Two months ago, about five years after becoming an ardent proselytizer for the Church of the Second Display, I turned off the extra screen on my desktop computer. At first, the smaller workspace felt punishingly cramped. But after a few days of adjusting to the new setup, an unusual serenity invaded my normally harried workday. With a single screen that couldn’t accommodate too many simultaneous stimuli, a screen just large enough for a single word processor or browser window, I found something increasingly elusive in our multi-screen world: focus.
It’s hard for me to disagree with his logic—when I reevaluated my home setup a few months ago, I opted to go with only my MacBook Pro’s display and use OS X’s full-screen apps and Spaces. At work, I’m still using dual monitors, but one often is often dedicated to media, Mail, another web browser, or a virtual machine—things where a single display would still be usable. I could see exceptions, where the extra screen real-estate is necessary for certain tasks (like video or audio production).