Follow-up! Again showing good things come out of posting and telling people about it. Yesterday I wrote about my deteriorating keyboard usage, and my friend Christian had some good questions about it.
First, some important clarification: When I put down the laptop in the middle of the desk and start working, both the external monitor and the keyboard and mouse are still connected to the laptop. The keyboard and mouse are just pushed out of the way and not used.
Second, why not clamshell mode? One part is that I do make use of the builtin screen and like having it available, and it becomes more useful when right in the middle of the desk rather than off to the side. Another part is that I very much like having touch ID available as much and as often as possible. Last, and least, I do not like the thought of making the computer's thermal situation any worse than it has to be (never mind the fact that they are probably designed to handle it well).
Third, what do I use each screen for? The vast majority of stuff always lands on the external screen - the larger viewport and the one most in the middle of my field of view. The builtin screen tends to get pure reference material - things I have running and may want to look at every now and then but not interact with very much. In a work context, Xcode is the most common example, as I run some stuff in development mode there but rarely debug or write code in the app. When I do, it usually gets dragged over to the external screen and given more room to breathe. Messages also tend to stay on the small screen, along with calendar and reminders.
Fourth, I sat down last night to record a podcast, and as per my current habits I used the Mac mini. That meant no laptop on the desk and free reign for the mouse and the lovely split keyboard. There is a lot to love about that compact size so highly adjusted to my wants and needs, no doubt about that. My hands were all of a sudden not sliding all over the place, and it felt really nice to be able to have the keyboard halves further apart. Oh, and having all the common modifiers right on the home row still rocks, and somehow feels natural right away, no adjustment time needed. I am not completely sold on feel of the silent switches, but that could of course be changed quite easily.
Fifth, how hard should it be to make up my mind? Well, if there was one answer I truly liked better than the others there would not be much fun to be had here, would it? I imagine the next iteration will be that I move the laptop to one side again and make room for the dedicated input devices. Then, I will go semi-clamshell again - using just the external monitor but still have the laptop open (with the screen turned off) for touch ID and thermals. And after that, it is probably time to circle back to laptop front and centre again.
(Oh look, the follow-up is longer than the original post. Surprising nobody.)