A typical SE answering screen would be something like

Enter image description here

While typing moderate to long answers I have often found myself

  1. scrolling up and down to see the rendered answer and/or

  2. expanding the answering box to review the whole answer's big picture albeit at the expense of rendering space.

I was wondering if during writing an answer, the screen layout could be simplified to maximize answering and render space. Maybe something like...

Enter image description here

The sidebar contents (related questions, blogs, hot network posts, etc. on the right, website links at the bottom, the exchange options on the left) as well as the original question could be optionally hidden. Any changes to the question while answering could be communicated as a notification.

Such a layout would really help writing answers, especially on laptops.

Is there already a way to achieve this? Are there any hindrances to such a layout being promulgated in SE?

  • 5
    With SE's big emphasis on the response design, this should be pretty easy to conditionally do for wide screens. – TheWanderer Dec 15 '19 at 18:49
  • @TheWanderer I'd keep it horizonal on mobile as well, but make both screen width and scroll horizontally between them. – Stop Harming the Community Dec 15 '19 at 19:37
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    @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica maybe it could flip between them on mobile, but with free-mode horizontal scrolling, you'd end up with half of each on the screen unless you took the time to scroll all the way over. – TheWanderer Dec 15 '19 at 20:27

I've been working on a userscript (Three Columns) that accomplishes something pretty similar to this. It displays the question page, post textarea, and post preview in side-by-side columns. Here's a screenshot:


You can also dynamically adjust the column widths to make it look a bit more like the picture in the question, if you want (screenshot, use the Adjustable version instead).

Many more details in the Stack Apps post. ( install ) (github)

You'll need a userscript manager like Tampermonkey.

  • 4
    I understand now. This is what Meta will be in the future: a means to work around the shortcomings of the network on the technical side. Popular userscripts implementing declined feature requests, or working around unwanted "improvements" (yup, I'm not a fan of the new colors either). And maybe, someday, whole new features being implemented this way. – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 16 '19 at 0:21
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    Actually - usescripts to fix annoyances or to try new things has been a SE tradition as long as I can remember. Something about a good chunk of the userbase being devs :D – Journeyman Geek Dec 16 '19 at 0:29
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    @Journeyman, yes, I know :) But I never realized until today how this is game-changing (I guess because I always went with the network's decisions till 2017, and the only time I objected to a color change was successful). Then again, now when division reigns on the site, this kind of customization could make the difference. It might allow opposite points of view to coexist here. – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 16 '19 at 0:35
  • @CertainPerformance great plugin!...1) is it safe to use? 2) can the partition widths be adjusted, say using a mouseover at the edge(in particular hiding the question)? – lineage Dec 16 '19 at 16:52
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    @lineage Sure it's safe. I wrote it, I'd bet my 150k reputation on it. Feel free to examine the source code / build it yourself if you wish. Being able to dynamically adjust the column widths will take some adjustments, I'll see if it's doable – CertainPerformance Dec 17 '19 at 5:40
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    @lineage I added the ability to adjust the column widths, use the Adjustable version. – CertainPerformance Dec 23 '19 at 11:36
  • @CertainPerformance awesome! wish i could double accept answ! thnx! – lineage Dec 28 '19 at 19:47
  • @CertainPerformance loving the plugin...tons thanks. A feature request: the rendered pane resets its scroll everytime an edit is being made. i.e. say you are typing something near the end of the answer, the rendered pane's scroll bar would,upon re-render, reset back to the start or some other position. Could you try to make the scroll bar of the rendered pane follow ~the current carret position? – lineage Jan 24 '20 at 15:13
  • @lineage I can't reproduce, what browser are you using? Note that due to a bug in SE's JS, when you click on the preview, you'll be scrolled back up to your cursor in the textarea, which is very weird (fixed by this), but it sounds like that's not quite what you're experiencing. For me, on Chrome, FF, and Opera, typing near the end of a preview does not result in the preview pane scroll being reset, it stays scrolled wherever it is currently – CertainPerformance Jan 25 '20 at 13:04

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