Along with the infamous “office with a window” that everyone seems to long for in their career, I have items that equip me as a developer:
- Large Desk : The real estate of a desk is a great thing. Enough room to comfortably rest your arms on while still allowing for a monitor in front of you along with more room to place documents or other electronics on is a considerable advantage.
- Computer : It just couldn’t be done without it. Speedy processor and large RAM availability will also make your day.
- Logitech Wave Keyboard : the “wave” design conforms nicely to the natural curve of my hand using the asdf-jkl;-space grounded typing method. It has a few fancy quick buttons I never use and take up a bit of space I could get back, but it’s a good trade-off.
- Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse : This mouse has seen its days and could use a bit of an upgrade for cleanliness reasons, but it’s been a true trooper. Its optical sensor prevents any jumping or sticking those ball-mice do. It also has a programmable button that I use for zooming, along with a 4-way scroll wheel. But after the optical sensor, the grip conforms with my hand pretty well and is comfortable to use all day.
- Mouse Pad : This cushioned mouse pad prevents those hurtful desk impressions left on ones hand after a long day of work.
- Headphones : A developer needs his/her inspirational music to develop to. Invest in a good pair that sound good and feel comfortable all day long.
But on to what I really created this post for…
Where the action really happens is on the screen. Over my programming career of about 14 years I have seen about this kind of monitor hardware timeline:
14″ CRT -> 15″ CRT -> 17″ CRT -> 21″ CRT -> 15″ LCD -> 17″ LCD -> 19″ LCD -> 20″ LCDs
Except for the past few years, I have used a single monitor to do all my programming with. In the earlier years it was all okay because you just didn’t have the complexity of today’s programs nor the visual experience to compliment it. However as time went on the need for large screen real-estate grew. But all my prior employers, except one on-site contract, just didn’t see the need to spend that extra $200-$300 on another monitor. That was their mistake.
When I was hired with CF Webtools I was provided with two 20″ LCD wide-screen monitors and a heavy-duty adjustable dual monitor stand. Immediately I recognized the benefit of the extra real-estate. I’m pretty positive that my productivity increased tremendously. I might say 50%, but then I might be held to that standard 😉 .
If you take a look at just one 20″ wide-screen monitor, I have the real-estate to efficiently use ColdFusion Builder (eclipse) w/o having to always maximize and restore the coding window to get a good idea of the code I’m working on. Using a 15″ wide-screen or even a 19″ square screen drastically reduces the efficiency of even that one program due to the resolution or width restrictions placed on your work-space.
Bring in a second 20″ wide-screen monitor and you’ve freed up having to use switch between task windows. For example if I’m using example code from an Internet site to code from I no longer have to either print the site or switch between CF Builder and a browser. The browser window can just sit on the other monitor and be referenced at just a glance instead of having to invoke a physical action.
The other primary use for the browser on the second screen would be for testing. Many times during a debugging process you make a code change then review the results in the browser. No need to task switch back and forth – which may be needed 100 times solving a hard issue.
Other examples include file folder content comparison, email / social monitoring or just plain-old multitasking.
Just recently I added a third monitor to my arsenal (Thanks to Jimmy Winter for that awesome word). It sits just out of my primary view and keeps up TweetDeck, Company Email and Company Chat along with other misc. items crucial at the time like the server room temp monitor. I can glance over at my “vitals” in-between coding – which again saves me time from having to task switch between four other programs.
If you consider yourself a career developer, I highly suggest getting your boss or yourself to invest in comfortable and useful equipment such as I mentioned above, especially a couple of large monitors positioned side-by-side at eye level. It may make yourself more productive and have a better day at the office.