Jay, i need another monitor!!


So in the weird way that my brain is wired, I find myself far better at managing applications when I never shut them down. Unfortunately, this ends up causing my task bar to look like this:


Dah huge bar!


This actually isn’t too bad. What you’re seeing here is when I opened up one too many applications and the 3 high task bar couldn’t handle it and started to scroll. As long as i can keep the number down to an amount that doesn’t cause any scrolling, then I find myself to be in an optimal state. All my applications are avilable and are where I last left them. I have a pretty good spacial/temporal memory. So i can usually find the application I was extremely quickly.


I’ve tried using tools like FireFox’s tabbed browsing to help with this, but I’ve realized that (while I love the browser), I can’t stand any application that does it’s own window management. Once that happens I suddenly no longer have a two dimensional linear list of tasks to keep track of in my head, but rather a tree of windows that I have to navigate down into to find what i need. Note: with the amount of websites I have open, I easily exceed the number of tabs that FireFox can display. So I end up needing 3 Foxes. Trying to find the right web site then is something much more difficult to me. I need to try and find the right FirFox main window. Then I need to scan the pages in that to see if any is the right one. When I’ve tried it often takes me several seconds and I get a nice brain belch occur. Tabs also don’t play nice with task switching. I guess that’s also part of the problem. I don’t consider “web browsing” to be a task. Rather each site up is usually part of a greater task. So I’ll have VS open, plus an email from someone about a bug, plus our bug tracking tool, plus a website open with the docs on this feature. I want to be switching between all of those, not betweem some uber app that handles all web browsing for me.


Note: This isn’t a slam on tabbed browsing (or firefox). Having the feature certainly doesn’t hurt!! And it’s quite useful for me in other situations. Just not here 🙂 Similarly, this is why I hate Taskbar grouping. I can’t deal with having to go through levels of indirection to find the thing I want. In this case, the flat representation is actually better for me.


One thing I’ve started doing is Terminal Servering into the same computer I’m on twice (I run Win2k3 server which allows this), and placing the other sessions on my two other monitors. That gives me a task bar that spreads across all 3 monitors and which gives me a start menu at the lower left of each monitor.


I’ve tried working with Virtual desktops too, but none has been the kind of seamless experience that I would hope for and I often times find myself confused about where I am and where my apps can be found.


Anyone have any advice on how to better handle window management? 🙂


Interesting things to note: the selection of items on the bar show off how I work and what I consider important. First thing up is iTunes (for obvious reasons), then a remote desktop session to my same machine so i can get the second task bar. Then a command prompt (i live a lot in there, yaay SFU). Then at some point I get bored and I open SharpReader. Then, much later, I get really bored (or depressed after seeing all the newly filed community bugs) and I start browsing all sorts of sites. And then, much much later, do I finally realize “hey, maybe I should check my email and see if anything important came up or if there was a meeting I was supposed to go to.


I’ll have to pay attention to this in the future to see how different days reflect different behaviors and activities.


Comments (78)

  1. I know you have to be kidding. How does your computer even run with that many applications open.

  2. Well, you’d save around 50% by using a tabbed browser (I see you already have Firefox but there’s thiungs like myIE which handle this for IE too). BUt you really must suck up the bytes, isn’t your computer just running as slow as a two legged dog?

  3. DrPizza says:

    Since applications not being currently used use exactly no processor time and can be paged entirely out to disk, why should his performance suffer?

    I’m curious to see how the dock scales with a similar number of applications open (and given the same "one click access" constraint).

  4. arhra says:

    i find that the way i have gnome set up handles large numbers of windows fairly well — i have multiple desktops, which i organise vaguely around different tasks (one for general web browsing, one for email and related stuff, one for my rss reader and browsers opened from it, one for development with monodevelop/glade/monodoc/a billion and one vim sessions, etc), the taskbar only shows windows from the current desktop, plus i have the window selector applet in the top-right, which is a drop-down menu that gives me two-click access to any window on any desktop.

    >> I’m curious to see how the dock scales with a similar number of applications open (and given the same "one click access" constraint).

    It doesn’t (for a start, it doesn’t provide one-click access to individual windows at all, just applications). Exposé helps a bit, but it’s still far from ideal (although this is from the perspective of a 12" ibook, with a 1024×768 screen, i’m sure having a larger screen would help…)

  5. null says:

    I’ve been there, and I usually end up with like 3 firefox’s like you say. I can totally empathize with the tree structure you speak of….I prefer working that way though, completely walking each node to the end, then finalizing.

    I am really fuzzy on my tree math, but with that many windows…I bet there is an algorithm that describes how you access them 🙂

  6. stan says:

    Personally, I hate having too many programs in the taskbar. Dunno if your a big fan of the system tray, but my perference is to store things in the system tray.

    Of course, too many programs can lead to the tray being big..

    There’s a program out there that helps me manages tbe tray which includes putting any application into the tray and more importantly, there’s a main window that can store away any application without it being shown on the tray. It also groups the applications together (for example, all the ie windows I have open).

    http://www.4t-niagara.com/tray.html

  7. Timbo says:

    UltraMon is good software: http://www.realtimesoft.com/ultramon/. Check out the ‘Smart Taskbar’, which puts an additional taskbar on each supplementary monitor. The super cool thing is that it sits on top of Windows’ extended desktop, so you can move applications between monitors. In Standard mode, each taskbar lists only the windows on its associated monitor.

    A feature you lose from your TS method is that your monitors lose their autonomy, and the cascade breaks. I quite often open a number of windows at once, and the cascade will open windows that run across the monitor barrier or off the bottom of the screen. I don’t see that behavior on a single-monitor machine.

  8. Cyrus,

    I think your biggest problem may be not having the right approach to managing your tasks. 69 windows open at the same time? Come on. While I suspect you are not the dimmest bulb in the chandelier, you are probably no Julius Cesar, either. Perhaps organizing your tasks and time allocated to them into chunks and keeping the number of simultaneously running apps to a minimum is a better solution. That would also speed up your machine quite a bit. Think of it as the same type of computing hygiene as keeping your inbox empty.

    God, I could write a book about this. Maybe I should…

  9. GeekNews: " I know you have to be kidding. How does your computer even run with that many applications open."

    Nope, I’m not kidding at all. Ask anyone who works with me.

    Why would my computer not be able to run with that many applications??

    We have this thing called an operating system. It’s designed to scale to hundreds of times more applications running at a time 🙂

  10. Scott: "Well, you’d save around 50% by using a tabbed browser (I see you already have Firefox but there’s thiungs like myIE which handle this for IE too). BUt you really must suck up the bytes, isn’t your computer just running as slow as a two legged dog?"

    Scott, as I said "tabbed browsing" has serious limitations that really make my workflow slower. I know there are tabbed solutions for windows, including avantbrowser and others, but this isn’t an IE/FireFox issue. As you can see, I’m using firefox as well up there.

    Why would my computer be slow doing this?

  11. Jon: " Doesn’t W2K3 support taskbar grouping? "

    Yes, but I detest it 🙂

    I mentioned that in the post above 🙂

  12. Dimitri: "I think your biggest problem may be not having the right approach to managing your tasks. 69 windows open at the same time? Come on. While I suspect you are not the dimmest bulb in the chandelier, you are probably no Julius Cesar, either. Perhaps organizing your tasks and time allocated to them into chunks and keeping the number of simultaneously running apps to a minimum is a better solution. That would also speed up your machine quite a bit. Think of it as the same type of computing hygiene as keeping your inbox empty.

    God, I could write a book about this. Maybe I should…"

    I would love to organize my tasks into chunks. How do you suggest I go about doing that?

    BTW: We have a multi-tasking OS, I’m a multi-tasking kind of guy. I really have no issue working on a tons of things simultaneously 🙂

    Again, why would this speed up my machine. Why would a Win2k3 machine care about 69 piddly processes??? I’d be pretty ashamed of our OS if it couldn’t handle that!!

  13. Timba: " UltraMon is good software: http://www.realtimesoft.com/ultramon/. Check out the ‘Smart Taskbar’, which puts an additional taskbar on each supplementary monitor. The super cool thing is that it sits on top of Windows’ extended desktop, so you can move applications between monitors. In Standard mode, each taskbar lists only the windows on its associated monitor.

    A feature you lose from your TS method is that your monitors lose their autonomy, and the cascade breaks. I quite often open a number of windows at once, and the cascade will open windows that run across the monitor barrier or off the bottom of the screen. I don’t see that behavior on a single-monitor machine."

    Yes. That’s a real problem. Thanks for the link!!! I’m going to have to try that out.

  14. Stan: " It also groups the applications together (for example, all the ie windows I have open). "

    I _hate_ grouping. At least in the form that it’s currently implemented everywhere 🙂

  15. No, grouping is plain a pain. I use WinGlance (http://www.winglance.com) when I can to help quickly switch tasks – the full screen display really helps to jog the memory. My taskbar doesn’t run as many processes as yours, but it does get fairly full. Waiting for a program to restart is so much slower than simply treading through a few windows using WinGlance.

  16. DrPizza says:

    "It’s designed to scale to hundreds of times more applications running at a time 🙂 "

    *cough*

    If you open up "hundreds" of IE windows (for example) you start running out of GDI handles and it’ll refuse to open further windows.

    There are some very reachable limitations on the number of concurrent applications that Windows will tolerate. It’s immensely annoying.

  17. Dr.Pizza: Looks like you’re right. I tried just opening IE windows and I maxed out at 207 windows with it now refusing to open any more. What’s interesting was that if I then TS’ed in again I was able to open another 100+. I tried that with 4 TS sessions open.

    So I’m guessing it’s a per user session limitation, not an actual system limitation. So I guess I have to rephrase that as "it’s designed to scale to at max a couple hundred applications per user session". So far that hasn’t bitten me, but I could see how that would be obnoxious, especially if you had an app that had tons of handles (my IE’s were using 300-400 each). I could easily imagine an app taking up 10x that many which would severely exacerbate that situation.

  18. Note: I did a little googling and found that different systems could have limits anywhere from 10,000 handles up to 65,000 handles. Given taht I could do about 200 instance at 300 handles each, it looks like I was hitting the 60,000 limit.

    Outlook and iTunes are both hitting more than a thousand each. Neither is _terribly_ complex. So I could an app easily using a ton more and causing you to run into this limit.

  19. Sherrod Segraves says:

    So why don’t you just buy another monitor?

    I’ve got three 21" monitors at work and I couldn’t be happier. I sank some of my own money into it, but if I’m spending a good chunk of my waking life at work, I want it to be enjoyable.

    While I like ATI, Nvidia does a much better job with multiple monitors. Unlike ATI, NVidia supports a mode where Windows sees the two monitors as one giant monitor. This means that the taskbar will go across the bottom of both monitors, and apps can maximize across both monitors without using some goofy window management utility.

    My third monitor is driven by an extra video card in a PCI slot.

    Once you’ve used a desktop with a total area of 4800×1200, you’ll never want to go back.

  20. Cyrs, get UltraMon, i couldn’t recommend it more.

  21. Sherrod: I have 3 monitors. See my earlier post on this. I want a fourth!

  22. Geoff: Ultramon looks great! Thanks. I’ll try it out monday.

  23. Scott says:

    Ya, I’m a big multitasker as well, but running TS’s into yourself just to get another TaskBar is BIZARRE.

    Get Ultramon, it will change your life, particularly the "move to other monitor" feature that adds buttons next to min and max.

  24. Scott: 🙂

    There are actually other reasons I TS into the same machine. Specifically, it makes debugging some things _much_ easier. I can go into more details if you’ like.

    Getting the extra taskbar is an added bonus though 🙂

  25. Vince Pacella says:

    I’m not a big fan of program grouping or tabs either… if I cant’ Alt-Tab to it, I get pissed. I’m running XP with the TweakUI Toy and I have it set up so that it arranges the program buttons in blocks but not groups… so all my security-risk IE windows are in one part of task bar, the 20 Task Manager windows that opened cuz Windows was dog-ass slow responding to rightclick on taskbar and I couldn’t stand it and just kept pressing Ctl-Shift-Esc (Unresponsive UI to system-level keystrokes drive me abs crazy). Outlook and emails are in one other section , etc…

  26. Vince Pacella says:

    ok, nevermind..you hate blocking 🙂 I’m toying with UltraMon right now.

  27. Joku says:

    I am not sure is it handles or what, but I like my XP – except for the fact that even if you have terabyte of memory (right), it chokes if one user has couple too many IE’s open. And I do tend to have a ton of explorers and IE’s open always. 20 each minimum, and that usually seems to be close to the maximum also 🙁 I think there was some limit mentioned somewhere, was it near 50 or 100 – can’t remember.

    And I’d like the taskbar grouping thingy, too bad it’s implemented like someone else likes, not like I’d like. It would work much better if the groups openen when hovering over them, and you should be able to group windows by TASKS, not by the application. So if I am working on project X, and open 10 IE’s related to researching about X, these should be going into same group (kinda like arranging tasks into multiple-desktop, but I do not like multiple desktops), sortable by app and then by alpha, or however I like.

  28. Joku: I agree 100% on the taskbar grouping. I want to group "tasks". Hell, i want to rearrange applications into tasks!!!

    I think the current form of the taskbar (especially where it is locked) is great for new users. But more comfortable experienced users want the power to customize it to make it more suitable for our needs.

    I like the idea of hovering expanding the group of tasks into constituent parts. I could see that happening in the longhorn timeframe.

  29. Darren Oakey says:

    Cyrus,

    Tried objectBar [stardock]? It’s awesome, because it allows you to completely customize your desktop. I use two monitors, but have everything I want to access in a hurry in a bar down the right hand side of the right screen, with all running tasks in a block on the bottom of the left screen. – but the main thing is, everytime you get annoyed with something, or think of it, you can set up/change a bar to do it – so very quickly your desktop becomes exactly what you want! 🙂

    Also – used to use sharpreader – but newsgator is just so amazingly awesome that it’s really worth the switch. set your news page to be 100 articles, and then just page down, thinking (that might be interesting! – right click and open), and keep going. You can get through SO many articles so quickly, and it doesn’t matter what folder they’re in, like sharpreader makes you aware of..

  30. ShadowChaser says:

    This brings up a REALLY good question – why doesn’t Windows have a new taskbar for each monitor? If I drag an application to monitor "B", shouldn’t it show up on monitor B’s taskbar (if it had one.. ).

    Only the first one would need a start button and tray, the others could just show windows. Hmmmmm maybe a longhorn dev will read this 😉

  31. Dr Pizza says:

    "So I’m guessing it’s a per user session limitation, not an actual system limitation. So I guess I have to rephrase that as "it’s designed to scale to at max a couple hundred applications per user session". So far that hasn’t bitten me, but I could see how that would be obnoxious, especially if you had an app that had tons of handles (my IE’s were using 300-400 each). I could easily imagine an app taking up 10x that many which would severely exacerbate that situation. "

    I think it’s a bit of both. I think it’s governed by the SharedSection argument to CSRSS (described a little at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;q126962 ). Because each WindowStation (IIRC) and hence TS session gets its own desktop heap the limit can be alleviated somewhat with TS. But that’s hardly elegant. I should be allowed to create 2 GB per session of handles (or around that), not a few MB.

  32. SquashedTwinkie says:

    Try using goscreen, virtual desktops for windows. Goscreen keeps track of which applications are on each virtual desktop and only shows those applications in the task bar.

    http://www.goscreen.info/

    It’s $20 I think after the trial period…but I was willing to pay the money to support the creator.

  33. Based on your open apps…

    Does everyone in Microsoft use AIM instead of Windows Messenger on Exchange?

  34. Josh: No clue. I’ll ask everyone the next time i see them.

  35. andrew says:

    Cyrus,

    I too use TS to manage my work that way. I used to do it for email as well but now have that all centralized.

    Works great!

    What I really want are one of those wrapping monitors that MS Research has shown. Surround me by my work, I say!

  36. Cyrus said: "Specifically, it makes debugging some things _much_ easier. I can go into more details if you’ like."

    Yes, please. I’m very interested in hearing about this, particularly if the story works well for managed code.

  37. Ha. Good answer. It took me a minute to figure out what you meant.

  38. Marc Clifton says:

    Maybe you should try a TABBED BROWSER, like Avant. That would eliminate half of those IE windows!

    Marc

    http://www.myxaml.com

  39. Marc:

    "I’ve tried using tools like FireFox’s tabbed browsing to help with this, but I’ve realized that (while I love the browser), I can’t stand any application that does it’s own window management. Once that happens I suddenly no longer have a two dimensional linear list of tasks to keep track of in my head, but rather a tree of windows that I have to navigate down into to find what i need. Note: with the amount of websites I have open, I easily exceed the number of tabs that FireFox can display. So I end up needing 3 Foxes. Trying to find the right web site then is something much more difficult to me. I need to try and find the right FirFox main window. Then I need to scan the pages in that to see if any is the right one. When I’ve tried it often takes me several seconds and I get a nice brain belch occur. Tabs also don’t play nice with – task switching. I guess that’s also part of the problem. I don’t consider "web browsing" to be a task. Rather each site up is usually part of a greater task. So I’ll have VS open, plus an email from someone about a bug, plus our bug tracking tool, plus a website open with the docs on this feature. I want to be switching between all of those, not betweem some uber app that handles all web browsing for me.

    Note: This isn’t a slam on tabbed browsing (or firefox). Having the feature certainly doesn’t hurt!! And it’s quite useful for me in other situations. Just not here 🙂 Similarly, this is why I hate Taskbar grouping. I can’t deal with having to go through levels of indirection to find the thing I want. In this case, the flat representation is actually better for me. "

    I figured it was better to just post it again in case you missed it the first time 🙂

  40. Eduardo says:

    I don’t like tabbed browsing nor taskbar grouping (i want one click access).

    But when my taskbar drops behind two line, I know is time to close some windows and focus in the task I was doing.

  41. DrPizza says:

    Tabbed browsing stinks.

    Tabs in VS.NET are fine, because the tabs are all related (they’re all part of the same project).

    Tabs in a web browser, however, make no damn sense. They’re a bunch of disparate unrelated pages (the vast majority of the time, at least) so they damn well deserve different windows.

    Whichever bonehead invented tabbed browsers needs a damn good kicking.

  42. Jerome Tremblay says:

    Please post something concerning the advantages of TS for debugging.

    I’m intrigued.

  43. Marek Samaj says:

    I’d never believe that any system can be stable with such number of apps "running". Your entry made me to look at some virtual memory topics and… wow, it really works! (http://aumha.org/win5/a/xpvm.php). Hmm, can anyone tell me what is that ‘X’ in the top right corner? 🙂

  44. Marek: Why wouldn’t you think it would be stable?

    What X are you referring to?

  45. Ian says:

    I don’t feel inclined to try it right now, but are you limited to 3 rows on your taskbar? Mine is verticle and I could expand it to half the screen if I wanted to. How about expanding it and settin it to hide when you’re not using it?

  46. Ian. I can’t stand how the bar slides in/out. Do you know if there is a way to make that instantaneous?

  47. Marek Samaj says:

    "Why wouldn’t you think it would be stable?"

    I didn’t understand correctly how virtual memory actually works in WXP. I thought, that page file (=swap file) is used only after each byte of RAM is allocated by programs or OS. So when I saw so many apps in your task bar, I thought that at least half of those apps is stored and running from HDD page file instead of RAM. And this could lead [based on my former (bad) knowledge] to unstability of OS (pretty silly, I know. But my course about Operating Systems is scheduled for 7. semester, so pls. be patient with me 🙂 (www.fri.utc.sk).

    "What X are you referring to?"

    X == Close. I meant: Huraaah, I know how this works, so the close button lost meaning for me.

    P.S. Sorry for my bewildering english, I’m still learning it and ehm, as I see I’ve much more to learn…

  48. Marek: Don’t worry about it. Your english is better than my president’s.

    Good luck with OS, that one of my favorite classes I ever took. 🙂

  49. Ian says:

    Display properties>Appearance>Effects: uncheck "Use the following transition effect for menus and tooltips:"

    Not quite instantaneous, but close.

  50. Jonathan says:

    Regarding only being able to open a finite number of IE windows:

    On NT-based OSes, each process is limited (by default) to 10000 User handles and 10000 GDI handles. (This limit can be expanded in the registry, I’m not sure to how much.) When you open more IE windows, it simply creates additional threads, all within the same process.

    It’s not a system-wide or per-session limit (unlike Win9x which did have a finite amount of handles available — "system resources"). The reason that TS’ing in again lets you open more IE windows is that it’s a completely separate IE process.

    From what I understand, the 10000 limit on NT was put in place because if a process reaches that level, it probably has a leak in it. Of course the way that IE all runs in a single process, it’s more likely to hit this limit.

  51. Jonathan: I get separate Iexpore.exe’s showing up in the processes list of task manager each with it’s own PID. Each of thsoe has in turn their own threads. Are you sure that I’m just createing new threads within the same process?

  52. Ralph says:

    Have you tried using Sphere XP (http://www.hamar.sk/sphere/) it is a 3D spherical UI desktop manager. I tried it once but I didn’t really use it all that much because I only use one or two windows at a time so when I was ready this I instantly thought this would be perfect for this many applications.

  53. Just Some Guy says:

    "Jonathan: I get separate Iexpore.exe’s showing up in the processes list of task manager each with it’s own PID. Each of thsoe has in turn their own threads. Are you sure that I’m just createing new threads within the same process?"

    That happens if you click the IE icon like mad, if instead you hit Ctrl+N you are just creating a new window within the same Iexplore.exe. This is interesting because Ctrl+N keeps your current sessions and clicking the IE icon you can have a new session with the same website (VERY userful for debugging purposes!) — NBC: The more you know 😉

  54. Just Some Guy says:

    I’d suggest trying to go to 1600×1200, and keeping your three rows of taskbar real estate. Who knows? Maybe you might even get rid of that scrollbar!

  55. Ethicalhacker says:

    I personaly can’t stand more than 4 aplications open in each monitor, but that is why I have 4 monitors and with Longhorn, you can seperate the tasks that are in each monitor to each monitor’s taskbar. This is a great improvement upon XP’s taskbar. As for when you get a task bar 3 sections tall, you can’t read what is on your sceen very well because of the limited space. By the time you add Word’s tools you will have about 3 inches of vertical viewing area. So as I said, it is just better to have tons of flatpanels and the mental capacity to hit the back button on the browser!

  56. Tiger says:

    heyyy, miscrosoft every update windows is too slow than another why u do this with us , i have laptop i cannot update the hardware so this windows will let me pay for new pc …

  57. JP says:

    I really like the FF tabs compared ot MDI in MYIE2 & Opera, but anyway…I always organize my tabs & parent windows by site. Google search *tab tab tab*. Open new window, go to channel9, *tab tab tab*…etc 😉

    Its like the XP taskbar grouping (which I ALSO hate, for your reasons too) but smarter, because nothing really organizes the sites your own. Also why aren’t your FF windows at least together? I thought XP+ by default organized them so they opened side by side.

    Anyway this just helps me out!

    I always open wayyy too many tabs in FF then spend an hour actually looking at them lol.

  58. Troy Morgangutspreche says:

    Opening a copy of FireFox for each logically associated group of web sites works for me. One open for .NET searches, one open for vacation searches, one open for assisted suicides, etc.

  59. SMahbub says:

    Iconic Tray (http://www.iconictray.com/) helps my clutter somewhat. You can put a bunch of programs that aren’t used as often "into" one icon in the system tray. And when you need it you can restore it by clicking the system tray icon and selecting the program.

    I put my WinCvs, DB Client, extra consoles, some putty sessions and the clutter is going down a bit. Outlook works too (the new email icon still pops up fine).

    Also so many text-pads open. Get some mdi editor. UltraEdit, editplus, heck even jEdit would help.

    Same goes for explorers. I explored a few MDI explorers, so far Directory Opus (http://www.gpsoft.com.au/) is the better of the ones I tried out. But only allows 2 explorers per window 🙁

    Also if this is XP, use its function to always hide some of the icons.. eg Mozilla, QuickTime, Power icon.

    phew… hope this helps. Thanks for the post, got some good tips here.

  60. Merc says:

    You need another machine; not another monitor.

  61. heatxsink says:

    I think you need another brain, and you should be fired from M$!!!!!

  62. this box doesn't display correctly in opera - typi says:

    The pic doesn’t work. Fix it please.

  63. The hosting site seems to be down right now. Check again tomorrow.