Hardware

Improve multiple-monitor support with DisplayFusion

DisplayFusion allows you to really take advantage of multiple monitors by providing you with a host of features. Greg Shultz introduces you to DisplayFusion and shows you some of his favorite features.

One of the nice features in Microsoft Windows Vista is its built-in support for multiple monitors. I've been taking advantage of a multiple-monitor configuration ever since the feature first became available in Windows 98, and now I feel cramped if I have to work on a system with only one monitor.

One of the biggest advantages I find to a multiple-monitor configuration is the amount of time and effort I save when doing any type of multitasking, i.e. running multiple applications. Rather than maximizing and minimizing windows to switch between applications, I simply turn my head from one monitor to the other.

For example, my multiple-monitor configuration consists of three monitors — a 19-inch monitor flanked by two 17-inch monitors. When I'm researching and writing a technical article, I have Internet Explorer running on the left monitor and Word running on the center monitor. As I track down relevant information, I can easily jot down notes in my Word document. If I need to double-check anything on the Web page, I just glance over. The right monitor is running Outlook, so as I'm doing my research I can glance over at my Inbox when new e-mail arrives and quickly determine if it's important enough to interrupt my research/writing to deal with.

Of course, this is just one example, and I normally have more than one application running on each monitor. But the point is that a multiple-monitor configuration can really help you increase your efficiency when multitasking. While it's great that Windows provides you with built-in support for multiple monitors, it's too bad that they didn't take the next step and provide you with some additional functionality. Fortunately, Jon Tackabury at Binary Fortress Software stepped up to the plate and created DisplayFusion. This handy utility allows you to really take advantage of multiple monitors by providing you with a host of features that will help you get the most out of a multiple-monitor configuration.

In this edition of the Windows 7 and Windows Vista Report, I'll introduce you to DisplayFusion and show you some of my favorite features.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Getting DisplayFusion

There are two versions of DisplayFusion: a free, but limited, version, which is available in the TechRepublic Software Library, and the Pro version, which sells for $20. However, you can download a license key and get a 30-day trial of the Pro version. You can check out the Comparison page and download a copy.

Once you download and install DisplayFusion, you'll find its icon in the system tray and will be able to access and configure all its features from there.

Multi-monitor taskbar

Of course, one of the primary reasons for adding additional monitors to your Windows system is to expand your screen real estate. So why not carry this idea one step further with the Multi-Monitor Taskbar feature, which allows you to expand the Windows Taskbar by placing a taskbar on the bottom of the screen on each secondary monitor. To activate and configure this feature, you'll right-click on the DisplayFusion icon and select the Multi-Monitor Taskbar command, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

To enable the Multi-Monitor Taskbar, just select the command.

As soon as you enable Multi-Monitor Taskbar feature, a taskbar appears on each monitor and immediately shows those applications that are open on that particular monitor. This alleviates the overcrowding of the main Taskbar that is a normal occurrence in a multiple-monitor configuration. In addition, this feature can save you time and frustration as it makes it easy to keep track of which applications are open on which monitor. And best of all, when you move a window from one monitor to another, you don't have to Restore Down the window first — you can just click and drag a Maximized window from one monitor to the next. And when you do so, Multi-Monitor Taskbar keeps track of the window, such that it displays the task on the appropriate taskbar.

Desktop wallpaper

While not as mission critical to the efficiency of a multiple-monitor setup, DisplayFusion's Desktop Wallpaper configuration option is still a really nice feature. For example, you can stretch a single image across all monitors or you can have a separate image on each monitor (Figure B). You can even configure randomly changing images from your computer or Flickr.com. You can change the color selection to grayscale or sepia tone, reposition the images on each monitor, and much more.

Figure B

Stretch wallpaper across multiple monitors.

Settings

On the Settings window, you'll find a host of additional configuration options that will allow you to tweak settings, assign hotkeys, adjust the Multi-Monitor Taskbar feature, as shown in Figure C, and much more.

Figure C

On the Settings window, you can make all sorts of additional adjustments.

What's your take?

Are you using a multiple monitor setup? If so, do you think you'll want to try DisplayFusion? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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