Justin's Code Haus
Ramblings of a compiler engineer

2012 and still no multi-monitor lovin'...

For the past week, I've been giving Windows 8 a serious try.  I've dabbled with the various preview versions, but now it's time to try the released version.  I've read the reviews, saw the mixed reactions to the new "Modern UI", and decided to see for myself how I feel about it. Generally speaking, I don't mind the new interface.  My usual method of launching a program was pressing the Win key, typing the first few letters of the application name, and then hitting Enter.  Still works in the Start Screen.  Start Menu vs. Start Screen, it doesn't bother me.  Except for one little detail...

... the complete lack of multi-monitor support in the Modern UI!

Simply put, there can only be one full-screen Modern UI app displayed at a time.  So if I open, say, Mail on one screen and attempt to open Maps on another screen, the screen showing Mail will go back to the desktop.  To make matters worse, the Start Screen counts as a Modern UI app in this regard.  If I have Mail open on one screen and try to open the Start Screen on another screen to launch an application, the screen showing Mail goes back to the desktop and I have to alt+tab back to it.  Talk about a disruption in my workflow!

Did I mention my main desktop is triple-head?  It comes in handy for coding.  All of the Windows 8 reviews I read talk about the pros and cons of the new Modern UI, but I rarely see any reference to the complete lack of multi-monitor support in it.  I'm not sure if this is just a feature oversight, or a more fundamental limitation in the model used for WinRT apps.   Is there a fundamental technical limitation in the operating system that prevents multiple Modern UI apps to be visible at the same time? If the Modern UI is the future, I sure hope they get this fixed ASAP!  For now, it's easy enough to just avoid Modern UI apps altogether, but what happens in the future when I find an app I want to keep open on one of my screens?

Perhaps more disturbing, this is becoming a trend in mainstream operating systems.  While Windows 8 has this limitation for Modern UI apps, full-screen apps in Mac OS X are not really any better.  If I full-screen an application in a multi-monitor configuration, I get that app on one monitor and a pretty background on all others.  I would much rather have the ability to put multiple apps in full-screen mode side-by-side, or perhaps have the option to have a full-screen app next to a desktop workspace on another monitor.  At least I can have multiple workspaces, though.

Perhaps I'm just too adjusted to my Linux multi-monitor configurations...

Posted Tue 06 November 2012 by Justin Holewinski in General (Windows, Desktop)