Desktop real estate - the amount of monitor screen space you have - comes at a premium these days. As people use more applications, the standard 15- or 17-inch monitor is falling short. Unless you are prepared to shrink your font size so low that you'll need binoculars to read it, there's only one answer: get another monitor.
In fact, analysts at Stanford Research, who study the electronic display industry, are now targeting 19-inch monitors as the fastest growing segment. Many customers, however, are trading up without giving away their older 15-inch models.
The option of putting two monitors on one computer works well for the busy person who has a lot of activities going on at once. Windows 98 offers a two-monitor feature that lets you simply add a second monitor card, then attach two monitors to the PC.
That approach has some limitations, however. It uses a lot of the PC's processing power, so it noticeably slows down the computer. And some applications, like DVD or certain graphics programs, don't split well over two monitors.
Here's another answer. Check out the new Matrox Millennium G400 card. For about the same price as a good graphics adapter card, you can buy this DualHead display and TV output card. With it you can hook up your computer to a pair of monitors, LCD projectors, TV sets, or flat-panel monitors.
Since Matrox puts its own graphic accelerator magic into the card, you can run two monitors without slowing down the PC. The graphics card is adaptable to many tasks. One person can be watching a DVD movie, while the other is composing an e-mail message. Or, your kids may ask to borrow it and prove to you that they can watch a movie and do homework at the same time. In fact, the graphics card is so flexible you can even configure it to run a DVD display split between both screens.
The graphics adapter is a boon for busy researchers. You can put a Web browser on one screen and your report on the other. It's much easier to correctly cite the work when you can bring it up in front of you. Or for making presentations, you can click through the electronic slides on one screen and make notes on the other.
If you do any work with touching up pictures, the zoom feature of the G400 lets you put the picture on one screen and a zoomed-in version on the other. Each pixel-by-pixel change can be simultaneously seen at close up and at regular size.
Of course, I can see other ways to use the G400. For those people looking at financial markets in this nanosecond world, it's great to get the full view of real time quotes, news, and your portfolio information simultaneously.
And, after hours, you can get a new experience with products like Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2000 or Combat Flight Simulator. Put the pilot's view on one screen and the controls on the second monitor. If you haven't seen the view from two monitors, it's a whole new world.
With 13 books and more than 600 magazine and journal articles to her credit, Ms. Currid also writes regular magazine columns appearing in InformationWeek, Comdex Show Daily, LAN Times, and the Houston Chronicle. She has also contributed her opinions on computer industry trends to PC Week, InfoWorld, Network Computing, Windows Magazine, and other industry periodicals, as well as business media including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, Investors Business Daily, Forbes, Fortune, ABC, NBC, CNBC, and PBS. Ms. Currid lectures internationally, serves as a keynote speaker, and conducts seminars on how to get the best from information technology.