6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

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   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More ProductiveIf you are anything like me, at any point in time you have several browser windows open at once, many different tabs open in each browser, and several other programs lurking in your computer’s task bar which you are constantly switching between.

I work on my computer a lot.  I use many different programs depending on my task at hand.  I am constantly monitoring different sources of information, from RSS feeds, several different email boxes, social networking streams, and different blog commenting threads.

All of this means that I have a lot going, computer-wise.  Sometimes all of this going on at once really puts a damper on my productivity because I have a severe lack of ability when it comes to multitasking.

What I finally tried the other day has given me hope that this mass confusion and ill-fated attempts at getting things done can finally have an end!  I finally broke down and tried to set up dual monitors in my home office setup.  While I am still learning to use it properly, I have already noticed a massive difference in my level of concentration and productivity.

As a blogger, there are several ways to use such a setup (which I am still learning) but I think there are many different ways a dual monitor setup can help someone be more productive.  Here are 6 of them:

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1. Working and previewing at the same time

   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

While working on a project (or article), you can set up dual monitors to use one monitor to work and use the other for previewing your work. For instance, when blogging using WordPress, if you hit preview, a separate window (make sure you open it in a separate window as opposed to a tab) will open containing a preview of your article so far. If you set up that window in the second monitor, every time you hit preview the page will just refresh. That way there is no switching between tabs or windows! A similar setup can be useful for a design professional.

2. Testing in multiple types of browsers

   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More ProductiveYou can use a different browser in each monitor.  For instance, I am currently using Firefox on one monitor and Chrome on the other (sorry Microsoft!).

I am doing that because certain sites run better or smoother on Chrome while I still enjoy the extensions and usability of Firefox but a coder or designer may be interested in viewing their work in multiple browsers simultaneously in order to see how it looks in each.

3. Testing multiple screen resolutions (color settings, etc.)

   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

Yes, you CAN have different settings on each monitor.  For designers this could be an awesome help!  It all depends on what you need to see.  If you have a hard time reading, set the resolution a bit lower on the one you do reading from and keep the other one at a more reasonable resolution.

4. Making a lot of phone calls & recording data at the same time

   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

If you are constantly running down a phone list, it may be helpful to have a list constantly open in one monitor while working or recording data in the other one.  Not having to constantly hit Alt-Tab (to switch between windows) or Ctrl-Tab (to switch between tabs) saves a LOT of time, believe it or not.  Also it’s harder to lose your place if the view is never lost.

5. Getting work done while keeping up with what’s going on

   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

I’m currently doing this one!  I like having the ability to work while glancing up to see who’s saying what on Twitter or Facebook.  I also like keeping my email off to the side for glancability without losing my place on what I am working on. Plus I like to keep my RSS reader over there.

I suppose someone could also keep the news on a separate monitor so you can keep up with it while working.

6. Being entertained while working

   6 Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

Today’s Internet allows you to watch many TV shows online.  That doesn’t even count sites like YouTube!  You can also have a movie in your DVD drive.  I suppose you can be entertained on the side while working.  Please note, this could be taken both ways.  You can look at it like it’s stupid because you’ll be distracted and obviously lose any resemblance of productivity OR you can see it as a way to at least get SOMETHING done during down time.

To be honest, I’ve tried having video on while trying to work and I can’t do it, however I am sure there are those of you out there who can pull off some sort of light work while being entertained.

If you have the room, and you can afford it, go ahead and give dual monitors a try.  I’m loving it so far!  AND if you have any more productivity tips using dual monitors, let us know!

Image Credit : unimatrixZxero
Image Credit : Denbow
Image Credit : brykmantra

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43 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Vadim P.

etescartz

Haha!Playing HoN i see.. HoN FTW! I have dual monitor setup at work..although they’re both meant for doing my work faster.(i’m a tech support operator for an ISP) i use one monitor as my work desktop and the second one as remote desktop to my Ubuntu Machine at home..

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Kamakazi

If you have multiple widescreen monitors you HAVE to at least try having one oriented vertically. There are VERY few tasks that aren’t better on a tall monitor, especially one 20″ or larger with larger resolutions. Coding, writing, photoshop (depending on dimensions of what you are editing), and web browsing is a ton better. Most websites are coded for a 1024 horizontal resolution in mind anyway. For reference a 20″ widescreen is 1050 pixels horizontally.

Give it a shot, I think you will like it.

Tim

Huh, never tried it. I HAVE seen it done but I’ve never actually experimented with it. Thanks!

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Ragingmelon

Great article! At some point I have wondered what some people use dual-monitors for, and I guess may consider it one day :)

Tim

That’s actually where I got the idea for this article. I’ve seen a lot of how-to articles out there about HOW to set it up but not as many about HOW to USE it effectively. SOOoo I did some research and then tried it myself.

I’m sure there are many more tips out there so I’m hoping some people will share them for us!

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Vijay

Your article is a great intro to the world of multi monitors. There’s one drawback though, you’ll feel very awkward when you HAVE to work with a single monitor.

Kamakazi

Indeed. I have 3 monitors at home (okay, so I went a little overboard maybe, but it does come in handy at times) and I am stuck with only 1 at work. It kills me.

Tim

We should start a campaign sharing the benefits such a set up could afford a workplace! Is the extra expense worth the cost? That may depend on the workplace.

Kim

As an engineer, I use 2 monitors at work all the time. It is especially useful when I have an Autocad drawing open on one monitor and use the second monitor with Excel to create a bill of material for the drawing. All the engineers have 2 monitors now since it proved to be extremely effiecient use of our time.

Matt Dana

I’m tri-mon at home and dual at work. I actually really miss the third monitor when I don’t have it. I use it to hold a number of useful Vista sidebar gadgets like my Facebook and Twitter feeds, a calculator, google reader, unit converter, and so on. It also comes in handy as a dedicated screen for testing in IE while using firefox/firebug on screen 2 and my text editor on screen 1.

Tim

Very good point. I HAVE thought about that.

Also, for those of us using a laptop in our setup, disconnecting the laptop could pose some nuisances such as having to reorganize open windows, etc. I like the setup and what I have open on each screen, but I am reluctant to mess up my organization by disconnecting my laptop!

After it’s all said and done, I think the productivity afforded is worth it!

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BakarI

Great article, Tim. It’s good to finally see some useful suggestions for using dual monitors. Most articles typically talk about setting up, but they don’t get specific about practical suggestions. I’m gonna definitely use the WP suggestion. I already have Twitter and YouTube set up on my second monitor (here’s my set up: http://twitpic.com/oek7a).

I paid like a hundred bucks for an AOC monitor. Though it might be great to have one of those 27″ iMac montiors, dural displays just work a lot better. I can glance over at one web pages on one monitor while writing about it on another. Just awesome. I don’t why it took so long to realize the benefits.

As you gaim more experience with dual monitors, I hope you write another article about it. Good ideas so far.

Tim

Thanks. Yeah, I’m thinking about revisiting the topic once I have more experience.

Nice Setup! My second monitor is currently an old 19″ CTR

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raist

Best and free solution for web developers with dual monitor system is XRefresh – browser refresh automation (IE,FF, Win, OsX)

You work on your code/design… and when you hit CTRL+S (or whatever key for save), XRefresh will detect it and refresh a web page for you. Briliant workflow speedup!

More info about this free plugin: xrefresh.binaryage.com

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Vijay

Thanks raist. I’m not a web developer but do dabble with Joomla and Drupal for my own use.

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Chris Simmons

I made a tweets page so I can throw it on my second 22″ monitor when I’m watching something on my primary, or surfing, etc. Very handy.

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Christopher

I like to use the free version of the program multimon. I find it nice to have a toolbar on the second monitor, and especially like to have the button for sending a window to the other monitor with one click, instead of click and drag.

Tim

I’m currently working on an article about programs like multimon so stay tuned!

Reply

Antonin Hildebrand

Thanks Raist! I’ve just released XRefresh 1.3 with fixes for windows users and Firebug 1.5 compatibility. Enjoy!

Reply

fug

I’ve been doing this for years – you’ll find Ultramon to be a useful little app that’ll make the whole experience a lot easier.

Reply

Scott

Another good tip is to leverage dual monitors with multiple workspaces.

For example, I use a dual-monitor set-up with three workspaces, utilized as follows:

Workspace 1
left screen – text editor : right screen – web browser

Workspace 2
left screen – email client : right screen – IRC/IM client

Workspace 3
left screen – virtual machine : right screen VM manager

This set-up lets me switch ‘modes’ from working(1) to communicating(2) or testing(3) with a single keystroke.

Tim

Quite the set up! That’s a lot going on at once, but it sounds pretty well organized.

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Budget

how did you manage to reduce the size of your inbox like that? i have 3 screens and i still dont have that many emails

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Jeremy

For me, the most important reason for dual monitors is rdp. Whether at work, or working from home, dual monitors allows you to have your remote desktop session open in one window and your local pc open in the other. This dramatically improves productivity. The examples for this scenario are endless, but any time you are waiting for an application to execute or a browser window to load, you can be doing something else.

J

Tim

JEREMY! I can’t believe I didn’t think to bring that one up! That’s the perfect number 7: working locally AND remotely!

lizaoreo

Yeah, that works great. I used to do that at my old job before they decided to take Multiple monitors away (The head IT guy there deemed it to costly so we took all the dual monitors and put them in a closet to sit). It was a great tool though, I was able to have the remote desktop of the user I was helping on one screen and my tools, email, problem ticket information, reference guide, or whatever else I needed, up on the second screen.

Michael

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Michael Kingery

this is in line with your preview comment but in photoshop its even more valuable, in real time and a HUGE help when creating work digitally.

to do this go to Window>Arrange>New window from ___________ and huzzah!

Reply

Dravas

Started working a multi-monitor setups from my job and spread to my home when i upgraded to a 22″ monitor i used my extra monitor as my second. I learned of the programs that can help with productivity.

Ultramon and rocket dock as for laptops this works well

http://www.docs.kr/entry/Download-Shock-4Way3D-en

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honour chick

great advice and tutorial.

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Faisal Asif

Interesting article.

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Uroš

Great article Tim!

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youthworker

I like your ideas 1-4, but can’t help thinking how ironic it is that an article about productivity suggests enabling the ability to work while glancing up to see who’s saying what on Twitter or Facebook, or watching videos while you work…
Anyway, after the day I’ve just had, I’d have to say that a big advantage of dual screens would be being able to troubleshoot a problem on one monitor, while having the support forums or help file open on the other. I suspect more users would use help files if they could do this.

Tim

In defence of number 5, as a blogger I feel the need to stay in tune to what’s going on in my social networks. Dual monitors helps me stay organized while still keeping up.

I agree with you on number 6. I’ve tried watching tutorials and such on YouTube on my second monitor and just can’t do both. I suppose if the task was menial it might be a different story.

Troubleshooting with helpfiles and support forums seems like an amiable use. Hadn’t really thought of that!

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Frank

Tim I use a dual monitor set up at work and in addition to that I use the virtual desktop manager, which is a part of the powertoys for windows XP pack. This little “toy” lets you not only see 2 screens but actually 8. It gives you 4 different screen set ups to look at. I can basically open up 8 different word documents one on each screen and switch back and forth between any of them. You can have 4 different wall papers going also. It puts icons numbered 1-4 as well as an icon with a window pane on the tool bar. The window pane icon lets you see all 4 different screenshots at once. Pretty cool how you use it is up to you.

Tim

I’m still getting used to the 2 monitors, let alone multiplying the desktops!

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Michael Reid

I had 4 monitors in my last work place (this is 4 years ago) and have 6 in my current position (2 up top and 4 in a row below). Got two 23″ monitors at home – can’t work with just one now!

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kelvin

great article.

i’ve been using dual-monitors for the past 10 years or so, ever since collage; and can’t seem to get work done without it.

just wanted to point out some tools i use regularly in order to enhance my dual-monitor experience…

1. UltraMon (by Realtime Soft Ltd.), allows taskbar to be displayed on both monitors as well as synchronizing screen-savers and a lot of other neat features.

2. Synergy (not sure the company, but can easily by googled), is a tool which acts as a virtual KVM (keyboard-video-mouse).. all you need is a private network setup between two or more computers, and synergy will automatically share the keyboard/mouse between the two computers. This tool is used less often; however very useful when i have two computers hooked up, one to each monitor, and both sharing the single mouse/keyboard on my desktop.

btw, i am using Windwos7-64bit and both of these tool works great..

Reply

Tzvi

I remembered seeing this header on the newsletter, but didn’t read the content. Today I was trying to figure out how to work more effectively on my website when I have to keep switching between multiple windows and I remembered it. Looked it over and read up on dual monitors. I think I’m going to give it a try. Thanks.

Reply

Tim Lenahan

No prob! Check out the next article “6 MORE Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

Tzvi

Set up a second monitor. At the moment I have it above my laptop monitor. Took a few minutes to figure out how to set it up. One (minor) issue that crept up – I’ve been using wordtab (I think I saw that on makeuseof.com too). One of the things I’d like to do is have two word documents open in front of me – one on each monitor. It looks like I’ll have to disable wordtab for that. Any ideas?

Thanks again for all the information.

Tzvi

I seem to have found a solution. I’ll have to test it out to see if it works well though. I can stretch the Word window over both screens (I already mentioned that I’m trying second monitor above the first). After stretching word down or up thru both monitors, I can use the “split window” view. Afterwards, I can bring a second window to the front of the top or bottom monitor while Word remains at the front of the other one. Like I wrote, the jury is out on this, details later.

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Tzvi

I found that I can stretch the Word window to cover both monitors (I have one above the other). This enables me to use “split window” to view two parts of the same file. Alt-tabbing a different program will bring a second program to the front of one of the monitors. The Word document remains on top in the other monitor.

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