Get Ready to See Double

Russ Levanway,

There’s a deadline headed your way fast. Need to have a giant spreadsheet and another program visible at the same time, but alternating between windows driving you nuts? Here’s an good solution: double monitors.

Those who have made the switch say using two monitors – or even more – make them more productive. And they swear they’d never go back.

Using more than one monitor means more viewing space for different applications, programs and documents… simultaneously. That’s why multiple monitor users can be found in information-heavy professions like graphic design, stock trading, software development, IT administration, publishing, accounting and more. A typical user may have e-mail up on one monitor, an internet browser window on a second, and perhaps an application on a third, seamlessly moving their cursor from screen to screen. Some users rely so heavily on multiple monitors; they pack a monitor to set up next to their laptop screen when they travel.

Setup Recommendations

  • Multiple monitors work best when placed facing the viewer at the same distance. Picture a semi-circle with three monitors.
  • The resolution of each monitor in a multiple setup can be adjusted individually using display settings (check the Control Panel if you have a PC and System Preferences if you have a Mac). If you are unsure how to do this, ask your IT personnel or provider.
  • Using similarly-sized monitors and resolution settings is best. Want to use monitors with different resolutions? No problem. Just use the one with the highest resolution for graphics, viewing videos (we won’t tell your boss about that Netflix addiction), and internet browsing.

There Must be a “But”

Workplace adoption of dual screens can be hit or miss, especially if an IT department isn’t actively encouraging or supporting the use of more than one monitor. Technical support may be needed to make it possible; desktop systems, in particular, may require a video card upgrade that can support separate video outputs.

The experience of using dual monitors isn’t without glitches, either. For instance, if a laptop is disconnected from a standalone monitor, upon restart an application may look for the second screen. Some users said they also “lose” their mouse. The good news? Both issues are easy to fix.

Ready to become more efficient? Here’s the checklist to begin:

  • Two monitors (one, if set up with a laptop), which may be flat-panel LCD monitors or CRT monitors, or one of each. You can even use a newer LCD TV screen as a monitor. If you’re going to buy a monitor, there are many points to consider in addition to the price. Consider picture quality, screen size, screen resolution, compatibility with your computer’s video output, contrast ratio and richness of color.

Although we refer to two monitors in this checklist, you can use more than two as long as you have enough output connectors available on your computer.

  • Two monitor cables to connect the monitors to the computer (one for a laptop). These need to match the connection types available on your computer.
  • A monitor connection on your computer for each monitor you want to connect. These may be Digital Visual Interface (DVI), Video Graphics Array (VGA), HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface), or S-Video connectors. The last two types of connections you are more likely to need if one of your monitors is a LCD TV.  The connections will need to match the monitor cables. These ports connect to video cards in your computer. They are usually located on the back of your desktop computer and on the side or back of your laptop computer.
  • If you don’t have the connectors you need for your monitors, you can install a second video card into your computer.  This involves opening your computer, so you may want to seek assistance from your IT personnel or provider.

Instead of installing multiple screens, some people are scaling up to jumbo-sized monitors, most commonly up to 30” although bigger ones are available; they are rarer and more costly. .  This is more common for professionals who use design applications, or specialized fields, like those using flight simulation software.   Aside from these special cases, we generally don’t recommend you opt for one huge monitor instead of a couple of smaller ones.  One large 30” monitor may cost $1,000, while a decent-sized 22” can be purchased for under $200.  What’s more, it is easier to multitask and switch between applications on separate monitors.  On a single large monitor, you will have to spend a lot more time adjusting the amount of space your programs use on the screen.

Worth It?

Multiple monitors make sense in many work environments. You’ll find that having two monitors can forever change the way you work with your computer. Your efficiency will increase, and your Ctrl + Tab usage will drop, cutting down on the time you spend searching for open applications. You’ll love the way the extra visual space increases your ability to multi-task, quickly referencing multiple applications and documents simultaneously.

Russ Levanway is the CEO of TekTegrity, Inc. TekTegrity is an IT Strategies and Management firm that provides premium IT services to businesses, government, education and non-profit organization in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Monterey and Kern counties. TekTegrity’s goal is to become your organizations long-term strategic partner by supporting your IT infrastructure with your bottom line in mind. Some of TekTegrity’s services include System and Workstation Installation, Virtual Hosted Servers, Priority Backup, Off-Site Data Replication, and Total Systems Management™ (TSM). TSM is an industry-leading managed services model that emphasizes proactive and preventative IT support at a predictable fixed monthly fee. For more information about TekTegrity, email info@tektegrity.com,visit www.tektegrity.com, or call 805-596-0135.