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How to insure external display is set as main display Laptop Macs
This is very much a "niche" hint, but hopefully someone out there will find it useful. There are a few instances where you might want to use a laptop with its built-in LCD completely removed, using an external display instead. A couple I can think of are if you've broken the built-in screen somehow and don't want/can't afford to replace it, or have done what I did recently -- upgraded to a new laptop, but kept the old one to use as a server, and removed the old latop's LCD and sold it.

The problem is that even with the LCD removed, the motherboard still thinks that it is there. This means that you could run into a situation where the LCD is set as the main screen (with the menu-bar), and the external screen is set as a secondary display. Getting the menu-bar onto the external display using the GUI in this situation is pretty much impossible.

Here's what you need to do in order to guarantee that the external display will have the menu-bar:
  • Download cscreen, a small command-line utility for manipulating displays, and save it to the root of your hard drive.
  • Open Script Editor and write a short AppleScript along these lines:
    do shell script "/cscreen -d 16 -x 800 -y 600 -s a"
    set CurrentMode to ""
    try
      set CurrentMode to (do shell script 
       "/cscreen -l | grep \"    1        16       800        600  0\"")
    end try
    if length of CurrentMode > 0 then 
      do shell script "/cscreen -s 2 -p"
    
    The first line sets the display properties for both displays, in this case to 16-bit colour depth, with 800x600 resolution. The line inside the try statement checks to see if the LCD (which cscreen reports as having a refresh rate of 0) is set as the main screen (the main screen is listed first by cscreen when listing the current display settings). If it is, the next line sets the external display to have the menu bar, and thereby become the main screen.
  • Save the script as an application, and then go to the Accounts preferences panel. Set it to run as a Login Item.
A couple of notes:

If you are going to do this, make sure you do it before removing the LCD. I've tested this on an original Titanium PowerBook G4 running 10.3.9. This should work on other configurations, but, as always, YMMV.
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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: Twist on Aug 10, '06 10:22:09AM

I have been using an external display as the main display of my iBook for almost two years now and I have never had an issue with it reverting to using the LCD as the main screen. Even after replacing the hard drive and installing a new OS from scratch it continued to use the external display as the main one. Perhaps if you do an open firmware reset or zap the PRAM it might revert to using the LCD as the main display though.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: gklinger on Aug 10, '06 10:52:10AM

How did you get the external display to be the main display in the first place?



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: chris_on_hints on Aug 10, '06 10:56:57AM

in system preferences, under 'Display' you get an extra set of options when you have multiple monitors (in 'desktop spanning/extend' mode, not mirror).

you can drag around two blue squares which represent each monitor, so you can tell the computer where the monitors are in relation to each other. The little white bar represents the one which is the main screen with the menu. Drag that to the other screen.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: Mr. H on Aug 10, '06 01:37:49PM

Unless you have applied "The Hack", an iBook can only do mirroring anyway, so there is no risk of the external display being a secondary monitor.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: bernie_the_one on Aug 10, '06 11:05:37AM

Man!

Why so much hassle? Just use cmd-f1 to switch from the internal display to the external display and you're set! Use it all the Time with my PB G4-667 without internal display.

bernie



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: Mr. H on Aug 10, '06 01:40:49PM

:)

I didn't know that shortcut existed. Does it work in all versions of OS X above 10.1 inclusive?



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: TimBonnici on Aug 10, '06 01:56:41PM

Rob, there's a typo in the title - "insure" should read "ensure". I only mention this for people who might want to search for this hint in the future.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: Mr. H on Aug 10, '06 03:28:02PM

I'm pretty sure that when I submitted the hint, I used "ensure". When the hint was published, I went and looked up "insure" at dictionary.com, where it claims that "ensure" and "insure" are interchangeable. That's certainly news to me. Maybe that's only in the U.S.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: wgscott on Aug 11, '06 09:08:58AM
I'm glad I am not the only language maven. As far as internet-verification of these facts, you'll enjoy .

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Put cscreen in /usr/local/bin instead of /
Authored by: bugmenot on Aug 11, '06 02:19:42AM

/ is a poor place to put a program. You wouldn't put a graphical application there; you'd put it in /Applications/, where it belongs. The unix equivalent of /Applications/ is /usr/local/bin/, and that's where i recommend putting cscreen. This keeps your hard drive tidier for when you browse around the command line, and since the shell looks for programs there, you can invoke cscreen from Terminal as just cscreen, no directory before the name. However, it's still best to use the full path when you write a script, for security and compatibility.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: vastslug on Aug 11, '06 07:03:13AM

Is there away of using your secondary display as the main one without mirroring and using a 3rd party app?

I dont want to be stuck at the res the mac book pro can do when I know the cinema display can double it.



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How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: fredrikw on Aug 11, '06 10:36:32AM
How to insure external display is set as main display
Authored by: luomat on Aug 14, '06 11:04:22AM

Does anyone have cscreen available for download?

The original site is now empty.



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cscreen
Authored by: Mr. H on Aug 26, '06 05:58:34AM
As cscreen has disappeared from its original home, I have provided it here.

For usage options, install the program into /usr/bin/ and run "cscreen -h" from the command line.

To the best of my knowledge, this was released as freeware by the author, and had no licence and no read-me file. If anyone has any contradictory information regarding the licence for this program, please contact me and I will remove it.

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cscreen
Authored by: Mr. H on Aug 26, '06 06:07:09AM

I forgot to say:

As I am not the author of this program, I cannot accept any liability for any damage, material or otherwise, that its use may cause.

I make no assertions as to the functionality or fitness for purpose of this program and offer no guarantee whatsoever.



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