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use dual monitorsAre you running multiple or dual monitors 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive Read More ?  Are you having trouble because you’d rather have a taskbar at the bottom of each monitor?  What about some flexibility with the wallpaper?  Would you like to span wallpapers across the desktops or at least choose a different wallpaper for each monitor?

There are free programs out there that can help you manage multiple monitors and I’d like to share three of them.

MultiMon TaskBar

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MultiMon TaskBar manager is the first program I hear people talking about.  Basically, MultiMon does several things that make managing monitors easier.


First of all, it helps to organize the taskbar.  As you know, normally all of the open programs appear in the taskbar of only the main monitor.  With MultiMon, only the programs open in that monitor appear on its taskbar.  Secondly, switching programs back and forth is a snap with the little arrow icon in the upper right hand corner.  Just a click makes the switch!

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MultiMon catches a bit of flack because the taskbar in the second monitor has a rather archaic look to it.

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There is a paid “pro” version that does offer Windows XP and Vista taskbar theme support.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me that the taskbars don’t match.

Display Fusion

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Display Fusion brings managing multiple monitors to another level by offering support for multiple wallpapers.  You can have a different wallpaper for each monitor or you can have one wallpaper span all monitors.

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Display Fusion is a bit limited in the free version.  For instance, if you want taskbars in more than one monitor, you’ll have to pay for the “pro” version.  Bummer.  Also if you want more than one button added to the title bar, you’re looking at the “pro” version.  Another bummer.  I think it’s worth messing with just for the wallpaper options.

ZBar

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ZBar is an interesting choice because it enables taskbars in each monitor AND multiple wallpapers!  Before now, the other free choices have been either one or the other.  Now you can have your proverbial cake and eat it, too!

You even have some design choices for the taskbar, and one gets pretty close to Windows Vista’s design!

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Interesting enough, it seems that there is no installation needed!  I just downloaded the zip file, and opened the EXE file, and voila!

One spat I would have with ZBar is the lack of a quick way to move windows from one monitor to another.  I think in light of the other options, it’s a small sacrifice to make!

There you have it, three FREE programs to help manage multiple monitors.  In fact, I’ve actually tested running all three together AT THE SAME TIME!  Right now I have the cool arrow making it easier to move windows from one monitor to another (MultiMon), multiple wallpaper options (from Display Fusion), and the Vista style taskbar in my second monitor (ZBar)!  Very cool!

I know people debate what program to use so if you have an opinion, share it with us!  And of course if you have other options not mentioned in this article, do share!

  1. Alex
    February 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I've tried all them - UltraMon, Display Fusion, ZBar, MultiMon and Actual Multiple Monitors. And guess what, I vote for Actual Multiple Monitors.

    I use Windows XP, and AMM's teskbar on my second monitor looks absolutely the same as the standard one - with the Start button, tray, and clock, it even repeats the Quick launch toolbar. All the things I use every day.

    That's just awesome!

  2. johnnyB
    December 15, 2009 at 2:34 am

    There's another tool which though not recognized yet as widely as DisplayFusion or UltraMon but can be a good alternative if you target for more functionality than decorations - Actual Multiple Monitors 1.0 (http://www.actualtools.com/multiplemonitors/). The upcoming version 2.0 will bring the system tray on secondary taskbars and some usability features (such as snapping windows to desktop boundaries, to each other and to the specified grid).

  3. Ben
    November 29, 2009 at 11:07 am

    "One spat I would have with ZBar is the lack of a quick way to move windows from one monitor to another. I think in light of the other options, it’s a small sacrifice to make!"

    You can enable keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl+Alt then z/x/c or arrow keys left/right/up). Or, you can drag them from one monitor to another. Either way, a very quick way to move them from one window to another.

    ZBar has EASILY repalced Multi-Mon for me, giving me all the features I need for free. I just don't see why I would spend $40 for UltraMon. ZBar does everything I need!

  4. cr0ft
    November 27, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    For quick moving and organizing of windows, including sending one to another monitor, Winsplit Revolution is very handy. Just a ctrl-alt-leftarrow will move the window one screen over to the left, for instance. It also allows for easy tiling of windows etc. Free, too.

    • Tim
      November 28, 2009 at 6:34 am

      Winsplit Revolution, huh? Good catch!

  5. geeknik
    November 27, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I never heard of any of these programs, but I do use UltraMon and I think that's the only way to go. :)

  6. Teknyka
    November 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I agree with Bens, UltraMon has all of the features listed in this article, and then some. The only downside is that it costs $39.95

    • Tim
      November 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm

      I haven't tested UltraMon because I prefer free software. I've heard it's a worthy contender though.

  7. Christopher Proudlove
    November 27, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Great article, thanks. After checking out each of the three options, I plumped for Zbar, which plays very nicely with Input Director running my two towers and three screens.

    • Tim
      November 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm

      I was suprised by the usefulness of such a small program such as ZBar. Unobtrusive AND handles both taskbar AND wallpaper!

    • Tim
      November 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm

      I also like how Input Director is free! I'll have to check that one out!

  8. Bens
    November 27, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Ultramon is the way to go. It costs money but is well worth the price.

  9. Anne
    November 26, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    For folks that want to use a notebook or second PC as a second monitor, they can try MaxiVista. http://www.maxivista.com/.

    It's not free like the ones above, but still very useful.

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