Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free.

Guess I'm not the only one here coding on laptop + external keyboard + external screen.

I can't really decide.

Figure 1: Putting screen directly in front of (upright) my eyes and move laptop to the side. That feels like more comfortable but I can't really see so good to 15" laptop which is now quite away. Feels unused.

Figure 2: Putting laptop in front of me and move external monitor on side. Feels like more efficient space usage, but I am afraid that my neck/back might start hurting since I need to turn my head often.

What do you prefer? Some good advice? Sacrificing health is definitely no option here so that's why I'm worried and asking this silly question. Thanks

share|improve this question

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, durron597, MichaelT, Snowman, Kilian Foth Jun 29 at 10:40

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about ergonomics. –  Kilian Foth Jun 29 at 10:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

With an external keyboard as well, I put the monitor up on a monitor arm so it sits above the laptop screen.

Monitor above laptop

I put IDE on the main monitor and reference material or whatever on the laptop screen, such that most of the time I'm looking roughly straight ahead, only looking down somewhat now and then.

Works great for me, much better than any side-by-side setup because I find that I have much more neck/back strain looking off to the side for a semi-extended period than I do by looking slightly down.

share|improve this answer
Good idea - now why didn't I think of that? –  ChrisF Feb 26 '11 at 20:30
I have 15.4" laptop and 22" screen, doesn't seem to work for me, what sizes do you have? –  Xorty Feb 26 '11 at 21:08
Okay so I put my subwoofer under external screen :D seems pretty cool now :) –  Xorty Feb 26 '11 at 22:49
@Xorty I have an old-school monitor arm with adjustable height so I was able to put it at just the right place such that the 15" laptop and the 27" monitor, both wide-screen, look almost exactly like the diagram I made. Glad you got it to work with your subwoofer, good idea. –  Matthew Frederick Feb 27 '11 at 3:06

Buy yourself a laptop stand, keyboard and mouse. I use this keyboard stand from this manufacturer , and I love it. If I have to work longer than 10 minutes I set it up and start to work.

Put the laptop in the stand, besides the screen and go sit in the middle with your new keyboard and mouse.

IMHO any other setting for a longer period of time will give you a sore neck.

Hope this helps.

share|improve this answer
I second this. I've been working with a similar set up (Dell D-View stand) for more than a year, and I wouldn't go back. –  Adrian Cox Feb 26 '11 at 19:51

Result from a lot of experimentation.....

My main screen is 19", my laptop 13" (widescreen). The laptop has finer pixels than the main screen so the main screen works best for me at about twice the distance that the small screen works best at. Putting the laptop to the left of the main screen, closer to me, at 45 degrees rather than in a straight line with the main screen and sitting 3/4 facing the main screen worked best, of the 2-screen combinations I tried.

But after trying lots of combinations I found that best of all was to blank and not use the laptop screen!

share|improve this answer

Fundamentally do what you feel most comfortable with, but I think you should put the keyboard directly in front of you and the laptop and external monitor either side of your direct line of sight.

This will minimize the amount you need to turn to view each screen.

If you find you are using one screen a lot more than the other (the one with your IDE on for example) then put that one directly in front of you and the secondary one off to one side.

share|improve this answer
Ye I have my IDE on big screen and on laptop I have .. stuff like browser, console etc ... –  Xorty Feb 26 '11 at 17:35

Use your big display only and put the laptop aside.

I find it better to have just one area of focus.

share|improve this answer

When coding on my laptop with an external screen+keyboard I set things up so that the code window fills the external monitor and a couple of windows docked window at the bottom (I'm using Visual Studio btw). I then keep all the other IDE windows undocked and positioned on the laptop screen which is off to one side. If I'm doing web work the browser will also be on the laptop screen. The keyboard is positioned directly facing the external monitor and the laptop is off to one side. I find this makes the most of both screens without forcing me to glance between them all the time.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.