How I created a portable work setup

A small and portable setup with screen space for most tasks

Gautham Dinesh
4 min readAug 2, 2020

If your global pandemic experience is in any way similar to mine then your productivity must have hit the floor.

I cannot work in my dorm room for extended periods. Sitting in a confined space for extended periods, especially when my bed is 2 steps away from my desk, is a recipe for disaster when you have tasks to do for the day.

I am doing a lot of learning and coding in my room to make the most of my summer before classes start and I would have to attend boring lectures. But it is hard to do so in the current situation when it is easy to start binging on a show and a week has gone by with no work done.

So I came up with a solution…

Although the library on my university campus is closed, there is a working space right outside with a couple of desks and chairs. There are also usually a couple of students working there and I figured this would finally get me to be productive. Watching other people work gives me a drive to also focus on what I am doing and stop getting distracted.

So I woke up as early as I could (which was 9 AM), packed my laptop, and settled down outside the library on an empty desk. The moment I sat down, it was instant regret when I realized I had lost all of my screen real estate. There was not enough space for me to cram my terminal, browser windows, and Spotify.

So to give a bit of a context, in my dorm room, I have a 24-inch monitor, my 13-inch Macbook Pro, and my 10.5-inch iPad Air. That’s technically 3 three screens if I want it to be but I mostly just use my Macbook and monitor. On a normal day, I would go into the library and plug in my laptop to one of the monitors and this would replicate what I have in my room.

When I am coding, I usually have my terminal and a browser window in split-screen on my monitor whilst any documentation, Stackoverflow, or tutorial videos are displayed on my laptop. This creates a great coding experience with a lot of screen space for practically anything. And just to make it fancier I have Spotify or Discord on my iPad just running in the background to steal some of my time.

So I needed to figure out something else.

Solution (Improved)

I definitely could not carry my monitor to my workspace but I had my laptop and my iPad which could technically function as a screen for my Macbook because of the magic of the Apple ecosystem and continuity features.

I also started using Vim as my code editor about a month ago and it has improved my efficiency by leaps and bounds. I no longer need to have a window for my Finder, one for VSCode or Sublime, and then my browser takes up a lot of space.

By using some very awesome plugins I can easily browse files on my terminal or in vim and by using tmux I can open multiple sessions and split my window easily.

How I set up my screens

Let’s say I am learning React, I need to have at a minimum 2 browser tabs, my code editor, and whatever files/directories I am working on open.

So on my laptop, I have my React rendering window, in split-screen with whatever tutorial I am watching on React. On the right of this, I have my iPad which is using Sidecar to extend my display. On this, I have my terminal window with Vim and tmux running. I will be writing another post on how I use Vim and terminal to navigate so that I never need to use my mouse.

And since I hate typing on my Macbook keyboard, I carry my 60% Anne Pro 2 which works wirelessly and is small enough to have a better typing experience. And just if I need to use the mouse, I have the Logitech MX Master 2S which also works wirelessly.

This is what my setup looks like on most days.

13 inch Macbook pro with 10.5 inch iPad Air, Anne Pro 2, Logitech MX Master 2S, book, pen, wallet and Jabra Elite 75t case
The photo was taken by me on Galaxy Note 8


And that’s about it for my portable setup. If you have any questions please ask me in the comments and I will be writing more posts on things that I am learning and using to improve my workflow.

Thanks for reading.