Moving between different screens of a small 12" iBook (1024x768), a 17" iMac (1440x900) and a 19" Windows 2000 (1280x1024) Desktop PC got me thinking about how I use screen real estate. My initial reaction was that the larger the screen size and the higher the resolution, the better I work.
I mean, with a large screen and high resolution, I can show more columns and rows in an Excel spreadsheet, fit more lines in a terminal window or see more of the code when editing a file. Or sometimes I have my program editor open on one half of the screen and the running version of the program on the other half.
However, I am starting to think that maybe bigger is not always better. I think I am using the 12" iBook reasonably effectively and for some tasks, I actually prefer using it instead of the 17" iMac. And that is what started me thinking.
Basically, there is a part of the screen that I am comfortable focusing on. Whatever I am currently doing, has to be done in this sweet spot. For me this is about 600x600 in the centre of the screen. Whatever application I am currently working on has to be positioned there. And whatever bit of text or thing I am working on has to be near to the centre of this sweet spot.
For example, Vim provides a way of showing multiple documents in separate windows within the main application window. However, I find that there is always one area of the window that I prefer working with. If there is something in the top right window, then I feel more comfortable moving that window into the sweet spot rather than looking at and typing into the window in the top right corner.
I prefer only focusing on one task at a time. If I am coding, then the entire screen should be devoted to coding. However, It doesn't mean that the whole screen should be one code editor. I am comfortable with supporting information panels surrounding a central working area. For example in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, the information palette is very useful for showing, in real time, the size of objects when they are being resized and/or the RGB values of the pixel under the mouse pointer.
But I still like the area I am working on to be in the centre of the screen. And I don't like these additional information panels encroaching on the sweet spot.