Narrow Browsers

Volume 7, Issue 98; 10 Jun 2004; last modified 08 Oct 2010

Tim asks why one might run a browser at less than 800 pixels wide. I expect he actually knows, but just in case: some reasons. [Updated: What about Alt-Tab?]

Tim asks why one might run a browser at less than 800 pixels wide. I expect he actually knows, but just in case:

Desktop 1
Desktop 1

That’s why. I run emacs at 90x70 which leaves a meager 690 pixels or so for the browser. I could squeeze a few more pixels out by dropping my emacs down to 82 columns or so, but I like to give myself a little room where it really counts: in emacs, where I do most of my living.

Edit in the left pane; view issues lists, message archives, etc., in the right. (There are a couple of shell windows below the browser.)

A convenient consequence of this setup is that I can also get a couple of shells next to the browser:

Desktop 2
Desktop 2

I keep four desktops going most of the time: one for “real work,” one for browsing, one for email, and one for everything else. You get work done without virtual desktops? I don’t know how.

In any event, thank you, Tim. The “shift click, maximize window, click, click, restore-window shuffle” became tedious long ago.


Michael Rys points out that Alt-Tab provides a modicum of relief for folks with only a single desktop. And obviously, my window manager can do it. Very nicely, thank you very much.


But I still find multiple desktops cleaner. I don’t just want to bring my mail client to the foreground when I’m reading mail, or my editing window when I’m coding, I want to preserve the whole context.

For what it’s worth, I relied heavily on Perfect Screens when I was running Windows. Paid for itself within hours. Give it a try; you too may wonder how you ever lived with a single desktop.


Well, if Linux/Solaris would have ALT-TAB :-)

—Posted by Michael Rys on 10 Jun 2004 @ 09:34 UTC #

Of course I've got Alt+Tab. Hmmm. A superior Alt+Tab, in fact. I'll update the post to include a screen shot, just to prove it :-)

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 10 Jun 2004 @ 09:37 UTC #

This is a little off-topic, but tangents are in my nature. ;-)

I've only used Linux - Fedora Core 1 - for about six months and thus haven't grown up on EMACS. I set out with a philosophy of extreme patience and careful reading of the fine manual, which has served me well while being introduced to the operating system.

Despite my methodology, EMACS was still too bewildering to learn even in its native habitat. The entire interface (from keyboard shortcuts to menu commands) was just too different compared with most other program conventions. Even stranger, the UI in X was graphical, while the main section of the window widget remained with text interface. That simple makes no sense. The chimera was just too unintuitive!

How do you cope with EMACS? It seems to have been designed by a lunatic! What is the best way to learn to use the text editor?

—Posted by Jim Cerra on 11 Jun 2004 @ 04:22 UTC #

There's also the option of switching to ratpoison ( It's a great window manager for setups like the ones you seem to have.

—Posted by Nikolai Weibull on 11 Jun 2004 @ 11:29 UTC #