6 MORE Ways To Set Up Dual Monitors To Be More Productive

Tim Lenahan 12-01-2010

dualmonitorsetupAs I mentioned in my last article about dual monitors and productivity 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive Read More , having more than one monitor really helps manage all of those programs and tasks you’ve got going on. Since that article, I have written an article 3 Useful Programs That Help Manage Multiple Monitors Read More or so about how to set up dual monitors.


I have now gotten rid of my old CRT monitor and replaced it with a 19″ wide-screen flat panel which I have set on a wall-mounted shelf directly above my laptop.  Before I had the monitor next to my laptop but I figured I’d try it above and I am so glad I did!  This way I have my laptop at a very comfortable distance to do my work and reading on.

With my larger flat panel above and set back from my laptop, I can use it for more glancing up at.  If I had a third monitor, I’d probably try it beside my current setup but have it adjusted vertically as Kamakazi suggested in the comments section of the last post 6 Ways to Set Up Dual Monitors to Be More Productive Read More on this topic.


This here is my home office workspace.  As you can see, I now have my second monitor above and set back from my laptop.  You can also see that I keep my coffee on a lower level than my computer stuff to keep from damaging too much in the case of a spill.


Since working for a while with a dual monitor setup, I have found several more ways to set up dual monitors to be more productive.  NOTE: many of the suggestions came from readers’ comments in previous posts so I have given credit to those readers (thanks for the tips and keep ’em coming!).

1.  Referencing


I LOVE using my second monitor for referencing stuff!  For instance, when I am working on a Bible message (whether it’s a devotional for dinner at the local Rescue Mission or teen Sunday school at my local church), it really saves time if I can type on my laptop (monitor 1) and glance up to my 19″ Dell wide-screen (monitor 2) where I keep e-sword open.  This way I can have the passage I am working on open for referencing and copying/pasting from without switching back and forth.

I also use my second monitor for referencing when I am blogging.  I type on my laptop while having a browser open on my widescreen for researching/referencing, taking screenshots and finding photography to use in posts.  Any way you look at it, having something to reference without your work leaving your view really does help keep you on track.


Also works good when writing for MakeUseOf to have the writing guidelines open in my second monitor so I can reference them.  This would apply to any writing assignment you might have.

2.  Picture (Or Any Multi-Media) Opening & Viewing


In Windows, at least, if you open a picture in Windows Photo Gallery (or similar) in the second monitor, it should do the same the next time you open a picture in the same program.  This is cool because while you are searching and browsing for a picture, and it pops open in the second monitor instead of in your way, the whole experience is a lot more productive.  It also helps when others are looking over your shoulder.  You can browse and double-click and everyone else can see all of your pretty pictures.

3.  Reminders



If you have a to-do list or something, just keep it open on your second monitor so you won’t forget about all of your tasks.  You can then mark them “done” as you go through them.  You can also use an RSS reader, like Netvibes Wasabi, and that way you can keep track of articles coming up that you need to remember to read later (just mark them as “read later”).  I’m sure you can find more ways to use your second monitor to help your memory!

4.  Remote Desktop

(thanks etescartz and Jeremy)


If you use a service such as LogMeIn or do any kind of remote desktop work, a second monitor is a life saver. Keep one monitor as your remote desktop and use the other for support notes, ticketing programs, or even troubleshooting.  I’m not really sure how ANY remote support staff can get along without dual monitors.


5.  Desktop Gadgets

(thanks Matt Dana)


I doesn’t matter if you are running Windows or a Mac, but if your OS supports desktop gadgets/widgets, a second monitor could keep those gadgets/widgets front and center.  You can even run a web-top application like Schmedley in a browser window in the second monitor and achieve a similar effect.  So, whether you want to keep an eye on weather, some RSS feed, the time, a to-do list, or whatever, desktop gadgets/widgets can help you get things done and if a second monitor can help you not have to search for the desktop, even more power to you!

6.  Troubleshooting

(thanks youthworker)


I mentioned troubleshooting under number 4 when talking about remote desktop work, but I think it deserves a mention all of its own.  If you are trying to figure out how to do something, and you are needing help files or some other kind of support (like a Google search or some type of support forum), having the issue open in one monitor and having the help files, web-search, or support forums open in the second will save a LOT of time and a LOT of frustration!  Think about it, troubleshooting is frustrating enough, right?

There you have it!  There are even MORE productive ways to set up dual monitors than I could have come up with on my own (thanks readers!).  And like I said earlier, if you can come up even more ways to be productive with dual monitors OR you have more suggestions as to how to orient monitors to be more productive, let us know!

Related topics: Computer Monitor, Multiple Monitors, Multitasking, Remote Desktop.

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  1. Gus
    January 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    COFFEE CUP TRAY important - your coffee tray is above your PC - in the event of a spill... yes you guessed it. New PC will be required. And you'll have a free fireworks show all of your own. Simply move lower level coffee tray or PC to the opposite side. In the event of a spill you'll thank me you did.

    • Tim Lenahan
      January 16, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      Um, I don't have a PC under my coffee. It is actually a file cabinet, currently an empty one. Good advice though.

  2. Karl Gechlik |
    January 16, 2010 at 9:11 am

    If the laptop supports double outputs there should be a special cable split with two vga inputs for the two monitors that and the laptop display will make the 3 displays you want. Contact Toshiba regarding the cable I have something similar that came with a dell desktop I had.

    • Tim Lenahan
      January 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Karl! Jen, in other words, I don't think the switch they had you buy will do what you want it to.

      • jen
        January 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

        Thanks Tim and Karl. I will contact Toshiba again about the matter. I love Toshiba products and their customer service is friendly enough, but the fact of the matter is that they often don't give accurate info.

        • Tim Lenahan
          January 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

          I may be an optimist, but it's possible they misunderstood your actual need. Who knows. Glad we can help!

  3. jen
    January 16, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Hoping you can help. I have been using a dual monitor system for awhile. I wanted to expand to a 3 monitor system (laptop 1, and 2 external monitors). I have a Toshiba Qosmio f45-av411. The Toshiba techs told me that the laptop has the video capability to support 2 external monitors.The docking station (I don't have one) will only support 1 external monitor. They told me to get a KVM (VGA) switch. I did and hooked up the 2 external monitors to the switch and the switch to the laptop. All 3 monitors turned on but the settings did not show a 3rd monitor. The 2 external monitors were identical (example: if I opened a doc on one external it showed it on the second) What I want to accomplish is to have access to 3 separate monitors simultaneously. Is there any way to accomplish this with limited financial expenditure?

  4. ron
    January 15, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I've been using a dual monitor setup with my laptop for a year and a half now. My laptop shipped with an external VGA connector so plugged in my 17 inch CRT from my old desktop. As well, I have my full sized MS Wave USB keyboard plugged in. The laptop is raised a little (sitting on top of my printer) to ergonomically correct height, and it is set slightly off-center. The CRT sits right next to it with the top edges lined up. The CRT is running at 1600x1200 so I use it as my primary word processing screen. The laptop LCD runs native at 1400 x 900 as my primary email/browser screen.

    The only problem I run into is sometimes the custom settings are lost and my #2 screen, the CRT, gets placed back to default location left of #1 screen.

    Eventually I plan to upgrade to a second LCD screen which I will setup in Portrait orientation to make it better to work with word documents.

    I use Vista and my ATI video card Catalyst Control Center utility to control the settings.

    I use a tool called Stardock Fences to keep all of my desktop icons in constant locations.

  5. Victor Bishop
    January 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Very good! This is EXACTLY what I needed to setup my SOHO PenTesting Lab for school. You saved me so much brain racking time! Way to go.

  6. John LeBlanc
    January 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Single large monitor as alternative to two monitors.

    I had two 19 inch monitors side-by-side but found it didn't really work for me. For one thing, the primary monitor really should point straight ahead and therefore the other monitor should be on one side or the other. I don't like the idea of the second monitor being above mainly because of the ergonomics of looking up. I found I hardly used the monitor off to the side although it was convenient to have material displayed on it. The other consideration is that I wanted to have a setup where I could drive both monitors with a laptop so that I didn't have to keep switching between a laptop and desktop. I haven't found a laptop that works although theoretically this is possible with laptops that have both a VGA and HDMI output. I also didn't like the idea of using the laptop screen as one monitor and a larger monitor as a second. Laptop screens are simply too small for many work tasks.

    Here's what works for me:

    Single large 24 inch monitor. This is a good size since it is large enough to accommodate two 8.5 by 11 sheets of paper placed side by side. This size allows me to treat each half of the monitor as a virtual separate monitor.

    Software to manage the Windows. I use a very nice window management freeware software called Winsplit revolution. This is similar to the windowing features in Windows 7 but even more versatile. Without using a mouse, I can quickly move the active window to either side, top or bottom, and with predefined sizes such as half the screen, two thirds, and one third. These are customizable. I tend to use the simplest configuration of one window on the left half and one window on the right half. Using this software with hotkeys is far faster than using a mouse to move windows between two external monitors, or even using a mouse with Windows 7 move windows to the left or right halves.

    The other major advantage to using a single large monitor is that I now have a system that works beautifully either with my desktop or with my laptop and I do not have to rely on my tiny laptop screen when I'm in the office. I can just plug my laptop into a docking station and ignore my desktop if I want to.

    • Tim Lenahan
      January 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      As I mentioned earlier, any extended reading I do, I use my laptop screen because it is more comfortable. The monitor above my laptop works great for glancing.

      Sometimes I use it for videos that I can lean back in my office chair and get comfortable and watch without turning my head up (if I lean back and recline I can see a higher monitor aimed down at me easily without getting a kink in my neck).

      Chris Pirillo did a video about dual monitors vs. one large one. His conclusion is "Dual is cool." Anyways, thought that was funny!

  7. gt3
    January 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

    There's a free program called "Synergy" that let's you use the same keyboard/mouse across multiple computers. It's a networked app so you for example could set up as a server on your desktop and a client on your laptop. Your laptop then connects to it and you can now use your desktop's keyboard/mouse on both computers. It's a lot better than trying to reach over switch keyboard/mice every time. Plus you not only get an extra monitor, you get an extra operating system since you're using 2 computers.

    • Victor Bishop
      January 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

      Nice! Thanks for the added tip friend. ;)

  8. Dan
    January 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Tim, love the e-sword on the top screen in the first picture. :)

    • Tim Lenahan
      January 14, 2010 at 5:35 am

      There's an article coming introducing e-Sword to the MakeUseOf community so stay tuned!

  9. Priyesh
    January 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Tim, I like your setup of the second monitor on top. I haven't tried that before. How is the comfort level for your body? Want to try it out and see if my body feels better. Been having trouble lately with wrist, neck, back and shoulder probably because I don't have the keyboard and monitors setup at a good comfort level. My Desktop navigation goes from Left(L) to Right(R) or R to L. Any suggestions on portable software to have a desktop navigation from Bottom(B) to Top(T) or T to B?

    Don't want to go off-topic but any suggestions/websites on monitor & keyboard level/distance and exercises? Thanks!

    • Tim Lenahan
      January 14, 2010 at 5:46 am

      They say that ergonomically speaking the top of the monitor should line up at eye level. In other words, if I am going to be taking any real amount of time to read something, I'll pop it down to my laptop screen. The higher monitor does help with tasks that require glancing.

      If I understand your question, it may depend on your operating system. I'm running Vista so if I go to the display settings window, I can actually drag the monitor icons to match my actual monitor setup. Now I can move my mouse directly from my laptop straight up to my second monitor. I hope that helps!

      As far as ergonomics go, I linked to an article in my post about [Broken Link Removed] . It's under the WebWorkerDaily section.

      • Priyesh
        January 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

        Oh yeah! I am using Win 2000, ofcourse we can drag the monitor icons around in the display settings, it just slipped out of mind. Thanks for the reminder. Great article for ergonomics, I am going to go through that and follow it up with action. Thanks once again Tim.

        • Tim Lenahan
          January 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm

          no prob.

  10. efan78
    January 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I've just started using a second monitor and it's great! I'm using one trick from this article and one from the earlier one (Gadgets at the top of the screen, tweetdeck underneath for twitter & fb) and I've found that I'm less annoyed at the intrusion of keeping up than I used to be when it had to take over my screen.

  11. Alex
    January 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    i think multiplicity needs a mention. it is a $35 program from stardorck that lets you control the mouse and keyboard of another computer over the local network as if it was a second monitor. so i can use my netbook as a second monitor while using my full sized laptop. it does cost money but after i installed the trial i knew i could not live another day without it. even though you can't drag windows between the computers you can copy and paste text which i find sufficient.
    it is also a great application for setting up a mobile office. simply pack your laptop in a bag and carry your netbook with you and when you get to your hotel you have a fully functional dual monitor setup.
    also i find a trackball invaluable to dual monitors. the flick of the ball sending the cursor over to the other screen is so helpfull and

  12. Kamakazi
    January 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Oh in an article. To celebrate this occasion I have a photo of my setup. And yes, I blurred out the person that was in the photo.

  13. Bakari Chavanu
    January 12, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I'm using QuicKeys 4.0 which enables me to create macros that for instance automatically shifts specified apps to my second monitor when I launch them.

  14. Shrew
    January 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Great article! You just inspired me to finally set up dual monitors. I'm really excited about this. Since I'm a student, this will be a huge help when working. Thank you!

  15. Nick
    January 12, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Great Ideas! Having more monitors is a big help. I'll be soon adding some more stuff on my wells, since I re-did my room so it's going to be a good working space and hopefully stress free.

    I know a few people do a lot of PC troubleshooting and they have a dry erase board that they use jot down notes and what not.

    What do you think of my setup? [Broken URL Removed]

    • Tim
      January 13, 2010 at 8:03 am

      I'm looking into getting a dry erase board for (doodling) reminders, etc.

      Nice setup!

      • Nick
        January 14, 2010 at 5:52 am

        Thanks Tim! Sure we could use Notepad or something, but isn't the dry erase boards more fun? hehe.

        I really want to get 2 24inch monitors. But this works for now.

    • Alex
      January 15, 2010 at 9:25 am

      I can see from the picture on the left hand monitor that you'll develop serious neck and back problems if you don't raise the top of the monitors to be at eye level or an inch higher.

      Everyone here should read up on ergonomics and adjust their setups so that their health isn't put in jeopardy.

      • Victor Bishop
        January 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

        Your absolutely right, you would be in pain just looking at my setup a couple of days ago before I rearranged it. :X