Mastodon screen use in Wide Screen Displays - a search for better results

This is an ongoing quest of mine, I have folders with assorted screen shots from mastodon instances where I have accounts, and have tried to improve the way content is presented.

A general concern is that the default mastodon Web Client is not at all an efficient use of the wider displays on PC class devices - both laptops and desktop systems tend to have 16 : 9 ratio, wide screens. Sadly, there isn’t even much option on getting a more traditional 4 : 3 ratio display, which was the standard for many years.

With the advent and growth of Mobile devices, the software situation has worsened for PC class users, in my opinion.


Software developers have rushed to fill in an empty and growing market for mobile apps; and in many cases, started developing parallel versions of the same software, made available in desktop/laptop and on mobile versions.

To make it easier for themselves, since the screen ratios are fundamentally different :

  • PC class devices having the Large dimension horizontally.
  • Mobile devices, most commonly phones, are used vertically.

So – a big conundrum.


Their solution is to create a layout that is Vertical in nature, and fits the Cell Portrait modes easily. While using that same model in PCs, where the Portrait, column display leaves VAST swatches of wasted space in the sides of the central data panel.

Mastodon does follow that somewhat, I find the Web Client looks decent other than this large amount of wasted space.

See a series of Screenshots taken just now, with similar content and some tweaks applied to squeeze more content presentation in the same screen. The screen used is my laptop’s 1600x900 pixels wide display, with browser navigation and controls cropped away.


1. Mastodon Web client, default mode

This is the standard view, with the Dark Theme, that a user could experience here and in other instances. The proportions are very similar to what a mobile app client could show for the same content.

My problem – there is a sea of wasted space, on both sides of the center panel. Inneficient to say the least.


2. Mastodon Advanced Web Interface (AWI) :

Shown here as configured with 2 columns. It could be used with more, resulting in narrower display for each feed presented.

Some people like to have 3 or 4 simultaneous Feeds displayed and constantly updating; I find it difficult and distracting, it’s stressful - your mileage may vary.

All users could easily achieve this layout. You would start by enabling the AWI option in the Preferences pages. Then returning to Mastodon, and adding a second column, pinning it, etc.

Columns displayed in 2 pane mode could be :

  • Local and Notifications.
  • Local and Home.
  • or Local and Federated, etc.

Any two in fact. For someone with an active Local timeline, or as in my case, a Moderator who needs to monitor it, it’s the choice for me – I enjoy the closer, more social contact with people we see posting regularly in our own instance.


3. Mastodon AWI, 2 panels, Tweaked :

This setup and how it was made, what is needed is described in great detail here.

I like and enjoy working in this mode - it has some good points for it :

  • the client uses the full width of the display.
  • not only removing the mostly empty space in the leftmost part (bellow the Toot editor box)
  • but adding a Reply Toot Editor below any post on the screen

This last feature is so neat that I wish the mainstream AWI would incorporate it. On the standard AWI mode, the left space is sacrificed to keep an inactive Toot Editor, idle until needed.

The Collapsed Mastodon does that, instead, by opening a Reply Editor below any post on the screen, when you click the Reply arrow.


Reply Toot Editor box :

As shown in this screen shot, taken at another instance :

This Toot Editor is immediately below the post being replied to ,so you can keep an eye and refer to it easily. It also starts at a decent vertical size, and with the fairly large width of this panel, it can contain a lot of text.

The editor will expand as long as needed, so it’s a boon for anyone writing long replies; no visual stress or cramped, narrow editor to type in

I consider these great ideas, and while they are not mine (the Collapsed Mastodon Firefox Add-on was created ans supported by Eskuero - Git Hub here), I believe it is a wonderful setup for serious writers.

This setup could also be used with 3 or 4 vertical panels if desired, certainly – and in those cases, the gain of the leftmost area is even more positive – that is now split between all of those panels, giving more space and a comfortable display to each.

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Mastodon is a modern, well laid out platform that really looks nice, at least I know what the button do, sometimes twitter hides the labels, I end up struggling to figure out how find what i want.

Mastodon also has a good number of Mobile Apps too. This could be the the key to adoption for many people.

This topic is a presentation draft for an enhanced AWI display setting – for more advanced users, I think it’s very productive.

Have been using it myself for months and now trying to get it supported and possibly added to the code base.

Won’t happen with the vanilla Mastodon project, I already tried. Posted a thread right at mastodon.social and invited Eugen’s commments.

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Update :

I have just finished posting a new Suggestion issue at Glitch-Social’s Github

…which summarizes the findings I described in the first post, and requests consideration of the idea of adding these enhancements into the Glitch-Social code base.

If that was done, and the source for Eskuero’s Collapsed Mastodon is available for review and adoption, all users could benefit, without the need of using an add-on, and better compatibility with future releases as changes are made.

The Suggestion is on this page.