Jake McCrary

Manage your workspace with grids under Linux, OS X, and Windows

I’m the type of computer user that wants an organized workspace. To me this means having my active applications organized into a grid. Efficiently doing this is important to me. Before I jump into what tools I use let me give a quick explanation of what organized into a grid means to me.

Imagine that your screen is divided both vertically and horizontally. To me a good tool for managing windows lets you take your active application and move it so it fits in any rectangle formed by the edges of your screen and those two lines splitting your monitor. This means that with a keystroke you can make the active window take up the full screen, half screen, or quarter screen. Below I’ve listed the tools that let me do that.

Linux

I’ve switched to using i3, a tiling window manager instead of the default window manager on every distribution I use. When using i3 the tiling is done automatically. There are hotkeys for changing window layout and for moving focus between windows. The automatic tiling and shortcuts take a bit to get used to, but now that I am I can’t believe I switched to using a tiling window manager sometime in the last eight months.

Windows

When developing under Windows I use Winsplit Revolution. Unlike i3, Winsplit Revolution only provides hotkeys snapping windows to different locations. This is admittedly more approachable than i3 as the grid isn’t forced on you. WinSplit Revolution is pretty flexible, you can change shortcuts and even define your own grid.

I can’t remember when I started using Winsplit Revolution but it has become a vital tool for when I’m stuck doing development on a Windows machine.

OS X

My only OS X machine is my 13 inch MacBook Air. I always thought that with such a small screen being able to tile my windows wouldn’t be as useful. I was completely wrong. If anything it may be more useful because of the tiny screen real estate. The 13 inch screen is just wide enough to have an editor up on one half and documentation on the other.

The tool I use to snap my windows to a grid is Spectacle. Spectacle provides some sensible keystrokes for moving windows around. The hotkeys are similar to Winsplit Revolution’s which makes switching between operating systems easy.

If you haven’t tried using a tool to help you organize your windows I highly recommend that you do. I’ve introduced both technical and non-technical people to these tools and everyone has enjoyed them.

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