Effective Window Management by Dividing Your Monitor Into Zones

2 minute read

I love my 27 inch Apple Thunderbolt display, but after some amount of neck strain I had to conclude that it’s just too big to use it like a laptop monitor and fullscreen everything.

Instead, I’ve come up with a great window management solution that capitalizes on the monitor’s strengths and gives me an awesome work environment.

There’s no trick to it, it’s just a simple trick! Don’t use the entire display for coding. Divide that sucker up!


I use Divvy to keep my windows in order. I had been using a maximize shortcut to let me fill my display with a huge terminal window without going into Lion’s really dumb fullscreen mode. Then I realized, eventually, that I could make my own determination of what “maximize” means. I tweaked all my window commanding shortcuts (fill left size, fill right size, maximize, etc.) to only use a fraction of the screen.

I added a few more shortcuts to allow for “true” maximizing and window positioning. That way if I ever really feel the need to see some full detail (videogames, iPhoto, etc.) it’s just a key combo away.

The monitor zones

Here’s how I have everything divided.

annotated desktop zones

Key combinations

I keep iterating, but these key combinations have stuck around long enough for me to add them to this blog post.

control-option-command-space is my key combo for activating Divvy which let’s me then access shortcuts within it.

  • control-option-command-m: maximize a window into the workspace
  • control-option-command-left: left 50% of the workspace
  • control-option-command-right: right 50% of the workspace
  • control-option-command-down: send a window into the freespace below the workspace
  • control-option-command-space c: full height but centered window within the workspace (great for a browser)
  • control-option-command-space s: put a window on the upper righthand corner of the workspace


  • I always get to see at least some of my wallpaper (SimpleDesktops.com)
  • If I’m working with a window that I always want access to (e.g. a VM) I can just drag it slightly to either side of the workspace. No matter what I’m doing “fullscreen” that other important window is just a click away.
  • My growl popups never cover anything that I’m doing since they all appear in a column of available space.
  • Instead of a TODO list I make a folder on my desktop for each of my tasks. They can be empty or hold images, notes, etc. related to the task. With my new setup, they are always visible.
  • When I switch to my just my laptop my windows are no longer really squished compared to the full desktop setup.


  • None. The rest of the monitor is still there!