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I have a 17.3" laptop and 19" monitor,I connected the monitor to my laptop to see what multi-screen environment looks like. I set it to extend my screen, but there was no impressions.

My question is,what is multi-screen useful for? How do I use it? I tried watching a movie on the 19" monitor while programming on the 17.3" laptop, but I can't set my eyes to look at both display.

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11 Answers 11

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Both me and my wife have Dual 20" LCD Monitors at home.

I use mine for development. Visual Studio open on one, SQL Management Studio, web browsers and mail on the other. My wife does Poser 3D graphics and Poser loves dual screens, which makes a huge difference when doing any type of graphics work. Therefore she can have her tools open on one screen and her workspace open on another.

At work I have 4 screens across 2 computers. Every application I use can be opened on it's own screen, and when doing research it can be extremely useful not to tab or click between open applications.

Using it is simple. Drag the application you want on any of the other monitors to the monitor and leave it there. A lot of applications these days remember which monitor they were opened on from the start. Right now I have my mail and remote desktop on one screen and my browser on another to easily keep track of both.

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Does that mean that you have two different taskbars on both monitors? I have only one on the laptop,the monitor doesn't show it.Thanks again for your answer! +1 –  John Aug 23 '09 at 22:06
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Yes - I use an application called Ultramon - However there is a thread on SU with a list of the available options here: superuser.com/questions/1577/… –  Diago Aug 23 '09 at 22:20
    
Thanks,I now use DisplayFusion,thank you! –  John Aug 23 '09 at 23:05
    
here's a free alternative, Oscar's Multi-Monitor taskbar: mediachance.com/free/multimon.htm –  Molly7244 Aug 23 '09 at 23:47
    
I've considered using multiple taskbars but I prefer to have the taskbar on the left of the screen instead at the bottom. That way, It can contain more icons so I don't have any icons on the desktop itself. But vertical taskbars are annoying when visible on two monitors. –  Wim ten Brink Aug 24 '09 at 7:55

You can't actually look at multiple monitors at once--but neither can you actually look at a single monitor! The actual area you can look at is quite small--there is a security system that tracks your eyes and displays garbage everywhere but where you are looking. It looks fine to the user but everyone else sees pure garbage.

It's too expensive for home use (the eye-tracking hardware) but it's useful in high security situations (say, you're looking at a top secret document).

What multiple monitors do is allow you to have multiple things displayed so you need merely glance in that direction rather than dig out the window in question. It's MUCH faster.

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Sounds like a neat security system. Got a link to share? –  Bevan Aug 24 '09 at 0:44
    
Here's a mention of it: schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/07/gaze_tracking_s.html –  Loren Pechtel Aug 24 '09 at 14:43

If you want to go super-hardcore, try flipping one of your monitors 90o - vertical style!

I operate like this at work. The programs I use value vertical real estate more than horizontal, so by having a 1680x1050 screen that's actually 1050x1680 I can get a lot more work done (and, for the record, an A4 document at 100% zoom in Word is the exact dimensions of the paper in real life).

You need a video card that supports rotating the monitor (most do), and it's increased by productivity to no end.

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Not all monitors can physically be flipped, though. Or... sure, any monitor can be flipped, but some of them are designed to be set in one orientation and don't have stands that will hold them in a rotated position. So you'd have to build some sort of makeshift stand to hold a non-flippable monitor. Easier, in my view: get a monitor whose stand allows rotating from the start. –  David Z Aug 24 '09 at 0:03
    
yeah, definitely get one designed for this. Some lcds have wide horizontal viewing angle, but a shallow vertical one -- which makes for an unpleasant experience when rotating –  emgee Aug 24 '09 at 16:31

I don't know about anyone else but I can't do two things at the same time (e.g. watching movie and hack some code).

When working I usually keep web browsing and API refs on one screen and do actual development on the other. It is quicker for me to glance over to the other screen rather than do window switching all the time when I had one screen.

I'm guessing this is why people use multiple screen setup, to fill out their work area with more stuff so they don't need to keep bringing it up all the time.

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I can't watch a movie and hack code either, but I can watch a movie while just doing some light browsing. I tend to visit Wikipedia searching for the movie title to read the spoilers and background information. :-) –  Wim ten Brink Aug 24 '09 at 7:51

I don't know why I waited so long to go with dual monitors...I have one 22" and one 24". The greatest help has been with following instructions from the net or application or disk or whatever....The instructions are going on one monitor as I proceed with the instructions to what I am doing without having to ever change pages!

Don't think you won't use them!

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I'm trying to get used to it.I moved my sound player,browser and explorer to the second monitor,while on the first one I only use visualstudio and programming related software.But I can't see the usefuless yet.+1 for your effort by the way. –  John Aug 24 '09 at 3:36

That's up to you.

I use it so I can have multiple documents open at once - an email and a webpage, or a tutorial and the application I'm going through it in, some applications have break-away interfaces allowing you to put controls on one screen, and the document on the other.

If nothing else, you look 20% cooler with each monitor you hook up.

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I think at least the first extra monitor adds a lot more than 20% ;-) –  David Z Aug 23 '09 at 23:59

I went dual it because it's not cramped. When doing photography and graphic design work, I keep Bridge open on the right monitor and Indesign or Photoshop on the left. Parallels runs on the right monitor, as does e-mail. Basically, my main task is on the left, the secondary on the right. Saves lots of switching back and forth.

There comes a size of monitor when mouse-tracking becomes to slow to have multiple monitors. I used a friends dual 30" Mac and it was just ridiculous. I think the sweet spot is dual 23", but that's me. It's comes down to what you're comfortable with.

But the benefit is less time scrolling in documents and swapping windows to the foreground. And getting a bigger picture view at a glance. Oh yeah, that and impressing less technically savvy folk.

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You willl be surprised how much use you will get out of a dual monitor setup.

I use mine for running different browser windows or media on different desktops, when idling, or using any one application, eg. Blender or Photoshop on my larger one and having various browser windows, folders and other references open on the other when ostensibly working. That's it really.

The more screen acreage you have, the more ways you'll find to fill it!

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Depends on what I'm doing. Casual stuff I leave IRC channels, IM windows, simulations, or compiler status windows on the secondary monitor, and focus one one task on the primary. For serious work, I'll have reference materials on the second monitor, depending on what I'm doing. For web design, I tend to leave the design images there while I write up the template in notepad++.

For gaming, I turn it off, might squeeze a few extra fps.

edit: Oh yes, and not alt-tabbing ever.

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The bottom line is increased screen real estate. What you do with it is, of course, up to you.

I have a triple-monitor setup that I use for programming. The central screen gets whichever files I am currently working on - usually only one or two. The left side screen holds the project file, debugging window, compiler message window, etc. The right side screen I leave open for a web browser for looking up documentation (and surfing stackoverflow.com).

To be perfectly honest, even three isn't enough. I could go for four or more if I had the cash for it :-)

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I have a new 24-inch monitor and a 21-inch older monitor. This older one is about to die on me so I've ordered a new 25.5 inch monitor to replace it. And I just decided to use a dual-monitor system after I bought a new computer last month. Still had the monitor of my old PC so now I had a dual-monitor setup. Laughed about it, wondering if it would ever be really useful.

Well, now one monitor is going to die on me and I noticed I just can't live without this dual-monitor setup! Well, almost... When I develop software, it's great to have the IDE on the left screen and the application on the right. When I go through my photo collection with Adobe Lightroom, I see a grid with small thumbnails left and a big one right. And with Supreme Commander, a computer game, I see my own troops left and the enemy troops right. When web browsing, I can have two browser pages open, each on their own screen. Or I just watch TV or DVD on one screen and do something else on the other.

Only drawback? I needed a wider wallpaper... :-)

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Wider wallpapers ... try digitalblasphemy.com/mmsample.shtml (no affiliation, just a fan). –  Bevan Aug 24 '09 at 1:00
    
Thanks, but I prefer to render my own backgrounds. :-) It's not that difficult for me to create an interesting scene at 3840x1200. (Am using a 3520x1200 wallpaper now but since I'm replacing one monitor, I need it to be even wider...) –  Wim ten Brink Aug 24 '09 at 7:48

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