So in the weird way that my brain is wired, I find myself far better at managing applications when I never shut them down. Unfortunately, this ends up causing my task bar to look like this:
This actually isn't too bad. What you're seeing here is when I opened up one too many applications and the 3 high task bar couldn't handle it and started to scroll. As long as i can keep the number down to an amount that doesn't cause any scrolling, then I find myself to be in an optimal state. All my applications are avilable and are where I last left them. I have a pretty good spacial/temporal memory. So i can usually find the application I was extremely quickly.
I've tried using tools like FireFox's tabbed browsing to help with this, but I've realized that (while I love the browser), I can't stand any application that does it's own window management. Once that happens I suddenly no longer have a two dimensional linear list of tasks to keep track of in my head, but rather a tree of windows that I have to navigate down into to find what i need. Note: with the amount of websites I have open, I easily exceed the number of tabs that FireFox can display. So I end up needing 3 Foxes. Trying to find the right web site then is something much more difficult to me. I need to try and find the right FirFox main window. Then I need to scan the pages in that to see if any is the right one. When I've tried it often takes me several seconds and I get a nice brain belch occur. Tabs also don't play nice with - task switching. I guess that's also part of the problem. I don't consider "web browsing" to be a task. Rather each site up is usually part of a greater task. So I'll have VS open, plus an email from someone about a bug, plus our bug tracking tool, plus a website open with the docs on this feature. I want to be switching between all of those, not betweem some uber app that handles all web browsing for me.
Note: This isn't a slam on tabbed browsing (or firefox). Having the feature certainly doesn't hurt!! And it's quite useful for me in other situations. Just not here :-) Similarly, this is why I hate Taskbar grouping. I can't deal with having to go through levels of indirection to find the thing I want. In this case, the flat representation is actually better for me.
One thing I've started doing is Terminal Servering into the same computer I'm on twice (I run Win2k3 server which allows this), and placing the other sessions on my two other monitors. That gives me a task bar that spreads across all 3 monitors and which gives me a start menu at the lower left of each monitor.
I've tried working with Virtual desktops too, but none has been the kind of seamless experience that I would hope for and I often times find myself confused about where I am and where my apps can be found.
Anyone have any advice on how to better handle window management? :-)
Interesting things to note: the selection of items on the bar show off how I work and what I consider important. First thing up is iTunes (for obvious reasons), then a remote desktop session to my same machine so i can get the second task bar. Then a command prompt (i live a lot in there, yaay SFU). Then at some point I get bored and I open SharpReader. Then, much later, I get really bored (or depressed after seeing all the newly filed community bugs) and I start browsing all sorts of sites. And then, much much later, do I finally realize "hey, maybe I should check my email and see if anything important came up or if there was a meeting I was supposed to go to.
I'll have to pay attention to this in the future to see how different days reflect different behaviors and activities.