have to admit that it’s taking a little while. I’ve had a look around for a replacement, but the only one that’s really caught my eye has been this one from Matias. It’s a bit expensive but the reviews are very good. If you’re not worried about having a quiet mechanical keyboard, this one from Matias also looks really good.

That looks really solid thanks a lot!

When I work on a desktop, having 2 monitors is almost a requirement. With 1 monitor for code/database/terminal and another for my browser(s).

I used to have a bunch of windows open, but I have simplified my workflow dramatically to rely primarily on browser tabs and web apps.

I used to work on a laptop and had a few tricks up my sleeve to stay productive even with limited screen space.

note all the following is for a Windows keyboard, I don’t use Macs.

  1. “Alt-tab” - great for 2 “window” workflows, once you start throwing in more windows things start getting harder to keep track of.
  2. Keyboard shortcuts to “jump” to open windows - I use a Chromebook, and abuse shortcuts to “jump” to specific apps like Chrome (duh) chat, github, slack, etc.
  3. Workspaces - All major desktop OS systems have support one way or another of “workspaces” or virtual desktops. This is the main reason I was very productive on my laptops even without multiple monitors. I usually ran with 4 virtual desktops, which made multi tasking a little to easy.

With those 3 things I still find myself being very productive with just 1 screen. When I have 2 monitors I usually stick with alt-tab between the few windows I have open and don’t use the other techniques.

I used to think I needed the extra monitor to be plugged in all the time, but I found it wasn’t totally necessary most of the time. :slight_smile:

that sounds like a great workflow and setup thanks!

1 Like

Welcome, enjoy the environment and experience. @jantelis

My main machine is a Mac mini with two monitors, but I’ve found an iPad or even an iPhone often serves the place of the second monitor. And you’re seeing how your code runs on an actual device.

that’s really cool i had not thought about connecting phone or ipad via duet or other for code. i’ve been watching a lot of videos relating to code recently and have wanted more real estate

It all comes down to personal preference. I like hooking two monitors to my laptop. The 6 half screens then gives me plenty of space to arrange

  1. Email
  2. Team communication (Slack)
  3. Github
  4. Firefox, for referencing documentation/DuckDuckGo
  5. Editor(s)
  6. Terminal

I’ve done without external monitors. It works fine, but I prefer the extra room to visually arrange my work.

thanks alot bob! that sounds like a great setup