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As the title suggests, what is a good shape of a table when doing pair programming ? Are there shapes that should be avoided? What are the reasons a certain shape is good or bad?

(I do have my own thoughts on this, but would like not to bias the discussion with that input just yet)

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Pair programmers usually sit next to each other, don't they? – Tom Wijsman Sep 30 '10 at 17:13
@TomWij: that is sort of included in the concept, yes. Thet table still needs a shape, though ;) – Fredrik Mörk Sep 30 '10 at 17:14
If they sit next to each other behind paper/computer(s), why does table shape still matter? – Tom Wijsman Sep 30 '10 at 17:17
@TomWij: I could for instance imagine that an angled table would be less optimal, since it could be hard for both to work well with the computer. There may be any number of reasons I don't think of that could make a table more or less suited for the task. – Fredrik Mörk Sep 30 '10 at 17:25
When my company was still a startup, we would make desks out of 2 filing cabinets and a cheap but solid door from Office Depot. Cheap desk space for 2 people at once. – fennec Oct 1 '10 at 1:08

8 Answers 8

up vote 8 down vote accepted


That's the most important, I think. Implied of course that it's also level.


Or at least having one straight side, long enough so that you can sit two persons side by side.

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+1 for the obvious answer. Pair programmers sit next to each other and a flat side for both to sit next to each other is aside from obvious, optimal for each to work with each other on either computer and not move much (compared to the L shape). – Chris Sep 30 '10 at 18:18

We pair on semi-circular desks (at the end of rows of rectangular desks). This lets you both comfortably sit at the desk still facing directly at the screen. I struggle to think of anything better.

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Long table or an L shaped desk (possibly several of them connected).

This has nothing to do with "everyone sitting there having equal status", but purely practical reasons. An oval/round desk has terrible space efficiency (actually used work space vs. total area for the desk to be placed + chairs) - even worse if it is hollow" in the middle, and is very difficult to place it in most modern offices.

Programmers status is usually not determined by his place by the table, in any case.

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The only time I did pair programming was in college and we had trapezoidal tables with monitors mounted on very long arms which we could swing around.

       / |
      |  |
     y|+ |
    x |  |
  /---\  |
 /  +  \ |

x = me y = you + = our 30 inch monitors on a 4 foot swivel arm.

Something like that, except they weren't joined at 90 degree angles, more like 66 so you'd get more elbow room.

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I find this to be non-optimal for pair programming. One user always has to turn to work with the other. – Chris Sep 30 '10 at 18:17
Chances are you would be sitting next to each other 90% of the time anyway. One programmer has got the code up, the other programmer is asking why the code's not working on SO. – Peter Turner Sep 30 '10 at 18:37

Big Rectangular table where by a dozen (or as far as possibly the entire team sits closely) can be seated is the best choice. In our workplaces, usually a 12 seater table will be occupied by 1/2/3 team(s) based on their sizes. It does a great deal of magic for people to become social animals leaving their ego behind and focus on the quality and quantity of work they deliver.

Another advantage being, when in doubt, we turn around the big pairing monitor to the subject (PM/BA/QA/Dev.) seeking his/her opinion/clarification. It helps, really! Happy working together as a team :)

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Any flat table would do. Get the chair higher for the person looking over the shoulders. Yes we are using it that way at our firm.

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Popular Dining Table concept.

A rectangular table with Wheels, many table can be joined to each other and having wheels on it helps to reshape/re-arrange as and when want.

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"The Round Table is King Arthur's famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his Knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status."


by the way I'm not being serious.

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good a reason as any I guess – WalterJ89 Sep 30 '10 at 17:19
-1. Round tables are terrible unless you're meeting with people who all need to face each other, like when eating. Working with less then a full capacity leads to having to shift around the table constantly. – Josh K Sep 30 '10 at 17:48
wow people way to take a joke – WalterJ89 Sep 30 '10 at 21:59

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