Landscape to Portrait at the Click of a Mouse

Modern 16:9 aspect ratio monitors may be great for watching a widescreen movie on Netflix, but for most PDFs, Word documents, and certain web pages, landscape just won’t do. But if you’re not writing the next great American novel and aren’t willing to commit to portrait mode, don’t — build an auto-rotating monitor to switch your aspect ratio on the fly.

Like many of us, [Bob] finds certain content less than suitable for the cinematic format that’s become the standard for monitors. His fix is simple in concept, but a little challenging to engineer. Using a lazy susan as a giant bearing, [Bob] built a swivel that can be powered by a NEMA 23 stepper and a 3D-printed sector of a ring gear. Due to the narrow clearance between the top and bottom of the lazy susan, [Bob] had to do considerable finagling to get through holes for the mounting hardware located, but in the end the whole thing worked great.

Our only quibble would be welding galvanized pipe for the stand, which always gives us the willies. But we will admit the tube notching turned out great with just a paper template. We doubt it would have been much better if he used an amped-up plasma-powered tubing notcher.

40 thoughts on “Landscape to Portrait at the Click of a Mouse

    1. I disagree. Even though it is not a huge effort, switching orientations quickly becomes a chore, due to having to turn the monitor and changing the monitor settings. You could make life easier on yourself by having a one click option for the settings, but this is even easier. If you switch between orientations more than once a day, I could see this being convenient, especially if you have the command macro’d to a specific keyboard button.

      It is exactly streamlining these kinds of things that make the difference between something being functional and having a pleasant work flow.

      1. A chore to turn the monitor?
        I have an old Dell that was simple to turn and change settings ain’t all that complicated. Isn’t it relatively normal to have 4;3 for documents?

        1. Yes, a chore. Much like walking to the television to change channels, using wired internet for your mobile devices or using an old fashioned switch that is fixed to one physical location is. Not something anyone can consider a huge problem and perfectly functional, but the work flow could definitely be improved upon.

          4:3 is dead, very dead. The industry response has been to make bigger 16:9 screen, so you can fit two documents next to each other, though I personally still much prefer the 16:10 aspect ratio that seems to be dying too.

          1. Since I immediately realised the Emperor was naked, I kept my 1600×1200 4:3 monitors, and can have 16:9 “high definition” any time I want by duct taping the top and bottom 2″

            STILL a problem finding well priced 1200 vertical resolution 10 years later, yah sure I’ll just landfill these so I can spend $250+ getting the same amount of pixels back.

          2. @RW ver 0.0.2
            Lucky. what’s that one that REALLY nobody likes, 5:4? I have 2 of those (1280×1024) and they would be beautiful together if only their color had any chance at matching :(

      1. haha NO
        Im not complaining about automation, Im complaining about USELESS SLOWER than normal “automation”.
        It takes 1 second to turn monitor orientation by hand, and build in sensor will automagically rotate display in OS. This “hack” takes 3 seconds + time it takes to click, thats >2 seconds of my life lost watching paint dry.

  1. i have 2 monitors that seem to be faster and easier to change, you just flip them, the stand already has portrait orientation as an option, i thought this was fairly standard?

  2. you should never buy a monitor with less height than it is comfortable, in this way the 16:9 left and right portion is just an extra area, for games, menus, videos, or you can display two pages from the pdf

    1. 16:10 is better for two pages. 4:3 would be perfect, as it is actually closest to the correct ratio.

      A series ratio is 1.414
      4:3 is 1.33
      16:10 is 1.6
      16:9 is 1.78

      When you clip 64 pixels for the taskbar and UI from a 1600 x 1200 (4:3) monitor, the remaining screen area has a ratio of 1.41. That’s exactly the point of it.

      16:9 is not good for anything. It only exists because movie studios wanted to shaft television manufacturers, and then LCD manufacturers noticed they could make bigger screens on the same old production lines by simply stretching them longer.

  3. I can certainly respect his irritation with documents that are formatted more for portrait view and definitely the effort that went into this project. My personal slightly lazier solution was just to permanently set up one of my screens in portrait mode.

    1. I have three – my main is a 16:10, and I have one 16:9 landscape for videos on my left, and one 5:4 in portrait for documents on my right. Best use of all of them :)

  4. Back in the eighties, Radius had monitors that would send a signal to your Mac to change orientation to match that of the monitor. Kind of the reverse of what we see here.
    Has anybody been able to replicate this?

    1. I believe that some PC ones were around that had a USB hub in the base, but also in hooking that up, and with manufacturers driver, you got the orientation signal through usb.

    2. That’s the Radius Pivot. Had one. Loved it. When it died I built an equivalent with a colour CRT. That was easy, but dumb because it needed degaussing after each rotation. I understand Radius had colour ones too, but I never saw one and don’t know how they solved the convergence problem.

      Then I got two monitors and realized even the idea of a rotating monitor was immediately obsolete. To this day I have one monitor in portrait, one in landscape. No gap between, no precious visual real estate dedicated to making room to allow the blasted monitor to rotate, and no wasted time. Some people get a bit twitchy seeing my desk though, like it’s broken somehow with one monitor the ‘wrong’ way.

  5. My Samsung 1600×1200 usually stays in portrait mode. I’ve got a landscape mode monitor next to it. The Samsung design is such that a ring gear could easily be mounted on the back and driven by a pinion on a stepper motor. But I rarely place the Samsung in landscape mode. Usual reason is a new OS install on one of the systems at the other end of the KVM switch. My biggest issue rotating the monitor by hand is clearance of other objects on my desk. So I think the manual approach far safer in addition to being simpler.

  6. I find that one monitor in landscape and one in portrait is the way to go. If you’re working on something that needs portrait then move it over to that one. I mostly find I’m reading something on the portrait and coding on the landscape.

  7. rotating your monitor if fun for a moment… but in the end it is just annoying when you realize that the cleartype fonts look horribly strange on your tilted monitor. NOt strange as in unreadable, but strange as in something is wrong and I can’t figure it out what it is, strangely fuzzy but not all the time, only on text and then it hits you… its the cleartype font?!?!?
    For more info about cleartype see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClearType

    1. Font rendering uses RGB sub-pixels to get extra resolution. You should tell the operating system how sub-pixels are arranged in the screen when you change orientation (you can see them by looking at the screen with a magnifier).

    2. I want MS to formally and publicly apologize for ClearType in general and also for not ever supporting vertical subpixel layouts (fewer monitors / TVs & of course rotated normal ones). I seriously hope the whole world leaves it in the bin because FHD and 4K make it redundant. That’s kinda why I can accept 4K as not being merely extravagant GPU-loading nonsense. And when people rasterize CT text into an image and later resize it… egad.

  8. Speaking of aspect ratios of content providers.
    How about the way youtube has cropped the top and bottom off of nearly everything that was shot in 4:5 .
    Seriously sucks trying to watch a video, after it has had the subject matter cropped off (usually)the bottom.

  9. seems to be the perfect solution for a lazy person…

    I use two 22″ monitors, one in portrait, one in landscape. do you need the 2 monitors always in landscape? are you sure? my way is faster. I only have to move a window.

  10. He has to have a large gap between screens because when the screen changes position the diagonal becomes horizontal for a moment (like at 13:48 in the video).
    What should be the shape of gears to avoid that and keep the leftmost point of turning screen unchanged? I imagine an oval, but I was not able to find any example.

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