Hardware

Reasons to have dual monitors

If you had two monitors, what would you use the extra desktop real estate for? Joe Rosberg has some ideas -- try them at your own risk.

In a recent blog in which I wondered about TR members’ most common desktop support issues, I made a passing comment about how a user request for dual monitors might be one of those less serious ones, even suggesting that it might have been made in jest. Several TR members disagreed, and they reminded me that such requests might not necessarily be so frivolous.

After giving it some thought, it occurred to me how often I might even benefit from having dual monitors. Multitasking is something we all do, so why not multi-monitors? It's often called Desktop Real Estate, and the more you have the better, right? Well, assuming that you’re willing to give up some of your physical desktop real estate, which might be just as scarce, there is some merit to having two monitors.

Assuming that you decided your cyber-desktop was the more valuable piece of real estate (which in my case, it’s not -- a nice piece of oak desktop that I don’t want to clutter up even more), what are some of the reasons to justify having dual monitors? Here’s a short list that I started.

  • Sharing data between applications is becoming more common.
  • Two programs running, both with full screen.
  • E-mail program open in full screen mode.
  • Effectively work in two views of the same thing; for example, a plan view and a 3D view of a building design.
  • It could accommodate some sort of video conferencing, especially if having another application open is necessary.
  • ..........

Or...

  • Keep an eye on your TechRepublic contacts so you know when they’re online. The discussion forums do double as an online chat room, don’t they?
  • Keep a streaming news channel open so you know when to post a comment about the latest political news in the TechRepublic off-topic discussions.
  • Keep the online tabloid site open so you’re privy to the latest and greatest weird news; then you can start an off-topic discussion about it.
  • Out of the corner of your eye, watch a DVD of that old movie you’ve wanted to watch for years. Then post an off-topic discussion about your favorite old movie.
  • Be the first to see the new Friday Yuk in the off-topic discussion forums.
  • ..........

The two lists could go on and on!

45 comments
rwe9
rwe9

I have been using oversize, then dual monitors from the first days of pcs. It is a great advantage when doing many different things. When writing, I open the word processor in one, and a dictionary program in the other, and often overlay the dictionary with a webb browser, for doing research, email etc. I just wish it was easier to find monitors which will turn to shorter edge up, which is useful for editing, and changing. But, other than hp, this option is hard to find now. rwe9

Joe_R
Joe_R

These were all great comments - many thanks. (I'm going to get a couple of key people dual monitors.)

mikifin
mikifin

Nice techie thing but really not needed by most people.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

There is only one reason for me: I don't have to switch between applications. If I'm processing a digitized faxed request, I have it open on one screen (I don't print) and the associated applications and tables open on the other. If I'm doing copy and paste, I find it much faster to drag and drop, and I can't do that as well with only one screen. Cool would be two Radius 320s or, even better, a pair of Alienware curved monitors.

draack
draack

Actually, it was the bosses' idea, not mine. On the user's end ... we have a small accounting firm and I use one monitor to leave my Outlook open full-screen all day so I can get to my email and calendar so I know when clients are coming in (and it's full of other stuff, too, of course), and I use the other (bigger) screen for all my regular work. It works for *me*, not the other way around. :)

rkendsley
rkendsley

Two Monitors... who can work with such limited real estate? Three monitors is the way to go .... multitask to the max; make use of your peripheral vision!

dl
dl

The key reason for dual monitors: They increase productivity! I can't imagine working with only a single monitor again. We conduct a lot of Internet research for our Job Finder books and constantly have a browser open in one monitor and our FileMaker Pro database in the other. You can't imagine how much time we save with this set up. Add in the pan-and-scan virtual desktop we get on both monitors with our ATI video cards (ATI officially says it doesn't support this feature, but as long as you use analog connections, their cards support it -- you can even force it on a laptop's monitor), and we have a ton of screen real estate that enable us to be much more productive at work.

dl
dl

The key reason for dual monitors: They increase productivity! I can't imagine working with only a single monitor again. We conduct a lot of Internet research for our Job Finder books and constantly have a browser open in one monitor and our FileMaker Pro database in the other. You can't imagine how much time we save with this set up. Add in the pan-and-scan virtual desktop we get on both monitors with our ATI video cards (ATI officially says it doesn't support this feature, but as long as you use analog connections, their cards support it -- you can even force it on a laptop's monitor), and we have a ton of screen real estate that enable us to be much more productive at work.

jwaasdorp
jwaasdorp

Two?!? Here's what you want: www.digitaltigers.com

daniel.speakman
daniel.speakman

Scripting...programming...document comparison...multiple networks (classified/unclassified/test)

Meesha
Meesha

Just upgrading our Contact Center where I've initiated the dual monitor scenario. The Agents are ecstatic and can't believe they did without this before. Our IT staff - developers, help desk, web, etc. all have dual monitors. Productivity is clearly the reason but as others have said, it's the "Cool factor" for some.

Luke G.
Luke G.

Green screen programming on an iSeries (AS/400)! One 5250 session on each screen, full-screen, writing the program on one and designing the screen layout or testing on the other! It's great!! ^_^

mlegler
mlegler

Adobe CS! When running Photoshop or InDesign we always want the window as big as possible. That's why we need a second monitor for all those palettes.

ScriptMechanic
ScriptMechanic

Only two? Best system I ever had gave me the onboard video and a Matrox Dualhead cards as well - one monitor for the code, one for the debug windows, one for the app.. Too cool, but really useful! On the other hand, uses a lot of real desk. On the gripping hand, who cares, whaddaya going to PUT on the wood? Bits of paper?

misceng
misceng

Not having the space for two monitors I have bought a 24" wide screen monitor and can view two programs side by side. It gives me nearly as much screen space as two monitors without the problems of providing two drives. I find it a good compromise.

Yowza324
Yowza324

I went without my bi-monitors for about 6 months, I just brought my slim factor video-card in and dusted off a spare monitor. My boss liked my preformance improvement so much He is allocating 2 new monitors from a project and giving my old monitors away. Working remotely on 4 or 10 desktops and resizing to see them all IS much more productive and worth every penny to the RIGHT people !

California Dead Head
California Dead Head

We have a number of users with dual monitors. It helps in almost every aspect of their work. Receiptionsist can keep the VOIP control panel up and work on the other, accouting compares alot of spreadsheets, or Word processing dept does alot of copy and paste between documents. The price of monitors is so low now that the ROI is very quick.

dawgit
dawgit

oh-my, Lets see here the CAD program on one computer, the specs through another, 'normal' on another, All with their own monitors, with the 'dual' through a KVM to a center Monitor for "Me". Sounds normal to me. It's one way to see what one machine is up to, while working on another, and being able to control them both. That's a requirement. (not a luxury) -d

HoagieBP
HoagieBP

I've had dual 19inch monitors for about 18 months. Can't imagine doing without them now. The two members of my staff also have dual monitors. So do several other key employees in the company. Dual monitors are a boon for anyone that needs to reference data in one application while working in a second. In the IT world, they are great when performing remote assistance. You can view a user's screen on one monitor while continuing to monitor (pun) another process on the other screen. Since the price on monitors has dropped, this is a relatively inexpensive upgrade with huge benefits.

Dixbert
Dixbert

People who design and develop applications for the web have been using dual monitors for years. Code/IDE on one side, browser(s) on the other. Its a natural.

Ron_007
Ron_007

You beat me to it, I was going to suggest running one portrait too. Ignoring the fancy multi thousand dollar stands, at home I simple rotated my old 17" CRT monitor and propped it up with phone books. Works great. Now I've got the CRT in portrait view, plugged into my laptop with the 17" widescreen LCD. Talk about mix and match.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've seen monitors that automatically adjust the screen pivot when you turn the physical monitor frame. For mine at home, the arm baught for it pivots 90 degrees. The actual pivoting of the display seems to depend more on the video card. A third party lcd arm and video card with native pivot settings may let you choose from a larger selection of physical monitors.

CG IT
CG IT

but the truth is it's just way cool!!! :)

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Nice for businesses and high IT literate users, but for the average joe not really necessary. Maybe just a new wide screen would do them than the expense of buying and running 2 monitors. Some of my users are flat out finding how to explore their PC!

mpeoples
mpeoples

I completely agree. I actually could use 4 or 5 displays when I'm doing complex debugging or troubleshooting.

leupole
leupole

As a designer I can't imagine not using 2 monitors and often have my laptop open as well for a 3rd. My wife is an online professor and used to go through 2 reams of paper a month printing everything out for reference while working. Since I got her a second monitor the printer mostly collects dust. BTW she scoffed when I did it but now can't function without it.

jheinect
jheinect

I've been using dual monitors at work and home for 5 years now. Remote assist while pulling up system info in Help desk database, email in one window browser in the other, Web browser open while coding site in the other, the list goes on. Using certain apps across both screens works too. I use Photoshop or GIMP with the image blown up full screen on one monitor on the tools on the other monitor, out of the way. I also use Cakewalk Sonar for pro audio, and spreading different tools and windows like effects, mixer, piano roll, etc., across both screens is a boon. What helps is using the right card, and for me, the only choice is Matrox. Multi-monitor support is their bread and butter. Nvidia and Ati do dual monitor, and may do more with multiple cards, but Matrox is still king in this land. Also, their Powerdesk software for windows is great for multi-desktops, similar to Linux systems. I'm looking at the P750 now to go to 3 monitors (or at least 2 and a TV).

StealthWiFi
StealthWiFi

All of my users including myself all benefit from dual monitors. The users work on insurance loss runs and claims along with other tasks and having multiple documents up at a time to read helps greatly.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

I found that having TWO PCs on mydesktop really helped also. Our company would only replace something when it broke, so having two meant that, during 8 years when the inevitable MB fried or HD died that I would stillbe able to work via the other PC. And when not broken, I usually had so many things going on at least one of the PCs that the second one wouldn't be bogged down. Plus I attended alot of webinars, as learning background on the second PC. So that streaming audio wouldn't slow down work on the other PC. I also had large HDs in them so I could backup key db tables, progs and other files it would pay to have realquick access to restore.

Kelley@HollywoodSteel.com
Kelley@HollywoodSteel.com

We do not currently use 2 monitors, but I can see us evolving to that. Before the use of computers, people looked at a set of plans and wrote the material list, etc, on paper. These were spread out so that they could see both at the same time. When we replicate this in a computerized environment, we need a large monitor showing the plans (24" or so) and a smaller (21" or 19") monitor where we enter the material list. The cost is not a significant factor, we need to have staff that is acclimated to this and have the desk space. Flat panels (does anyone remember CRTs?) obviously help with desk space.

Penguin_me
Penguin_me

I used to use 2 monitors (the second died not long ago, haven't had the cash for another one yet). I used to get very annoyed at the fact that Windows wouldn't put the task bar across both monitors, so everything was lumped on the primary monitors' task bar. There is a nice piece of software (link: http://www.realtimesoft.com/ultramon/ ) which will put a task bar on all the additional monitors, and you can configure it to add a button to windows to "switch" which monitor they're on. More config options allow you to set default screens for new windows on a per-app basis. It's worth looking at for multi-monitor systems.

brudab
brudab

I use two laptops at home with an additional 21 inch monitor plugged in to one of them. I recently came across a program named Synergy (http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/) that allows me to share use my mouse and keyboard from one laptop to control the other. i.e. i can open programs in dual monitor mode on laptop 1, and then push the cursor across to laptop 2 and open programs on that one two. It's really cool, oh and increases my productivity too.

Omnifice
Omnifice

The new system I just built a couple of months ago was designed to have two 22" widescreen monitors and I wasn't sure if I would really need them...especially with the "extra" (such a thing?) widescreen real estate. Now that I've used them, they are essential whether doing development, or just using one with a reference doc/app displayed while working in the other. I wouldn't ever build a system for myself without at least two monitors ever again...especially with the low cost of monitors now days! Cheers!

The_King_Working
The_King_Working

2? I used to use two now I have to have 3. I have two 21" monitors for my code and my browser ouput. I use the 3rd 19" monitor for my email them. I can't imagine not having 3 anymore. I can have 40 items on my task bar at once. ;-)

CG IT
CG IT

especially if you have 22" or 24" LCD Wide Screens...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've a friend who couldn't build a system without two monitors. He's mentioned many times that once you have two or more monitors, you just can't go back to stacked windows and alt-tab for everything. At work I have two in the form of a large screen on the desktop and the regular screen on the issued notebook. Now if only I could come up with a convincing argument too have the IT people add my account to the notebooks remote desktop access list; then the notebook screen would really be a second monitor since I wouldn't even have to move from keyboard to keyboard.

Jindicator
Jindicator

Plus, I always get a little joy out of seeing someone who has never used dual monitors sit at my computer and ask where the window they just opened went. Then when you show them they are like that is so cool and then they want dual monitors. My goal is to someday have 8 or 9 like in Swordfish. So far I had a max of 4 (17" monitors that took up almost all of my deskspace) which was probably overkill for what I was doing but it was pretty neat.

paul.mcgrath
paul.mcgrath

I've had dual monitors for years and can't imagine how anyone gets anything done without. Whether you're working on one project with support apps or documents on the other screen or remoted into three or four boxes at a time- you need the space. I agree that the crt's were a desktop space nightmare, but lcd's are a bargain these days. Go get a couple of 22" lcd's-they'll lastfor years. You don't have to upgrade your monitors as often as your desktop machine.

colinnisbett
colinnisbett

I use duals monitors in my home studio. As a music producer using Reason and Cubase, (a lot of the time together) I need to able to view multiple applications at the same time so dual monitors are for me best. 3 monitors would be ideal. When I first started music production, I was only running one monitor which was a nightmare, constantly switching from one application to another..arrrrgggghhh!!!. With the dual screens I can view all my applications all the time..brilliant!!!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I can go dig out the magazine and confirm later. Basically, you still have a video card in your machine but the external box connected to your USB can also feed video signal too monitors and has a bunch more connectors available on it. ATI also has an external video card though I can't remember if it's a USB connection or something else. It's in the 1400 dollar range for professional work. nVidia also has a higher end external video card. I believe both cases are due to the heat the cards produce.

jkozura
jkozura

Try googling Matrox DualHead2Go or Matrox TripleHead2Go. We have about a dozen users using the dual head units in my office and they work well.

sacbaker
sacbaker

How do you hook up two monitors without having to install a video card?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm not sure where I saw it now though it could have been in last months MaxPC. If you can find it; there's a company that has a box you plug into your usb port that splits the video out to multiple monitors. It's meant to support more monitors than onboard video parts while avoiding the usual hoops of setting it up through the video card.

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