tips : which affordable display is best for working from home with a MacBook Pro ?

Question :

I need to work from home and I am looking for an affordable display to hook up to my MacBook Pro, to make my work a little easier.

Do you have any recommendations ?

 

Answer :

When buying an external display and having only a few hundred euros of budget*, look at these specs mainly, and decide which order of priority they have in your specific case :

*= this is for people who do not have a budget of €500 or more

  1. HDMI or DisplayPort :
    • what ports does your MacBook (Air/Pro) have ?
      • if it has USB-C (or Thunderbolt 3) only, get a display with HDMI-input and get a USB-C-to-HDMI-cable that can handle 4K@60Hz
      • if it has a miniDisplayPort (or Thunderbolt 1 or 2) and regular sized USB-ports, get a display with DisplayPort(v1.2)-input and a get a miniDisplayPort-to-DisplayPort-cable
  2. number of pixels (is preferrred over screen size) :
    • in any home office or home schooling situation, you will not be more than 60cm away from your screen (note : the front of the screen will be about 10cm in front of the wall, because of the display stand) : so there’s no need for a huge screen :
      • when you are about 40cm from your screen, go for a 21″ to 24″ display
      • when you are about 50cm from your screen, go for a 24″ to 27″ display
    • any display with 1920×1080 (1K/HD) pixels or more will do just fine
      • 1920×1080 looks great on 21″ or 24″ 16:9 screen
      • but 1920×1080 looks fuzzy on a 27″ 16:9 screen
      • 2560×1080 looks okay on a 27″ wide screen
      • but 2560×1440 looks great on a 24″ 16:9 screen
  3. IPS display :
    • for home office work or home schooling, get an IPS display – it has better color representation and is easier on the eyes when using it for extended periods (hours and hours of continuous working)
    • for gaming, you might consider getting some other type of display, like TN, that enables you to get higher refresh rates for a tighter budget, but you shouldn’t use those for anything other than gaming
  4. refresh rate :
    • for home office work, a refresh rate of 5ms @60Hz is perfect
    • for gaming, get as close to 1ms @144Hz as your budget can afford (3ms @100Hz or 2ms @75Hz is okay for budget gaming)
  5. adjustable height (and orientation) :
    • because of ergonomics, it is important that you adjust the height to make sure top of the display is at the same height as your eyes when sitting straight up
    • because light reflection on the screen will be extremely annoying, make sure the display has the option to slightly tilt
    • only if you are working on a lot of text documents you will benefit from the option to twist the display’s orientation from landscape (regular) to portrait mode
  6. integrated multi-port USB3-hub :
    • this is an essential ! make sure that there is a USB-multipier in the display and that it’s USB3.0 or USB3.1 based
      • since there aren’t many USB-ports on your MacBook (Air/Pro), you will need extra USB-ports (especially if you have a USB-C MacBook (Air/Pro), since you will need one USB-C port to connect the screen)
      • a USB-port on your screen will enable you to connect a USB3-to-GigabitEthernet-adapter which will outperform your WiFi connection, and your MacBook (Air/Pro) will instantaneously be connected to fast wired internet the moment you connect it to your display
    • 2 extra USB-ports on the Display is the bear minimum : you should prefer 4 or more USB-ports, so you can connect these if you need to :
      • a USB-mouse
      • a USB-keyboard
      • a USB-to-Ethernet adapter (preferably USB3-to-GigabitEthernet)
      • a USB-printer
      • a USB-scanner
      • a USB-flashcardreader (for photo camera memory cards)
      • a USB-to-TV adapter (e.g. an EyeTV stick, to watch picture-in-picture TV)
      • connect or charge your iPhone or iPad
      • an external harddrive or backup drive
    • for a keyboard or mouse (or even a wired joystick/joypad) you don’t really need a USB3.0 or USB3.1 connection, but for data transfer it will save you a lot of time
  7. price :
    • do not go for ‘lowest budget’ if you need to use the display for working from home or home schooling, find a display for €200 to €250 : even though you cheaper displays are available, do not buy any display that was under €200 when released : most of the time, you will be better of getting a slightly older (up to 3 years) display model that used to cost €300 or more
      • make sure you also take into account the extra headphone, sound system, ethernet-adapter, mouse, keyboard and alike when deciding on your budget for the display
  8. integrated webcam :
    • if you need to do video-conferencing, make sure you get a webcam with your display – an integrated webcam will turn out to be very convenient (an integrated webcam cannot compete with a high-quality webcam, but if you use an external webcam, make sure to get a display with a USB3-hub with enough ports in your display)
      • added bonus of most integrated webcams is that de webcam is either pop-up or slide-to-open, so you can easily prevent being ‘accidentally’ exposed to webcam viewers
      • make sure the integrated webcam is 1.2 megapixel (1.2MP) or more : the FaceTime HD webcam that is built into a MacBook is at least 1.2MP (in an iPhone X the selfie camera is even 7MP)
  9. integrated microphone :
    • if you have the need for a webcam on your display, make sure you also have a microphone – an integrated microphone will turn out to be very convenient (an integrated microphone cannot compete with a headphone with integrated microphone, a gaming headphone or a separate directional of voice microphone)
  10. integrated speakers :
    • most displays do not have integrated speakers, but having the option to watch home schooling lessons or YouTube-videos without a headphone are very convenient, even though audio quality of most integrated speakers is okay but not impressive (if you do not already have an audio systemconnected to your MacBook, these integrated speakers might even turn out to be essential)
  11. bezel thickness :
    • the bezel (the edge around the actual screen) is really important if you want to set multiple displays side-by-side, but most of the time it is only a matter of taste in design : about 15mm is okay, especially if the display will be placed in front of a distracting environment (like a window, fancy wallpaper or a hallway)

Note : make sure you also think about these :

  • you need to use an external keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) :
    • any mouse or keyboard that suits you will do, so if you have an old mouse and even keyboard around, use those
      • for work, USB, Bluetooth and RF (wireless connection from a dedicated USB-to-wireless-plug) will all do
      • for gaming, only USB is advisory as any wireless connection might get laggy during intensive use
    • if you need to buy a new keyboard, think about these :
      • get a ‘Designed for Mac’ keyboard with the Mac key-layout, so with a COMMAND/CMD-key (and not a WINDOWS-key : only if you can typ blindly without any restrictions, you can get a Windows-layout keyboard and remap the keys in macOS)
      • get a keyboard that suits your main language : usually that is a QWERTY-layout, but for French it is AZERTY-layout and for German it is QWERTZ-layout (this will also help when you need to use accents in texts)
      • if you need to typ a lot, get a keyboard mechanical keys and spacing between all keys
      • if you need to input a lot of numbers (if you’re in accounting or working with Excell sheets) get a full-size keyboard with an integrated numeric pad (on the right of the keyboard)
      • a keyboard with an integrated trackpad can be beneficial for some, but make sure you get one with a Mac key-layout
      • an ergonomic keyboard can be really beneficial, but there are very few ergonomic keyboards with a Mac key-layout
    • if you need to buy a new mouse, think about these :
      • a mouse with a right and left button and a scroll-option will do for most purposes
        • most people have no need for a fancy gaming mouse with more than these 3 functions
      • consider using a trackball or ergonomic mouse
      • a Bluetooth or RF-wireless mouse does have downsides :
        • it will need to be charged (Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 is problematic in this respect…)
        • it easily gets lost
        • when the battery is down, you will need to open your MacBook and use the built-in trackpad until the mouse is recharged
    • if you need to buy both a new mouse and a new keyboard, have a look at the mouse & keyboard combo offerings by renowned brands like Logitech,
  • make sure your MacBook (Air/Pro) has it’s power adapter plugged in when using an external display, else you cannot use your display with the MacBook’s lid closed and your MacBook will quickly run out of battery
  • if your MacBook has USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports, and your Display doesn’t have a built-in multi-port USB3-hub, consider getting a USB-C Docking-hub
  • if your MacBook has regular USB ports, and your Display doesn’t have a built-in multi-port USB3-hub, consider getting yourself an additional USB3-hub
  • if your mouse is on a very reflective surface (like a glass table) or a wobbly surface (like a rustic wooden table), your mouse will not work reliably, so it is advisory to use a mouse mat (or a plastic placemat or even a sturdy-covered magazine)
  • to minimize the clutter of cables, you can use a cable hose to keep your cables together (budget option : use tie-ribs, or even ‘the pieces of plastic covered metal wire’ that you get with nearly every cable or electronic device you buy, to tie your cables together)

 

Some suggestions (no single display is optimal on all requirements) :

for office & graphic work : BenQ BL2420PT display : 23.8″ / 16:9 / 2560×1440 (2K/QHD) / 5ms / 60Hz / IPS / HDMI v1.4 & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / 2x USB2.0 out / no webcam / 2x 1W stereo-speakers / audio minijack out / 15mm bezel

for videoconferencing & office work : Philips B-line 241B7QPJKEB / 23.8″ / 16:9 / 1920×1080 (1K/HD) / 5ms / 60Hz / IPS / HDMI v1.4 & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / 3x USB3.0 out / pop-up 2MP webcam / 2W stereo-speakers / audio minijack out / 2mm bezel

for gaming : BenQ Zowie XL2411P display : 24″ / 16:9 / 1920×1080 (1K/HD) / 1ms / 144Hz / TN / HDMI & DisplayPort v1.2 / adjustable height & orientation / no USB out / no webcam / no speakers / audio minijack out / 15mm bezel

miniDisplayPort cable : Rankie miniDP-to-DP-cable : miniDisplayPort in / DisplayPort out / up to 4K/UltraHD (3840×2160)

USB-C to HDMI cable : Uni USB-C HDMI cable : USB-C in / HDMI out / up to 4K/UltraHD @60Hz (3840×2160)

USB3.0-to-Ethernet-adapter : TP-Link UE300 Gigabit LAN adapter : USB3.0 / RJ45 LAN / Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet

USB-C-to-GigabitEthernet-adapter : AmazonBasics USB-C Gigabit LAN adapter : USB-C / RJ45 LAN / Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) Ethernet

USB2.0-to-Ethernet-adapter : TP-Link UE200 LAN adapter : USB2.0 / RJ45 LAN / 10/100Mbps Ethernet

USB3-hub : Vogek 6 port USB3.0 hub : powered hub / 6x USB3.0 out

office keyboard : Logitech K380 keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / no numeric pad / macOS printing on-key / no trackpad

high-end office & design keyboard : Logitech MX keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / numeric pad / macOS printing on-key / no trackpad

keyboard with trackpad : Logitech K400 Livingroom keyboard : full-size keys / wireless RF & Bluetooth / no numeric pad / no macOS printing on-key / trackpad

ergonomic mouse mat : Comfort Gel Wrist Support Mouse Pad

cable hose : Neoprene Cable Tube

 

 

fixed : can’t edit cells in Numbers

Question :

I made an extensive table in Numbers yesterday and saved when I was ready for the day. Today I want to work on it again, and it opens without a problem, but I can’t edit any cells… I can’t click in any cell, I can’t type anything inside it and the 1-2-3 numbering of the rows and the A-B-C ‘numbering’ of the columns doesn’t appear either…

The only thing I can edit are three cells at the top of the page…

What is wrong ?

 

Answer :

The solution might be rather simple :  probably, you have accidentally entered the Printing Preview mode.

You can see you are in Printing Preview mode when there are 2 buttons visible at the bottom the Editing pane on the right : “Done” and “Print…”

If so, just click on the “Done”-button to leave the Printing Preview mode and go back to the main Editing screen.

That’s it !

enjoy 😉

fixed : where is the Show Thumbnails option in Microsoft Word for Mac ?

Question :

I am loosing track of what I’m doing in the multi-page Word document that I’m working on. It’s over 20 pages and I am referring to info I have written on various previous pages, so I keep scrolling back and forth to find the exact pieces of text I have previously written…

It would be great to have a Show Thumbnails option like I have in Pages, Preview and Acrobat Reader, but I can’t find anything similar in Word.

Is it possible to have something similar in Word ?

 

overviewAnswer :

Yes, there is a Show Thumbnails option in Word ( Word 365 / Word 16 for Mac). It’s just that Microsoft didn’t name it Show Thumbnails and but it somewhere deep inside the menu-structure where you won’t find it if you don’t know that Microsoft calls it Navigation Pane… here’s how to activate it :

  • open Word.app
  • don’t go to the top-of-screen Word application menu bar
  • go to the menu bar of the Word Document window
  • click on the View tab
  • then put a checkmark at “Navigation Pane”

…that’s it !

enjoy 😉

fix : send iOS Pages document as Word document from iPad

Question :

I have MS Office running on my Mac, but it’s not Office 365, so on my iPad I can’t unlock all editing features of Word, PowerPoint and Excel for iOS …so I only have the option to open, view and read Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets.

At this moment, I only have my iPad available and not my Mac. Is there any way to quickly do a little editing on a Word document on my iPad, even though I don’t have Office 365 ?

 

Answer :

There are several options to do so. You could use Google Docs or Office 700 (an OpenOffice version for iOS), but you probably have Apple Pages already installed on your iPad, so that is most likely the quickest solution :

  • open Pages.app on your iPad
  • under “Locations” find the Word document you want to edit
  • you will see that the Word document is opened as if it were a Pages document
  • now edit it as you wish
  • when finished, click on the button top-right (the button that looks like a circle with three dots in it)
  • in the menu that appears on the right, click on “Export”
  • in the pulldown menu that appears, click on “Word”
  • in the popup window, click on “Save to Files”
  • in the next window, select a location to save the Word document, then click “Save”

That’s it !

enjoy 😉

fixed : how to the center text inside a table in macOS Notes.app

Question :

I have placed a table in one of my notes in macOS Notes.app. I have managed to expand the table by adding some rows and columns, and I have put text in any cell I wanted to,   but… all text is automatically lined out to the left, and I want it centered inside the cell…

How do I do that ?

 

Answer :

Contrary to what you might expect, text layout tools in Notes.app can’t be found in the taskbar of the Notes-window (you may have noticed that the “Aa”-button will even be greyed-out once you start editing text with a table). The text layout tools are in the screen’s upper control bar :

to center any text (not just text in a table’s cell) in Notes.app, do this :

  • select the text (or the cell the text is in)
  • then press the [CMD]+[SHIFT] +[ \ ] key combo on your keyboard
  • or go to : upper taskbar (the one that has Apple-icon, Notes, File, Edit, Format, View, Window, Help) –> Format –> Text –> Center

That’s it !

enjoy 😉

fixed : prevent auto-capitalisation of a sentence in Notes.app on iOS

Question :

Every time I typ a note in Notes.app on my iPad, the first letter of the sentence automatically turns into a capital. Sometimes that’s no problem, but most of the time I would prefer an undercast letter if I’m not writing a sentence that ends in an endpoint.

Is there any way to prevent these auto-capitals ?

 

Answer :

Yes, you can prevent the auto-capitalisation of the first word of every sentence doing this :

  • Press [SHIFT] key and release it, before typing the first word of the sentence

That’s it.

note : This trick only works in Notes.app on iPhone (iOS) and iPad (iPadOS), it doesn’t work in Notes.app on macOS.

Enjoy 😉

tip : quickly typ numbers and non-alphanumeric signs on iPad

TIP :

there is a quick way to typ numbers (and other SHIFT-accessable digits) on iPad in iOS12 and iPadOS :

when the on-screen keyboard is visible, just swipe-down (pull-down) on the on-screen key to get it’s SHIFT-version

e.g. : if you swipe down the 3-key, you will typ the #-sign, and if you swipe-down the 7-key, you will typ the &-sign

enjoy 😉