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Summary:

In the past, we’ve considered the question of whether the current crop of mega-monitors actually work to enhance productivity. But there’s another option that web workers, at least those with a relatively stable desk, ought to look seriously at: multiple monitors. Instead of buying one single […]

In the past, we’ve considered the question of whether the current crop of mega-monitors actually work to enhance productivity. But there’s another option that web workers, at least those with a relatively stable desk, ought to look seriously at: multiple monitors. Instead of buying one single 30-inch (or larger) behemoth, equip your computer with two, three, or even more reasonably-sized monitors.

Software developers in particular have discussed the benefits of multiple monitors for some time now. Those of us who work with them – I have four monitors on my own desk right now – are happily convinced of these benefits. It’s really pretty simple: overlapping window and taskbars and docks and virtual windows are all poor substitutes for actually being able to see your work. With multiple monitors, I can have an email client open in one, an application I’m writing about in another, and a word-processing program in a third, without constantly shuffling windows back and forth and trying to remember what I was doing.

Fortunately, for reasonable numbers of monitors and modern hardware, the effort and expense of adding a second monitor is often trivial. Just about any Mac you can buy today will support a second monitor; Windows XP and Windows Vista offer good dual-monitor support out of the box, requiring only that you make sure you have a dual-port video card. As you move up to more monitors, you’ll need to invest correspondingly more in hardware (and learn about more esoteric options), but three- and four-monitor setups are not particularly difficult to manage. With decent 19- and 20-inch flat-screen monitors available for under $200, even the cost of the pixels themselves is reasonable.

Another option, particularly attractive if you’ve recently upgraded hardware, is to use a second computer for your second monitor. In this plan, you keep two monitors connected to different computers (or park your laptop next to your desktop monitor) and use specialized networking software to allow one keyboard and mouse to control both. You lose the ability to drag applications from screen to screen, but can still work fluidly with windows spread across the wider workspace. Free software such as Win2VNC (for Windows) or Synergy (for Windows, OS X, or Unix) makes it easy to set this up. On Windows, the commercial MaxiVista will actually allow you to treat a laptop as a legitimate second monitor, with full drag and drop. ScreenRecycler provides similar functionality for OS X.

Whatever your field, unless you’re a road warrior 100% of the time I urge you to consider a multiple monitor setup. Look at it this way: would you use a desk that only gave you room for a single sheet of paper at a time? If you’re not prepared for that sort of productivity compromise in atoms, you shouldn’t force yourself to make it in bits either.

  1. [...] WebWorkerDaily: Multiple Computers are good for you. Read more » [...]

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  2. [...] WebWorkerDaily: Multiple Computer Montitors are good for you. Read more » [...]

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  3. [...] GigaNet Headlines… Thursday « on Enhance Your Productivity with Multiple Monitors[...] WebWorkerDaily: Multiple Computer Montitors are good for you. Read more »… NewTeeVee [...]

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  4. I am beta tester of MaxiVista for Mac. Its waaaay faster than ScreenRecycler which is almost unusable for video playback. I believe, MaxiVista will be out during Q4 for the Mac platform. It’s a killer already now…

    Marco

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  5. I love multiple monitors when I’m at my desktop researching and assembling reports and presentations. I’ll have my browser (maxthon) open on one screen, Powerpoint in another and perhaps Word or Excel on the third. That way I never need any paper and all my tools I need for the task at hand are a glance away. Ultramon makes this really slick, and I have a spare mouse button assigned to moving windows between screens. When I just want to read though they are too distracting so I’ll grab my tablet and head for a Cafe by the beach.

    I have loads of posts on my blog that go into more details, hints and tips, pictures etc.

    well worth a read! – although I would say that wouldn’t I …

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  6. A middle ground option is to invest in a decent laptop and then add a nice sized, but budget-priced second monitor. Cut the desktop out completely.

    At my last job, I had a 15″ ThinkPad with a docking station and paired it with a 24″ Acer LCD. It was great to have the mobility of the notebook to run from meeting to meeting plus the expanse of the large LCD when I was back at my desk. I also had a full-sized wireless keyboard and mouse plugged into the docking station so I just had to dock the notebook and I was ready to work at my desk.

    I usually had Outlook open on the notebook screen all the time and then a browser plus another application on the external monitor. Worked really well for me.

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  7. Aren’t multiple monitors a little bit like crack cocaine? I mean, first you get the second, then you just have to have the third – and before you even realize you’re mortgaging your house to get one more monitor.

    Seriously speaking, (at least) doubling your screen estate does increase your productivity. In web design / developement it’s simply too efficient to have a browser open in another monitor and Photoshop / code editor open in another.

    At other times, for example while writing or reading articles, I use the second monitor for trivial apps like media players, explorer, calculator &c.

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  8. Well I quite Agree… in fact using 2 monitors is as good as saving 30% of my time doing something more effective… Last when I wrote a post about using a bigger monitor The Developer’s Productivity Guide I really saw improved productivity … when I turned to multiple I save more time then what i was saving with a bigger monitor…

    Not more to the Surprises we have our architect using 3 monitors synced up with 2 different OS. This is always cool….. I really think it can make anyones life lot more easier and faster…

    Regards
    Sameer Shaikh
    http://pm-better-than-sex.blogspot.com

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  9. I have a laptop plus a 21″ monitor. Unfortunately some patch of Windows XP disabled the Windows dual-monitor facility, so I can get one or the other display, but never both. I’ve spent a day or two struggling with it but I need to get work done, so have resigned myself to one monitor until the next laptop upgrade..

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