Paperless working can result in very cluttered screens with windows upon windows upon windows, and you can spend a lot of time trying to find the particular window you want. It is no surprise then, that people say to be truly productive with paperless working requires a second screen. For these purposes I am not counting the iPad/tablet screen.

I am a big advocate of multiple screens. I have one additional screen at home and another in Chambers (in fact I have two additional screens in my chambers set up), and it certainly helps Marshall all the material you need at anyone time. But it really is not necessary, and you can simulate the effect of multiple screens by using virtual desktops, or by dividing your laptop screen into separate sections with each section being a different window. I have recorded a short video on this topic that demonstrates the screen division and virtual desktops.

Multiple Screens

Simply connect an HDMI cable or DisplayPort cable to your laptop, connect the other end to a monitor and, if everything is working, you have a second screen.

The screens can be set up into “mirror” or “extended” modes: mirror simply repeats what’s on your laptops screen (useful if you want a larger version of what’s already on your laptop screen) whereas extended mode, as the name indicates, extends your desktop onto that second screen, and is independent of it, so you can drag and drop items off your laptop screen onto the second screen…it is a wholly separate display from your laptop’s screen.

At home, I have an iBesi 11 in 1 usb hub which allows for my power cable, second screen, phone, headphones and Bluetooth headset to be connected to my laptop and charing using only one port not the laptop itself. Whilst it also charges the laptop, it is fair to say that the charge rate is not as quick as it would have been had these other peripherals not been connected to the laptop, and it could not also charge my iPad when it was added to the hub.

There are various ways to run two monitors in extended mode off a single laptop. For my set up in chambers I use the CalDigits TS3 dock, available from Amazon and used CalDigit’s video to set up my system, again because it enables all peripherals to be connected to the laptop by only one cable, and powers the laptop and peripherals from one central hub..

There are various ways to run two monitors in extended mode off a single laptop. For my set up in chambers I use the CalDigits TS3 dock, available from Amazon and used CalDigit’s video to set up my system, again because it enables all peripherals to be connected to the laptop by only one cable, and powers the laptop and peripherals from one central hub..

Since macOS Catalina you can use an iOS device, such as an iPad, as an extended workspace second screen using the Sidecar app. Pre-Catalina OS’s can use the Duet app or from the iOS App Store.

Screen Division

The second way to have multiple workspaces on the go at once is to use a proem like Magnets to easily dive your screen into separate sections. Magnets has 13 different positions and sizes for each window and can, at the press of the button, reposition your selected window. it costs £2.99.

This results in an easily readable layout and certainly helps when using a laptop away from home/Chambers.

I use this set up when in court and have my preparation in the bottom half of the screen as my preparation template is in landscape layout in word, my note of evidence in the top left and a copy of the bundle in the top right. this lets me fill out the note of evidence as the matter progresses; conduct searches of the bundle for key words that arise as the hearing progresses, and always know where I am in my presentation of the case. The image below is of my set up on a 16″ MacBook Pro.

An image of a screen divided using Magnets

Virtual Desktops

These are separate desktops set up on your laptop. On these you can place different files, folders, programs and which you can only interact with when that desktop is on screen. Do do this does not require any additional hardware: no second monitors, no cables, no docks and no additional software or apps.

To access the virtual desktops on a MacOS system use “Mission Control” by:

  • open “Launchpad” using the either rocket icon in the dock, or the key on the keyboard with six square above 4 (see image below) and then use the “Mission Control” icon; or
  • use the keyboard button for Mission Control. this is the one above the number 3 with three oblongs on it (see image above); or
  • drag the file you wish to create a virtual desktop for to the top of the screen…

…and then drop the file you want a separate desktop for onto the “+” icon at the side of the screen.

Once the virtual desktop is set up you can access it simply by:

  • pressing the ctrl + right arrow/left arrow; or
  • swiping left or right on your trackpad/mouse; or
  • pressing the mission control button and selecting your desktop.

as and when you want a desktop, just access it, and there you are you can access the file. If you are using screen dividing software then each desktop can be divided any way you want, e.g.: 1 desktop can be divided into quarters, another into thirds and the other how you like.

I have also demonstrated this on the video here.

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