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Two Screens are better than one

On my computer I have two monitors. Yes, two monitors!

Studies prove that for some tasks going to two monitors can give a 10% to 300% improvement in efficiency. I have many programs running at once. For me two-screens is a no brainer. Go back to one screen? You'd have to pry the second monitor out of my cold dead hands!

Want a practical example? I can editing this web page on one screen while previewing the results on my other screen. I can dedicate one screen to each task without having to alt-tab back and forth between them. It's not just web design that benefits from seeing more information at the same time. I can dedicate one screen to my email and calendar while I'm doing word processing on the other screen. Tired of retyping things? More screen real estate makes it easier to cut and paste between different programs. Dual Monitor - 22inch Samsung SyncMaster 225ms LCD + 19inch ViewSonic Professional Series PS790 CRT

Why now?

Just about any recent computer supports two monitors out of the box. Just borrow a screen and give it a try. With everyone switching over to LCD screens there's no shortage of cheap/free bulky CRT monitors. Support for Multiple monitors in Windows 7 and especially Windows 8 is pretty good out of the box.

Maximize Productivity from your Second Screen

MultiMon is a free must have add on for multiple monitors. It adds a task bar to the bottom of your extra monitors. Each task bar only shows the programs running on that screen. It also gives you hot-keys to quickly move a program from screen 1 to 2 or vice versa. When you run many programs at the same it helps keep things organized

UltraMon is another alternative that does the same thing. Either program makes two screens a lot more useable.

If two is good, is three better?

Two screens is a definite improvement. Beyond this there are diminishing returns. I'm not quite there yet, but some people think it has it's place.

I've considered going to three screens. For starters, I'd need to buy not just another monitor but also another graphics card to support a third (and/or fourth) screen. It's not just about cost -- there's only so much room on my desk. I'm not sure where I'd physically put another monitor. I have visions of a third screen hovering over my desk on a moveable arm. I'm not quite there yet.

Laptop = Third Screen?

When I have my laptop on my desk I often remotely control it from my main computer. I use a program called Synergy to remotely control the keyboard and mouse on my laptop from my desktop. This lets me use my desktops nicer keyboard and mouse instead of the laptop's keyboard and touch pad.

There's also MaxiVista, a program that turns another computer's screen (or your laptop) into a screen over the network. I don't have my laptop on often so this approach while technically interesting isn't practical for my uses.

Multi-Monitor Tip: Where's that pop-up window?

Just about every program pops up windows. Everything from information boxes to prompts asking you what file to open. Wouldn't it be nice if the pop up windows from your favourite program showed up on the same screen as the program itself? I think so too. I can't think why this isn't the default setting, perhaps someone in a cave at Microsoft can answer this one, better yet fix it. Fortunately there's a work around:

For Nvidia graphics cards you want to use the nView Desktop manager to force pop-up windows to stick to the same screen.

For ATI/AMD graphics cards there's a similar setting in the HydraVision program.

Multi-Monitor Tip: NVIDIA graphics cards and video games

NVIDIA Control Panel - Single Display Performance mode - Click for larger image If you have two screens and also play video games this setting is a must. And by video games I'm not talking about Spider Solitaire. I'm talking about graphically intensive games.
  • Right click on your Desktop.
  • Select NVIDIA Control Panel.
  • Under 3D Settings select Manage 3D Settings.
  • Look at your settings for Multi-Display mixed-GPU Acceleration.
  • This should be set to Single Display performance mode.

What does this setting actually do? It means all the oomph of your graphics card will go to the game.

References

Here are some handy multi-monitor links and references:

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