Using screen space efficiently with Gridmove

[Update: I’ve discovered that Windows 7 snap has keyboard shortcuts. Just use ‘win’ and the arrow keys to see what you can do. If you’re fine with a 50/50 split, this is all you need. Very nice with the hotkeys.]

The snap feature in Windows 7 is nice, but Gridmove is even better (and it’s open source—take that Microsoft!). I consider it among the best of my favorite programs. Gridmove is very simple: it lets you easily move windows into custom positions. This is important because desktop displays are getting bigger and more importantly, wider. A widescreen is good for watching video, but for surfing the web and reading, vertical screen space is the limiting factor. All that horizontal space is left half empty, so why not use it for something else?

Gridmove comes with several grids to choose from, but it’s fairly easy to customize by editing the .grid file. My grid for a widescreen monitor splits the screen left/right in a 13:11 ratio, which works nicely for pairing a browser with Google Docs. Grab it (customize it) and use it by dropping it in the ‘Grids’ folder then enabling it under ‘Templates’. It also includes these features: Maximize, Minimize, Always on Top, and 2nd monitor (Gridmove works seamlessly with multiple displays).

The best part about Gridmove is, in my opinion, that you can use keyboard shortcuts to whip your windows into place! Enable ‘Fast Move’ (under ‘Hotkeys’) and create a keyboard shortcut under ‘Fast Move Modifiers’ (e.g., ctrl + win). Use this keyboard combo along with the numpad—each number corresponds with its entry in the .grid file. I disable the dragging features and exclusively use the keyboard method.

I use Gridmove mostly for throwing windows to my second screen or putting two tabs side by side, especially when writing or researching. I keep a Google Doc on the right and my browser on the left (and something else on the second monitor!). In Chrome and Firefox, you can drag out a tab to make it a new window and then position it with Gridmove.

Beyond Gridmove, I’ve found a few great ways to make efficient use of vertical screen space. The first is Google Chrome: it’s the most screen space efficient browser, with tabs in the title bar and no spacehog toolbars. The application shortcut feature offers even more viewport area by cutting out everything but the title bar. Application shortcuts work great for webapps such as Gmail, Reader, Remember the Milk, etc., especially on a second screen. (If you must stick with Firefox, put the address bar and buttons up next to the menus and hide the lower two toolbars.) The second is to simply dock the Windows taskbar on the vertical axis. Just unlock it, drag it to one side, and resize it as desired. Third is to use “Two-Up” in Adobe Reader (View > Page Display or “alt, v, p, u”). This puts two pages up side by side, and works great for most pdfs.

In sum, get Gridmove to split your widescreen into a virtual dual-screen. Then get Chrome, dock your taskbar vertically, and use “Two-Up” when reading pdfs.

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