Why Two Monitors are Better than One
The Tandy 1000, made by Radio Shack back in the '80s, was my first computer. It was a middle school graduation gift from my parents. It featured such awesome amenities as a 128k of memory, a keyboard, two 5.25" floppy drives, and a color monitor. And not much else.?Every subsequent computer I used until recently had one thing in common with that first PCa single monitor. (Do you remember your first computer? Or are you old enough to remember working with punch cards, hehe?)
The monitors (and their accompanying PCs) got better over the years. They got more colors, they got higher resolution, they grew in size up to the super-heavy 19" CRTs, and then onto flat-screens. Finally, I got two monitors for my office computer. And since then, my life has been changed forever.
I'll admit to revising my history just a wee bit. I actually got two monitors while I was still using a 19" CRT. I added a new video card to my computer and then plugged in another 19" CRT. Together, those monitors were about the size of a UPS delivery van and probably tipped the scales at over a 100 pounds of dead weight. At this point, I was impressed by the flexibility this arrangement offered me electronically (while physically there wasn't room to breathe around those behemoths). My love of dual monitors didn't really hit the ground running until I replaced the monsters with lovely and svelte flat-screens.
I love my dual monitors. But, so what? You may be wondering if there's any justification to that expense for yourself or your organization. Especially with the gloomy economy, this may seem like the wrong time for such an "extravagance." So, let me present a case for why you should join me with two (or more?) monitors.
I'll begin by explaining why I like two monitors. Right now I'm writing this blog entry in my left monitor (Internet Explorer open full-screen) and I'm keeping an eye on my email client open full-screen in the right monitor. As a web designer, I often use my site editing software in one monitor, while I keep my browser open in the other to continually check my work. And then there are those cases where I'm doing lots of copying and pasting between applications. Again, I open the apps on different monitors and just slide my mouse pointer back and forth, no messing around with little stacks of open windows crammed onto one screen.
[caption id="attachment_157" align="alignright" width="337" caption="Windows Display Properties Dialog"]
Technically, Windows makes it fairly easy to use two or more monitors. As long as your PC contains a video card (or multiple cards) that give you hardware support for multiple monitors, Windows can extend your desktop across all of the monitors.
With two monitors connected, your Display Properties window looks like the illustration at right. You should see two monitors (1) shown in the window. You can drag and drop these two monitors around each other so that the display illustrates the actual physical relationship between the two monitors. To tell which monitor is which, click the Identify button (2) and each monitor will display a large number identifying itself. Lastly, click your "main" monitor and choose the "Use this device as the primary monitor" option (3) and then click your second monitor and choose the "Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor" option (3).
But, back to my argument for having two monitors in the first place. Most of my Fandotech colleagues have two or more monitors also. Our bookkeeper loves the arrangement because she can keep her accounting package open on one screen while she has our service ticketing system on the other. Our administrative assistants both have dual monitors and can't live without them. The other members of my department with multiple monitors also work on one screen and test on the other.
Many articles have been written on the productivity increases associated with multiple monitor usage. Just Google "Are two monitors better than one?
" to see what I mean. Further, you can read a Wikipedia article on the subject of multiple monitors
if you wish to further your knowledge of this subject.
I haven't measured my productivity increases, but I have noticed that I've saved a considerable amount of time by just not having to keep rearranging my windows. I was forever minimizing, restoring, and maximizing windows in search of the one I needed. I do a lot less of this now since I can keep two apps open full screen at the same time. When I need more tools open, I still have to do some window rearranging. But that just seems to?be the result of working?with a windowed interface.
[caption id="attachment_268" align="alignright" width="399" caption="Screen capture from www.abstractpath.com/powermenu/"]
Speaking of a windowed interface, there's one tool in my arsenal that is essential for both single monitor systems and multiple monitor systems: a utility called PowerMenu.
This very small
application adds a few menu options to the Windows Control Menu (hidden under the little icon on the left side of most windows' title bars). The options included are?Transparency, Always On Top, and Minimize to Tray.
The Transparency option?makes the window semi-transparent (to a degree you specify as shown in the illustration at right). Always On Top is my absolute favorite; this makes the window stay in front of all your other windows (so
useful!). And Minimize to Tray sends your window down into the System Tray on the right side of your Taskbar (the application's icon appears in the System Tray and can be clicked to bring the program back).
I've used this program for years and on numerous different systems, with never even a single problem. It's easy to install and you won't regret it. Find it here: http://www.abstractpath.com/powermenu/