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Divide and Conquer Your Screen with Divvy

Photograph of windows on a building

Since moving to a Mac about four years ago, I’ve often thought about the differences between the interface on it and a Windows machine. Perhaps the most telling difference was the way I viewed different applications. In Windows, I tended to maximize every application, viewing it on a full screen. On a Mac, however, it’s actually quite difficult to maximize a single window, leading to a proliferation of overlapping windows on a desktop. I don’t actually mind that, but what I do mind is the difficulty in arranging all of these windows to get them positioned optimally for me to do my work. (It’s not all that hard to do this in Windows 7 with its Snap feature.)

Last spring, George covered BetterSnapTool, a way for Mac users to manage their different windows. In a comment to George’s post, “bdesham” suggested another option for accomplishing the same thing: Divvy. As I read about Divvy, I was struck by the extra options it offered, and a couple of weeks ago I finally got the chance to start experimenting with the tool. (Disclaimer: I was provided with a free review copy of Divvy by the developers.)

Divvy subdivides your screen into a grid. Resizing a window with Divvy is as simple as clicking on the tool’s icon and then clicking and dragging across this grid. Your window is then resized and moved to the region that you selected. Does that sound confusing? Just watch the first 45 seconds of this video.

Divvy by Mizage – Screencast from Mizage on Vimeo.

Divvy gets even better when you start using its keyboard shortcuts. (If you love speeding up your work, don’t forget that you can create keyboard shortcuts for ANYTHING on your computer and that Google tools have pretty great shortcuts too.) You can assign a global shortcut to invoke the Divvy interface, thereby saving yourself a click on the tool. And then for another turn of the screw, you can start defining portions of your screen and assigning shortcuts to each of these predefined areas. For instance, I find that I like to write on two thirds of my screen and have research notes on the other third. To quickly arrange the windows, I select the application, hit my Divvy shortcut (Command-Shift-Space, in my case) and then hit the shortcut for two thirds (“2″, in my case). I then repeat the process for the other application, using my one third shortcut (“1″). A few seconds, and I’m ready to roll. I’ve defined shortcuts for the full screen, for just the middle of the screen (where I like to plop my web browser), and I’m sure to be creating more in the coming weeks.

My only complaint with how Divvy works out of the box is that I found the predefined regions of my screen didn’t correspond to how I wanted the windows to fit. It seemed like I was forced to have a window that was either too narrow or too wide. I was left wanting the “just right” option. Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to increase the number of rows or columns in Divvy’s grid. Since moving from a 6×6 grid to one with 10×10 on my laptop, my windows hit the sweet spot. So if you’re experimenting with Divvy (they offer a free trial of the tool) and it doesn’t seem to fit, try increasing these numbers.

I’m pretty sold on Divvy. It’s helping me manage the different windows I need to do my work, which saves me time and aggravation. And hey, there’s even a version for Windows! The only thing that gives me pause is the price; $14 seems steep to me for something that Apple should have built into its OS. But if you’re looking to manage your screen, you’d be hard pressed to find a more elegant solution.

Have you used Divvy or another strategy or tool for managing the windows on your desktop? Let us know in the comments!

Lead photo: Windows MT / Jeffrey Johnson / CC BY-SA 2.0

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