OSX, multiple monitors, and mouse issues

This post is more than 2 years old.

I'm just blogging this as I would never have been able to Google this. Luckily I've got a smart (freaky) friend who seems to have a wealth of knowledge for these things.

So yesterday I hooked up my new monitor, a 30 inch LCD from Dell. Yes, 30 inches. Insane. I don't know what I was thinking (tax reduction!) but I'm now staring at a giant screen. My Mac wasn't powerful enough to drive both the 30 and 24 inch, so I kept my old 18 inch Sony to the right.

Everything was hunky dorey but I noticed an odd issue with my mouse. I'd move it to the right, and sometimes it would get stuck. I'd shake it back and forth a few times and then finally it would enter the right monitor.

Turns out the issue was with the placement of my monitors in the display preferences. Check out this screen shot:

Notice that the right monitor, being smaller, doesn't stretch all the way to the top. That means if the mouse is on top of the left monitor, it won't be able to move over. To move my mouse into the secondary monitor, I need to keep it lower. (I actually had the placement on top first, but find this bottom aligned setup easier, and it visually matches what I see in front of me.)

So again - just sharing the tip in hopes it helps someone else in the future. (Quote: When did we go from writing for posterity to writing for Google?)

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Don R posted on 1/30/2008 at 1:33 AM

Ray, I had a similar problem here at work. My right monitor is taller than the left. I was able to adjust their virtual physical relationship ... if THAT makes any sense! ... to match their actual physical relationship. So if my cursor is 'above' my left monitor, I know I need to move it down before heading over there...


Comment 2 by John posted on 1/30/2008 at 2:25 AM

you can completely position either monitors relationship to one another to suit your needs. But if the two monitors are different resolutions, there isn't any setting to "squeeze" the movement of the mouse so moving the mouse between them lines up top and bottom. This is the same on Windows as Mac.

Comment 3 by Alfio Raymond posted on 1/30/2008 at 2:27 AM

Ray, Same here with dual monitor. I'm using 2 dells, 1 widescreen lcd and the other a 17 inch lcd and they are top aligned but along the bottom edge I can't move mouse over til I raise it a little and it'll go onto the widescreen. Love the use of 2 monitors in development.

Comment 4 by shag posted on 1/30/2008 at 2:41 AM

i personally think it's a good problem to have. on my laptop, i've got dual heads in addition to the onboard lcd (17in-15in laptop-17in). i personally like the way it works. i enjoy being able to move the mouse and it stays in alignment with where it was on its adjacent buddy. sure i have a wish list (like being able to go from 17 to 17 above the 15), but i'll take the way it works over any single monitor. being able to have all 3 angled so they stay in my peripheral vision is greate (/-\).

glad to know that this works the same for mac and windows. just one question though... how can you stand to have 2 monitors of different size? my 17's are the same oem, but different models. it gives me the heebeejeebee's knowing one is rounded and the other is squared. you need the 30 inch balanced. i'm sure there's a way.

Comment 5 by Raymond Camden posted on 1/30/2008 at 2:48 AM

My second monitor is exclusively for IM and IRC, so I only glance over it every now and then. Frankly, I really don't even need the 18 even more. The 30 inch is Ridiculous Big. Stupid Big(tm).

Comment 6 by Chris posted on 1/30/2008 at 5:40 AM

Ray, what model did you buy?

Comment 7 by Raymond Camden posted on 1/30/2008 at 6:51 AM

The older 30 inch one:


Comment 8 by ron posted on 1/30/2008 at 8:21 AM

Ray... the key is to match the vertical demension of the two monitors.

I don't know about your mac, but mine allows me to virualy rotate a monitor --- and my dell monitor can be physcally rotated to match. Does that make sense?

I guess the question is ... is the horzontal dimension of your small monitor the same as the vertical dimension of the 30" display, and if so, can the video card rotate the feed to monitor?

Comment 9 by David McGuigan posted on 1/30/2008 at 9:28 AM

You're absolutely right. You don't need the 18" anymore. If anything, having that 18" next to your new Dell is going to offend it. It's going to feel like you don't appreciate it,
or take it for granted. It might even make fun of you to its friends, laughing that it doesn't think you even understand that you have 2560 x 1600 pixels, the highest of any non-specialized consumer monitor on Earth. Monitors are like that. They do that kind of thing.

I worked on multiple monitors for a few years, until I finally realized that rotating my face or even trying to strategically just dart my eyes to the side for a secondary monitor was nowhere near as efficient or fast as using the keyboard to navigate applications on a single monitor.

Just in case there's anyone reading this that DOESN'T know these shortcuts, they just might change your life:

Switch applications: Alt + Tab (hold alt while pressing tab repeatedly to cycle through them, add shift to reverse the order)

Maximize a window: Holt Alt + Space and press X
Minimize: Hold Alt + Space and press N
Toggle to last window size/Restore: Hold Alt + Space and press R

* There is no way to maximize a window or trigger a lot of other fundamental windowing operations (like automatedly tiling or distributing space among various windows) in OS X, sorry mac users.

I just recently decommissioned my secondary monitor at work, after this long-in-the-making epiphany, opting to centralize and consolidate.

At home, I alternate between a 26" (1360 x 768) and a 42" (1920 x 1080). At my office I've just been using my old, trusty Dell 24" (1920 x 1200). My laptop/production environment is an ultraportable Dell m1330 w/ 4GB of RAM (1280 x 800) that I plug into all of these because it makes me feel futuristic. Obviously I'm not married or I'd have real children instead of all of these LCDildren. I just listed a crapload of resolutions because I feel the need to share how exciting it is to go from size/resolution combination to size/resolution combination. Every time I switch to a new 'environment' that's significantly different than the prior I feel like I'm discovering computing for the first time all over again. It can be totally inspirational if you find sitting at the same computer for enormous stretches of time defeating. I LOVE the feel of coming home after a long day's work on the small-texted 24" Dell and jumping onto the huge, comfortable type of my 26" (it doesn't sound like a big difference but resolutions considered it's night and day.

Or better yet, lying back on a couch with a wireless keyboard and mouse and catching up on the latest technology blogs and articles on a 42" monitor.

Every once in a while I crave something even ridiculous-er and stupid-er. So I plug my laptop into a projector which happens to be pointing at a 120" ceiling-mounted screen.

I guess what got me going on this was Ray's mention of his new 30". I've been looking at 30"-ers (because they have higher resolutions than larger screens, even the 60+"-ers) for almost a year now, and from all of the reviews I've read the Dell is supposed to be leaps and bounds better than the comparable Apple cinema. Not to mention better-priced. I hope you'll blog more on the device and how using ultra-high resolutions does or doesn't affect your workflow and productivity and ColdFusion code, as well as any great uses you come up with for ALL OF THOSE PIXELS, and what type of user you would or wouldn't recommend buying one to.

Comment 10 by Jason posted on 1/30/2008 at 9:36 PM

I, too, use a Dell 30" monitor both at my home and at my office. I came from dual 21" monitors running 1600x1200 each and here's why I won't willingly go back:

1. The increase from 1200 to 1600 vertical resolution is fantastic when coding any app.

2. The big black bar in the middle of the viewing between the two monitors isn't that big of a deal until it's gone! Oh yeah!

3. Maximizing a window on a dual monitor system maximizes to 1600. Manually making the window bigger causes a big (insert monitor color here) bar in the middle of your viewing and you'll feel the pains of #2 (err... #2, above, that is). But, maximizing on a 30" uses all glorious two thousand five hundred sixty pixels.

3. The reduction in horizontal resolution from 3200 to 2560 is not very important considering that there is NO BIG BLACK BAR in between and it's far more often that I need 400 additional vertical pixels than any on the right.

4. My laptop still runs 1600x1200 when I pine for the old days.

Oh yeah - buy the ones from the Dell Outlet... They're lots cheaper (bought mine last summer for $1000) and they work great.

And you'll need a good video card. I use the NVidia GeForce 7600.

Comment 11 by Jason posted on 1/30/2008 at 9:40 PM

Ray... dump the 18". It's an odd size anyway.


Comment 12 by Raymond Camden posted on 1/30/2008 at 9:41 PM

One note I wanted to add. Why did I buy Dell instead of Apple? Believe it or not - I absolutely love the USB/card reader support in the monitor. I use it all the time and it's darn handy.

Comment 13 by caroline posted on 4/1/2008 at 6:14 PM

Thank you! That solved a problem I was having with my mouse! :)

Comment 14 by Don Clarke posted on 8/31/2010 at 2:09 AM

oh bless you, what a simple solution, I'd be banging away constantly not realizing it was an alignment issue