Update: Be sure to also watch this video which features two additional tips for maximizing screen real estate on the 11-inch MacBook Air.
Setting up my new 11-inch MacBook Air today, I wondered what I could do to maximize the screen real estate. Not that the Air’s screen is too small for any serious work, but when the number of pixels you can use is fairly limited you start to think about adding a couple of them and, for the screen of the 11-inch Air, especially in the vertical.
There are a couple of ways you can increase the number of vertical pixels you have available for applications or the Finder. Here’s a run-down of the modifications I applied to my Air’s Snow Leopard installation.
One of the biggest wastes of vertical screen real estate in a world where 16:9 or 16:10 screen aspect ratios are the standard is the Dock. The Dock takes up a considerable amount of space at the bottom of your screen but, fortunately, there are multiple ways to compress it to a more desirable size.
The first thing you can do is reduce the Dock’s size. The easiest way to do this is by clicking and dragging the vertical dotted (or dashed) line downwards. When you hover your mouse pointer over this line, it turns into a horizontal line with an arrow above and below it. Simply drag your mouse down while holding the left mouse button to reduce the Dock’s size.
The next thing you can do is move the Dock from the bottom of the screen to one of the sides. Vertical space is in short supply especially on the 11-inch MacBook Air, so it doesn’t make much sense wasting it on something that isn’t essential to your daily work. Right-click (or Ctrl-click) the Dock in the dotted-line area and select Position on Screen->Left or Right from the popup menu.
Hide the Dock
Finally, you might feel that the Dock is sitting there most of the time without really adding much to your overall productivity. In fact, it can even be quite distracting when you see those badges popping up on application icons, notifying you that you’ve got new email or instant messages. So you might want to hide the Dock altogether, while still being able to easily access it when you really do need it. Easy! Again, right-click on the dotted-line area of the Dock and select Turn Hiding On from the popup menu. This will cause the Dock to automatically hide off-screen whenever your mouse pointer isn’t hovering over it. The moment you move your mouse pointer to the edge of the screen the Dock is hiding on, it pops right back up again.
Text sizes in Finder
When you’re navigating long lists of files in Finder, you can increase the number of files and folders you see on screen at once by reducing the size of the text finder uses to display file or folder names. The default setting for text size is 12. I reduced that setting to 11 and, despite the fact that my eyes have (sorry, bad pun) seen better days, that size is still large enough for me while increasing the number of files being visible by a couple.
You can set the text size Finder uses by selecting View->Show View Options from Finder’s menu (or by pressing Cmd-J). You need to set the text size for each of Finder’s view modes – icon, list and column view – seperately. Also, when setting the size for icon and list view, you should click Use as Defaults so the text size applies to all folders instead of just the one you’re currently viewing.
Application toolbars in Mac OS X can take up quite a lot of vertical space. But you can reduce their size pretty easily. Right-click (or Ctrl-click) in any empty area of an application’s toolbar and select Icon Only from the popup menu. You can also select Text Only, which saves even more vertical space, but takes up quite a bit of horizontal space, so this setting only really works if you don’t have too many icons in the toolbar.
If you have really, really many icons in a toolbar, you can additionally select Use Small SIze from the popup menu to reduce the icon and text size even more. But this only reduces the horizontal amount of space the toolbar uses, not the precious vertical space.
If you think the 11-inch MacBook Air has a too-small screen, think again. As you can see there are several things you can do to increase the amount of vertical space you have available to you with some simple tweaks.
And, in case you’re wondering, this post was written on an 11-inch Air using the fantastic Scrivener. While you’d think that especially a writing application would benefit from a screen with lots of vertical space, I like to use Scrivener with the Binder and the Inspector open, which uses quite an amount of horizontal screen real estate. But with the 16:9 aspect ratio of the 11-inch MacBook Air, there’s plenty of it available. As for vertical space, what the Air provides is just enough to be usable while at the same time increasing your ability to focus on the couple of paragraphs you’re currently working on.
In any case, you can’t really have too much screen real estate. So use these tips to maximize your productivity on the truly tiny 11-inch MacBook Air and add your own tips in the comments.
- Using an 11-inch MacBook Air as your only computer
- 11-inch MacBook Air first impressions
- Marco Arment on the new MacBook Air
- MacBook Air sans backlit keyboard
- The MacBook Air’s spot in the Lineup