Being the window manager

April 03, 2024

The more I use Siracusa-like (see last post) window management and placement, the more I like it.

It makes me enjoy working on my larger screens more. I make more use of the space. I feel like I keep better track of things.

Despite the apparent visual clutter, I wonder if it is not also a mentally calmer environment.

I put things in places, and they stay there.

No swiping or tabbing around fullscreen apps, no unexpected window placements. Everything is where I decide to put it in the moment, and it stays there until I choose to move it.

Crucially, nothing helpfully decides to shuffle stuff around for me. I came across another window management project for the Mac, but lost interest quicker than ever before when I realized that I neither want nor need anything to place my windows for me. I only move them when I need to anyway.

The most surprising step? I think it must be that I have started tearing tabs in Visual studio code out into separate windows. I half expected multi-window support to be broken in silly non-native ways, but so far it seems to be acting exactly like it should. Having a focus file in its own window rather than making the main one really wide and fiddling with split panes is so much nicer. Plus, the separate windows can be so small and chrome-free when the main window has all the side bars and other … IDE stuff.

All of which keeps me wondering: what is real window power usage, and what would the best tools for that be? Right now, I feel the tools are a whole lot fewer than perhaps ever before. I expect I will swing back in due course …

The other side of this coin is that I feel more constrained than ever whenever I work off of a laptop and have just its builtin screen available. I am writing this on my Macbook air, and while it is still a lovely machine in every single way I do feel that I would enjoy working at my desk with my proper monitor more.

That is new, and good. There should be clear advantages to a larger monitor. Being on the couch is very nice, but it should not feel able to equal a proper desk setup.

Tool usage

Speaking of tools, I have started to use Front and center a bit again, in modern mode, so that I can hold down shift to bring all windows of an app forward by clicking anywhere on one of them. It comes in handy and helps me be even more selective with when and how windows move depth-wise. When I remember that I have it there, that is.

Something I have picked up even more is holding down the option key when clicking on a window of another app. This hides the app you just left, and somehow feels much more satisfying than the other ways hiding apps. All that is missing is some satisfying tactile feedback. (I was about to write "statisfying sound", but I generally prefer my operating system to keep quiet.)