Web Culture

3 Dual Monitor User Types That Make Good Use Of Their Setup

Tim Lenahan 22-01-2010

uses for dual monitorsIn past articles I have hit on ways to set up your work on multiple monitors to make them more productive (here 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive Read More and here 6 MORE Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive Read More ).  This article, although seemingly similar, will major on types of people that make use of multiple monitors and how and those various dual monitor uses.


As we have explored already, different people use their monitor setups in different ways.  We must also realize that different user types fall into specific, and often occupational, categories.

1.  The Office Worker

dual monitor uses

In my opinion, office managers should at least test whether or not dual monitors will increase productivity enough to actually save money.  You ask how an office worker may use a second monitor in order to save time and be more productive?  Well, there are several ways, including keeping communications (such as email and phone notes) on one monitor while keeping work on the other.

Could this be done using ALT-TAB or multiple virtual desktops?  Perhaps.  The idea is to see whether or not a second monitor would increase overall productivity.  I think it would.  However do you think it would be worth the investment monetarily?

If an office worker can convince his or her manager or boss that certain dual monitor uses will save them money, they deserve the monitors!


2.  Social Media Type

dual monitor uses

Watching people such as Chris Pirillo use his monitors shows us just how useful such a setup could be to those who use social media extensively.  If you know anything about live.pirillo.com you’ll know he is big on live streaming, chatting with visitors, and recording YouTube content.  According to an article he wrote, he uses one for his work and email and the other for widgets (chatting, IM, feeds).  Social media types really need to keep up on what is going on, sometimes in multiple places.  Dual monitors can help organize everything.

Personally, I think I fit somewhere in here (I’m no Chris Pirillo, however I AM a corny dork in much the same way he is).  I like having my keep-up-with-things on my top monitor (with a music player of some sort in the background) while having what I’m currently working on or reading on my laptop screen so I can see it better.

3. The Designer

uses for dual monitors


From what I hear, many of the programs that designers make use of happen to take up a lot of screen real estate.  I also hear that having the project open in one window and the controls open in the other makes work a bit easier.  Also, there’s also the trick of keeping the preview of the project open in the second window (using a program such as XRefresh can make this easier).

I know so you don’t have to tell me that there are more user types.  Those will have to make up another post:)

Until then, for your amusement I have included a BONUS dual monitor user type that does NOT make good use of his monitor setup:

The Wannabe

uses for dual monitors


Have you ever heard someone say that they have a dual monitor setup in their office or home just because it’s cool to have one?  OK, I’ll hand it to them that it IS cool.  I suppose if you’re looking for bragging rights then having multiple monitors can give them to you but if that’s the ONLY reason… you’re probably a wannabe!

You all know the wannabe type, right?  They like to brag about this or that just so you know they are cool.  In my world, if you have to tell people you’re cool and why, then you’re probably not.  Cool doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of screen real estate you have.  It comes from the type of person you are.  My advice, don’t waste the money, it won’t work.

I need readers to weigh in if you fit into any of these categories of dual monitor uses (even the wannabes!) and let me know how you use your screen real estate in your specific occupation. This is because I obviously do not have experience in every job field out there.  So, help us out a bit, will you?

Image credits: MorgueFile.com


Related topics: Computer Monitor, Multiple Monitors, Multitasking.

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  1. Erik B. Andersen
    March 16, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    One absolutely awesome thing I found was The open source Synergy program. It lets you use a mouse attached to one computer for two computers. It does this very similarly to a dual monitor setup, by letting you move your pointer off the edge of one screen and on to the other. It is even works cross platform.

  2. Philip Tory
    February 10, 2010 at 9:25 am

    As a professional Technical Author, I have been using dual monitors for about 2 years. It certainly helps with productivity, and makes working easier and more flexible. I often need to capture screen shots from an application, switch to a graphics package and process it. And then either copy it into a Word document, or import it into RoboHelp for making Online Help Guides. Switching between apps in one screen is tedious, as there are often other apps running in the background - email, browser, etc; but with two monitors I can keep the main apps in view.
    [HOT TIP: Have a look at UltraMon (www.ultramon.com) for an easy way to manage multiple monitors. It extends the Taskbat across all monitors, and shows the application button beneath the screen where it is running. Extra icons at the top of the window allow you to click a window from one monitor to the next and back, perfect fit each time. Highly recommended.]
    Hope this is helpful.
    Philip Tory, Director, Authorgraphic Ltd. http://www.technicalwritingcourse.co.uk

  3. Oron
    January 24, 2010 at 3:40 am

    I used to have an iMac with a 24" screen in the office (I'm an IT professional) and a dual-screen PC when doing shifts at the Help Desk. Both worked very well. The main trick is to have enough space to keep the important windows open at all times. Whether you achieve this by having multiple screens or by arranging them on a single screen (which obviously has to be large enough) is a secondary issue.

  4. Chris
    January 23, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    A study the University of Utah did that was commissioned by NEC can be found here:


    The University of Utah showed some amazing productivity gains even with simple tasks. Learning curves were shorter, stress related to the task was lowered, and your least productive workers showed the most benefit.

    Alt-tabbing between windows seems minor but in order to be at peak performance, all interruptions to the stream of consciousness should be reduced as much as possible. Having information an eye movement away is quite better than having to interrupt your thoughts to press alt-tab even if it seems minuscule. As a purely personal anecdote, I've found that I've become far more immersed into my work using dual monitors quite similar to how I feel playing video games. Something about having the added desktop space feels liberating and more comforting. Having to look at small displays now really bugs the crap out of me much in the same way that a small room makes be feel cramped. So much so I went and spent the money for dual monitors at home and it's been one of my most favorite purchases.

  5. Chris
    January 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I forgot to add that I'm an electrical engineer and I'm constantly having to look between layout and schematic, or between schematic and bill of material (on a spreadsheet).

    I actually would love triple monitors so I can display email and calendar on one, and the other two would be either schematic, layout, or a bill of material. The center monitor would be the primary thing I'm working on, one side monitor would be email and calendar, and the other would be supporting information. Like if I'm working on a schematic, datasheets, bill of material, simulations, or purchasing websites would act as supporting material. If I'm working on a layout, a datasheet or schematic would be supporting.

  6. Scooter
    January 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Let's see... one monitor for your Facebook account, once for your email fetish, and one to keep your favorite porn movies moving. No wonder this generation is absolutely stupid,

  7. Jon
    January 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

    As a graphic designer (self-employed) I can tell you that a dual monitor set-up is infinitely more efficient. Anyone who uses Photoshop or Illustrator must try it to realize that they are missing out on making their lives much easier.

    I personally keep a full monitor dedicated to my artboard view and set up a workspace that positions my palletes and tools on my right hand monitor. For employers who wish to streamline and speed up production, demand two things of your designers.

    First, that they know (or will learn within 30 days) their keyboard shortcuts. All of them. Test them to make sure. Don't let them use their time wasting tool pallettes if their is a compatible shortcut!

    Second, provide and explain the correct use of dual monitors.

    Your production will immediately and dramatically increase following just those steps!

  8. Beth Marchant
    January 23, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Our Administrative Assistant (Office Manager category) uses her dual monitors extensively - one to pull up information in a spreadsheet or database and the other to copy and paste the required report information or whatever else she has been asked to produce. I would say that the expense has been more than made up in efficiency. Also, it makes her work easier, which is high in the category of "less-aggravating".

  9. MattG
    January 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    I'm an instructional software engineer from Australia, for little while now (at least in my experience) it's been fairly common practice for coders to use dual/multiple monitors - ie. one screen for the running program, one for the debugger/tailing log files, one for the integrated-development-environment/code-editor - having to hunt for windows back and forth on a single monitor can really slow the process down, but having it all there at once helps getting into the "flow" I've found. At the end of the day it's whatever gets the job done in the most effective way possible, just another tool for the toolbox.

    • Tim Lenahan
      January 22, 2010 at 8:49 pm

      Good feedback! I have heard that about coding. I'm planning on talking a bit more about that user type in the next post on this topic. Thanks again!