I cleared off some space on my desk and plugged in a second monitor a couple days ago. The problem is that I haven't used it at all yet. What do people normally use multiple monitors for?

closed as off topic by Nifle, random Aug 20 '10 at 3:54

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  • What OS? What kind of work/activity do you do on your machine? – gfr Aug 18 '10 at 23:47
  • Ubuntu (with Gnome). I mostly use the computer for web browsing, music, and programming (embedded, game physics, and web development). – David Aug 18 '10 at 23:52
  • 5
    Now what? Give it to me! – Kevin Panko Aug 19 '10 at 2:16

Doing IT work hasn't been the same since I started using multiple monitors. I find it increases my productivity quite a bit and I couldn't imagine juggling all those RDP and VNC windows around with 1 screen. Multiple monitors are handy for a lot of things...

  • Programming
  • Watching logfiles
  • Watching status monitors on applications (eg. Cisco SDM/ASDM)
  • Working on multiple remote desktops at once
  • Keeping track of e-mail/chat windows while busy with something else

Not so IT stuff:

  • Saving you from boredom while working on something else (ie. watch a video on the other screen)
  • Working with graphics while a video finishes rendering (lets you keep track of what you're doing instead of maximizing windows to check on things all the time)
  • Quickly changing songs in your music player

... and so on.

What it boils down to for me is the second monitor makes it easier to manage windows, and keep an eye on things while you're busy with something else. After a short while, using the second monitor becomes second nature. I find myself working on others' systems and looking for a place to shove application windows sometimes!

If none of this applies, maybe you aren't busy enough! :)

  • Programming, Watching a movie, running a VM in fullscreen or putting all explorer windows I have open are something I normally use in a second screen, very convenient. – Sandeep Bansal Aug 18 '10 at 23:57
  • The fullscreen VM, RDP, and VNC suggestions are interesting. What do you mean when you say that multiple monitors are useful for programming? (I ask because I've been programming for years with a single monitor.) – David Aug 19 '10 at 0:02
  • @David - At my company I often find the need to have multiple instances of Visual Studio open. There are lots of reason for that. Of late it has been due to migrating from VS2008 to VS2010 and working in projects that haven't made the migration at the same time as other that have. – Mike Chess Aug 19 '10 at 0:51
  • Normally programming and gaming. Example: HTML debugging - website on primary screen, firebug on secondary screen. – Raptor Aug 19 '10 at 4:13
  • Another one for programming - I often debug an application with Visual Studio running on one screen and the application on the other, or I code with VS on one and MSDN documentation on the other screen. That way you don't have to keep switching back and forth between the IDE and the documentation or app. It's also great for research of any sort. Compare two products at once, or write a paper while reading an article, or work in a spreadsheet while writing a report, etc. – nhinkle Aug 19 '10 at 5:59

The area where i don't want to work without a second monitor again is programming, where its useful to e.g.:

  • keep documentation or web searches and the IDE open
  • have the application to debug open on one monitor, the IDE on the other
  • keeping an eye on log-files etc. on the second monitor

You might find this tool useful:

WinSplit Revolution

It provides a set of short cut keys to "throw" windows to the left or right monitor and to further organise the currently focused window, I can't live without it on a single or dual monitor setup!


With a dual-monitor setup, you can use your computer for web browsing, music, and programming, as you say - SIMULTANEOUSLY!

A dual monitor setup seems almost useless to me in a "mirrored" mode. Set it up so you can use one monitor for one purpose, and the other monitor for another application.

Personally, I use my laptop screen for web browsing, and my larger monitor for programming and word processing. Add in Virtual Desktops/Spaces, and I almost never have to go looking for a buried window.

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