Website Development Productivity on a small MacBook

We all love things big. We all love things small. It would be difficult for me to go back to working on a desktop machine, since I work on a MacBook with two external monitors (at home and at work). Luckily my home iMac is new enough to support mini-display if not Thunderbolt. However, once you’ve gotten used to seeing your IDE (Coda for me), your Photoshop mockup, your browser (480px and 960px simultaneously for responsive web design) and Element Inspector all at the same time, it’s difficult to work on an 13″ Macbook. The solution is a mix of built-in options and an $18 third-party application.

Overview of the process:

  • Make all the applications you would like to cycle through full screen except for one (probably Photoshop)
  • Install and buy Total Spaces to enable space wrap around and eliminate transition animation.
  • Assign an easy to access shortcut key to cycle through the spaces/full screen apps such as Cmd + ‘.

Only going “one direction” makes switching between programs a non-thinking task–just stop when you see the app you want.

How I got here: Enter OS-X spaces.

Spaces have been a part of OS-X for a few versions. It’s nice, but you have to remember which space something is in (was Photoshop on Desktop 3 or 4?) and lock it into that space. Also, Spaces out of the box doesn’t wrap around spaces going right from Desktop 3 doesn’t go to Desktop 1.

How I got here: Enter full screen applications.

At first, I thought the iOS-ification of OSX was a bad idea for a power user like me, but as long as it’s an addition and not a forced issue, I’m fine with it. Not to state the obvious, but full screen applications make the most use of your small laptop screen.

How I got here: Enter Total Spaces.

Total Spaces has a lot of Spaces customizations, but the only I like the most is the wrap around of the Spaces unavailable from the built-in Spaces. It also allows you to get rid of the sliding transition between Spaces, so that it’s instant switching. This allows with one hand (unlike the two like the default space toggler, ctrl + right arrow) to switch between applications and not really think about so you can focus on the problem at hand. I recommend a shortcut like Cmd + ‘. This makes it simliar to Cmd+Tab.

I hope this process helps you make the most productive use of your laptop while traveling.

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