Visual Studio on an ultra-wide monitor

Mads K

A growing number of Visual Studio customers use ultra-wide monitors today. Ultra-wide means wider than a traditional 16:9 widescreen display – usually 3440×1440 or larger resolution. They seem to be gaining popularity among developers and I’m curious how Visual Studio can use all this extra space. So, I asked people on Twitter to send me screenshots of their ultra-wide Visual Studio layouts. Based on those screenshots, I constructed some different layouts that you might find inspiration in for your own ultra-wide setup.

1. Making room for the app

Image clean third

This layout has Visual Studio take up two thirds of the width to the left and the app worked on to the right – in this case an ASP.NET website running in the browser. The vertical tabs give room for extra lines of code and allow plenty of room for documents. Notice how the Error List and Output Window are docked side-by-side at the bottom.

2. Documents in the middle

Image full width

Sometimes you need a lot of tool windows visible during development. This layout places tool windows on both sides of the documents and at the bottom. Still, there’s enough room for two vertical tab groups, so you can have two documents visible simultaneously. Vertical tabs give extra lines of code without compromising the size of the open documents. Some might find all these windows too busy, but I think having all that information visible is a fantastic use of space.

3. Everything in columns

 

Image vertical tool windows

By moving the bottom tool windows to the right there is now plenty of room for two side-by-side documents at full height. This feels clean and comfortable to me. The code is in the center with the supporting tool windows to each side.

4. Distraction free combination

 

Image full screen

This is using layout #2 or #3 as the base and then entering Visual Studio’s full screen mode by hitting Shift+Alt+Enter. That hides all tool windows and toolbars and maximizes the main window, so you can focus on coding. However, you’d probably want Solution Explorer visible too, so show it while in full screen mode by clicking View -> Solution Explorer.

Saved Window Layouts

You can easily switch between various layouts using the Saved Window Layouts feature in Visual Studio. That allows you to save the different layouts and apply them whenever you want. This is helpful when undocking your laptop, or to optimize the layout based on the type of solution you’re working on.

Additional resources

To dive deeper into window management with Windows 11, check out Microsoft PowerToys for Windows. It has a feature called FancyZones that adds extra capabilities to arrange your windows. For an easy way to open files into a new vertical tab group, install the free Tweaks (VS2019, VS2022) extensions for Visual Studio. It provides a command in the context menu of Solution Explorer called Open on the Side.

There’s an open feature request for making vertical/horizontal tab layout save with window layouts. If that’s something you are interested in, please vote and comment on it.

How do you optimize Visual Studio for your ultra-wide monitor? How can we make the experience better? Let us know in the comments below.

14 comments

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  • Michael Taylor

    Ultrawide is good and all but it still cannot compete against multiple monitors. I have a 3 monitor system and VS sits on one monitor full screen and the app I’m debugging loads up on another monitor. I can’t help but think that first layout with them side by side requires the dev to drag the window each time they start debugging because Windows isn’t going to keep it there.

    I also think having the most real estate for the code is important so I don’t understand why people have all the tool windows on the screen at the same time. Do you really need the Error List window while you’re writing code? The editor already shows you the errors inline. This window is useful during compilation. Solution Explorer is the only window that might, to me, make sense being open a lot. Personally I have all the tool windows I need auto-hide. This is so much faster than having to show/hide the windows. The maximal screen is for the code and the windows pop out on demand as I need them. Of course when debugging there is a completely separate list of windows that are needed. So I use a different window layout in debug mode (which VS already supports).

    Ultimately ultrawide might sound cool but I think it is not as useful as multiple monitors given the less screen real estate and inability to “maximize” within a monitor. Now if Windows ever supports subdividing a single monitor into submonitors then that would change things.

  • John B

    Vertical scroll space is what I miss on 16:9. Moving bottom-docked panels to their own columns looks like it frees that up nicely on ultra wide.

  • Simon

    I am happy with the various layouts I can create for VS, but the the lack of a drop down list of existing named layouts for saving an update to an existing layout is a pain!

    There should also be a way to set whether a layout should be used as the default for editing, debugging and any other states modes VS currently supports (used to be 4 layouts but not sure if that changed)

    These may seem minor but having had these in other IDEs I’ve got used to having multiple layouts for various types of project and being able to switch/update easily. I’ve got 6 monitors (3 x 32″ & 3 x 27″ all 4K) and have tried 43″ so lack of space isn’t driving this need, just optimising layouts for different project types.

  • Matteo Bagattini

    Here just to represent the 1 screen gang. It may depend on what type of development you’re doing (I’m pretty sure I would love more screens if I was developing for the web), but I’m ok with one single wide screen; I’ve used more in the past, I know the benefits, but I’m more focused with a single one.

    My go-to layout is 3, usually with a single document column, sometimes with two, with a large right column for stack trace/errors/tests/find results etc.

    Just noticed the vertical tab groups, I’m gonna try this and see if it works for me!

  • Adrian Sims

    We need better support in Windows itself for this. Windows should have a setting so you can split your monitor into two zones and it should behave EXACTLY as if there were two physical monitors. I know Windows 11 supports different “snaps” on the maximize button (which is a great new feature), but it’s still not quite at the level where one wide monitor can replace two. For starters, you should be able to choose a different kind of snap as default for the maximize button (you could choose a number of zones for your single wide screen monitor and maximize could behave accordingly). Also we could have slightly better shortcut key support following Win-Z (e.g. you could assign a number to your favourite layout so that Win-Z 0 would move the Window to the left half). I know you can do this with arrow keys, but it’s not quite as convenient.

    Also, a crucial question about Visual Studio (and please correct me if I am missing something here): I love ALT-numpad-1 to quickly split the view of a single file horizontally, but where is the same feature for a vertical split (of the same file)? I don’t want to go through difficult keyboard gymnastics into order to achieve this. I want a single keystroke. I have always found the lack of ability to split the same file rather frustrating in Visual Studio: Brief had this feature more than 30 years ago!! 🙂

    P.S. I come from the school of “use the keyboard if you can; use the mouse if you have to” 🙂

  • John Mowat

    Thank you so much for the tip-off about FancyZones!! I’ve been searching for 3rd party utilities to help with frequently snapping windows among several arrangements, and none have stuck. FancyZones is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

  • Bent Tranberg

    Why just ultrawide? I have large curved 4K screens on all my stationaries, and I appreciate the ultraheightness more than the ultrawideness. I want to see as much of the documents as possible. The 4K monitors I have – 43″ and 55″ – are not equivalent to two typical monitors as most people think on first encounter, but four typical monitors – in physical size as well as pixel size.

    There are now 8K screens if 4K isn’t enough. The problem is that nobody makes any curved 8K. Even a 4K (or wide) is annoying if not curved.

    Unfortunately it seems nobody produced large curved 4K screens any more. Two of my screens are Philips 43″ curved 4K, and one is a Samsung 55″ curved TV.

    If there was ceiling to floor monitors, I’d buy. No, actually, large square monitors would be the optimum. Then there’d be no need to tilt the monitors.

    I have no fixed layout, but usually have VS on around half the screen, on the right, so applications debugged can appear on the left. I use AquaSnap to ease drag and placement.