When 2560×1440 just isn’t enough

March 31, 2015 Nader Ziada

As part of the Cloud Foundry team, we’ve been working on building stemcells as part of the BOSH project, adding CentOS 7 and RHEL 7 targets. During our work, we found it efficient to run builds of several stemcells in parallel. But this came with a downside: we found ourselves juggling a lot of terminal windows. More, in fact, than we could fit on a single desktop!

At Pivotal Labs, pairs have one 27 inch iMac with another 27 inch monitor with each engineer using a separate keyboard and mouse. The displays run in mirror mode, so both people see the same thing at the same time.

As the number of windows grew, we didn’t have enough space on our mirrored 27” 2560×1440 displays. We found the terminal windows were starting to overlap, and we were having to shuffle them around. It became hard to remember what was where.

So we decided it was time to add a third display to the mix. But how to squeeze in another display when there are already two 27-inchers on the desk?

Here’s what we came up with:

image1 (1)

There were a couple of technical hurdles we ran into that are worth mentioning:

On OS X, how do you set up some displays for mirroring and others for an extended desktop?

It turns out this is really easy when you know how, but there are no hints that the functionality even exists when you look at the Display Preferences GUI itself!

In System Preferences → Displays → Arrangement, if you hold down the Option key and drag one display onto another, those two displays will be mirrored.

If you want to rotate one of your displays as we did, you need to apply your display rotations before you do the Option-drag thing, because rotating a display undoes the partial mirroring setup.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 10.51.05 AM

On OS X, when you mirror some displays and extend the desktop with others, the pointer doesn’t move between [some of] them properly

If you’re sitting on the left, you want the pointer to go off the right-hand side of your display onto the left-hand side of the shared display in the middle. But your pair who’s sitting on the right wants the pointer to go off the left hand side of their display onto the right-hand side of the shared display in the middle. As you can see from the screenshot above, the pointer will move between displays as expected only for the person sitting in front of the right-hand display.

The perfect solution to this problem is a free utility called Wraparound. When your pointer hits the edge of the desktop, Wraparound transports it, Pac-Man style, to the opposite side. Taking into account OS X’s idea of the layout of the virtual desktop, Wraparound has exactly the configuration options we need to ensure the wrapping feels natural to both people in the pair:

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 10.52.44 AMThe blurry edges in the screenshot above are the ones that will wrap around.

And here’s the final product, with the pointer gliding across all “three” screens with ease:


Happy pairing,

Jonathan Fuerth (jfuerth) and Nader Ziada (nziada)


About the Author


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