Dual monitors

Dual screens/monitors are becoming more and more commonly used to increase productivity. With a single monitor, you can jump between applications with a mouse click or a keyboard command (Alt+Tab, in Windows), but not nearly as fast. And small delays add up when you repeat them dozens or even hundreds of times a day. With a dual screen setup, you simply move your mouse from one screen to the other. This allows you to see two maximised windows at the same time.

Some typical uses of the left and right screen could be:

Left – E-Mail    Right – Word processor/spreadsheet

Left – Running a virus scan    Right – Web browsing

Left – Browsing photos    Right – Viewing/editing a single photo

You can use Microsoft Windows to handle the dual screens, but it is much better to invest in a piece of cheap software to do this for you as it will allow for many more options. The one I use is called UltraMon and I can thoroughly recommend it. It has many useful options that Windows lacks.

In addition to buying 2 flat screens, you need to ensure that your computer has a display/video card that can have 2 screens plugged into it. As a general rule of thumb, basic computers don’t have this facility and middle to high end ones mostly do. If your computer can’t take 2 displays, you can buy and install a video card that will support 2 displays. These can be fairly inexpensive too.

Some much older computers however simply lack the capacity for internal hardware upgrades. In these unfortunate cases, there are ways to get around this limitation, such as Matrox Graphics’ DualHead2Go, which functions almost identically to a standard video card, yet is actually an external device that makes use of your existing video port. With DualHead2Go, you can add an additional display to your desktop system or another two monitors to a laptop.

When planning a dual screen setup, try to get two monitors that are the same size and dimension, and set the same resolution on both. It helps to have this consistency over both displays. Some people even use 3 or more screens:

The various PROS and CONS of converting to a dual screen setup are:

– Can have 2 full-screen/maximised programs open at once
– No time spent switching between 2 programs
– Most laptops have an external video port which can be used to run a second monitor

– Cost of a second monitor (although prices are very reasonable nowadays)
– Need a second video port/card on your system or a hardware “splitter” to split a single port into two but the card need not be the latest, greatest one, a fairly simple video card will suffice. You can either add another card to your system or replace the basic card you already have with a card with 2 ports built into it.

One thing I can say for sure from personal experience: having used a dual screen setup for a number of years now, I would never go back to a single screen!