Archive for September, 2009

The Zen of Multiple Monitors

September 22nd, 2009 2 comments

Productivity and Plurality
MultipleMonitorsHave you ever felt constrained by the limitations of a single display on your computer? Do you routinely find yourself switching back and forth between multiple applications? Maybe you’re working on a spreadsheet and an email at the same time and you are using data from the spreadsheet to emphasize a point in your email. So you bring your spreadsheet to the front, find the relevant data, copy it, then bring your email forward again, then paste it, then go back to your spreadsheet and yada, yada, yada. There is a capability built into your computer to support multiple monitors. So instead of having your spreadsheet and email on the same monitor, you can have two monitors and put your spreadsheet on one and your email on the other. Now you can see both of them at the same time.  This capability has been built into Windows since at least Windows 98… if not Windows 95.

Multi-Magic on a Laptop
Most laptop computers have a built-in capability to handle a second monitor in extended desktop mode. There is most likely an external VGA connector on the exterior of your laptop. Just try plugging a monitor into that port. If the second monitor shows the exact same thing as your primary display then it is in Dual-View mode which, you guessed it, shows the same thing on both displays. An easy shortcut that works on most laptops to toggle the various display modes is to press Fn+F8. This key combination will usually toggle through the various supported display modes. If that doesn’t work for you you may need to go to Control Panel->Display Settings.

Multi-Magic on a Desktop
It is typically very easy to add a second monitor to a desktop computer. The easiest way is to purchase a video card that supports 2 displays. The video card will actually have 2 video connections on it. You simply remove the existing video card from your computer and replace it with the new one. There are some gotchas here. 1) You will need to know what type of video card your motherboard supports (AGP, PCI, PCIE ). You may also need to pay attention to what type of monitor connections you have (VGA or DVI).  If you feel intimidated by the computer jargon, you can always bring your desktop to a local computer shop to have this done.

Time is Money
The reason you should consider using more monitors is easy. More screen real estate (ie: more monitors) equals increased productivity. With the falling prices of LCD monitors, it doesn’t take long before the increased productivity more than pays for that additional LCD monitor. And why stop at just 2 monitors? You can actually have more than that. In fact, my computer setup, which I’m writing this very blog on, has 4 monitors. You see, once you go with a second monitor it’s not long before you realize that if 2 is better than 1, then naturally, 3 is better than 2. And so on. And so on.



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