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May 19, 2010

Multiple Monitors

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul @ 10:41 am

I work at computers all day long.  Often I am sitting at other people’s desks fixing their computers, but more often than not I am at my own desk.  Whether I am remotely helping a client or working on a project I am always happier when I have more than one monitor.  My second monitor is the one thing I wish for when working from home on the weekend or after kids are in bed (I try to not work too much from home, but sometimes emergencies need to be handled).  My laptop is great, I love the freedom it gives me, but the lack of a second monitor (or even a larger monitor) is a noticeable slowdown to my productivity.

Many years ago I was working for a similar company to Latitude 34 Technologies in Los Angeles.  I was an engineer helping clients and working on projects.  A lot of what I did was working on servers remotely.  I would connect to a server and troubleshoot an issue.  This involved a lot of tedious window switching and resizing so that I could look at and type my notes, check and compare settings and many other tasks.  One day the inefficiency of it all got to me.  When I had a few minutes I scoured the spare parts bin for a second video card, took an old monitor off the shelf and connected everything together.  My boss walked by a while later and gave me one of those “what the heck are you doing” looks, but let it go.  A few weeks later he was standing over my shoulder watching me work on an issue.  He didn’t say anything, but a week later everyone that worked in the office had two monitors on their desk.

My boss at the time saw what I had known and what many others out there have learned: two monitors can make you more productive.  How much more productive depends on how they use the computer in the first place.

Think about your day to day interaction with your computer.  Do you often refer to a website while composing an e-mail?  How about referring to an e-mail while you work on a spreadsheet or update a document?  Do you ever want to bring up two Word documents side by side to review them?  You get the picture.  These are all activities that can be greatly enhanced by having two (or more) monitors on your desk.

There are several ways to add a second monitor.  Many computers already have the ability to drive a second monitor; others need an upgrade to replace their existing video card to do so.  There is even the option of just connecting a new USB monitor adaptor (while not a great option for computer gaming, these can be a very inexpensive option).  Even my laptop will connect to a second monitor; there just isn’t any place to put it on the couch…

Widescreen monitors can be almost as effective as having two monitors, especially with the Windows 7 ability to automatically size a window to half the screen by dragging the title bar to one side of the monitor or the other (the key combo “Windows + right (or left) arrow will do this as well).

If you think a second monitor can help with your productivity, check into it.  If it helps you gain just an hour a day then it will probably pay for itself in no time and there are studies that show it can increase your productivity by up to 50%.

Personally I would go crazy with less than two monitors on my desk and I will be upgrading to a third and possibly a fourth shortly.

References and further reading:

Microsoft research:

New York Times:

NEC study (PDF file link):

Rocky Mountain Communication Review, Department of Communication at the  University of Utah (PFD file, pages 31-35): A list of multiple monitor advantages):

1 Comment

  1. My son uses two monitors and has done so for a couple of years. I have to admit I thought it was just a teenager thing, but that child can multi-task right up there with a mom.
    Your explanation helped me see that it might be something I might like to do sometime.
    Thanks for all the cool links too.
    Calla Gold Jewelry

    Comment by Calla Gold — May 30, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

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