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HARDWARE

When One Monitor Isn’t Enough

Business people who’ve made the switch say using two monitors -- or even more -- make them more productive. And they swear they’d never go back.
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Linda Musgrove never thought about hooking up a second screen to her office computer until the day her tech-savvy husband came home with a new monitor. She decided to have him install the new monitor alongside her old one -- and voila -- a convert was born.

“Once I started using two, I couldn’t go back to one,” says Musgrove, proprietor of TradeShow Teacher, an Aventura, Fla., trade show marketing consultant. “Then he brought another one home and I started using three, and once I was using three he got me another one.”

Today, Musgrove would be lost without her four-monitor arrangement: two standard 20” screens stacked one on top of the other and two 21” widescreens to the left and right. All are from Acer. Musgrove does a lot of graphic design work for her business and multiple monitors allow her to have a document she’s working on up on one, research materials on two others and her Facebook page on the fourth. “I can be working on one thing and while it’s saving I can jump onto something else,” she says. “I have ADD so I need to have a lot of things going on at once, and I really do work faster.”

Musgrove powers her set up from a PC her husband modifiedwithanIntel Core 2 Quad 3 gigahertz processor and 6 gigabytes of RAM. Musgrove’s husband outfitted her computer with two Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, each with two digital video interface (DVI) outputs so there are connectors for each of her four monitors.

Multiple monitor fans

Multiple monitor, or “multi-mon” users as they call themselves, can be found in many information-heavy professions including graphic design, stock trading, software development, IT administration, and publishing.

At one time, Ryan Thompson, owner of an independent IT business in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, at one time used five 19” to 21” standard CRT monitors lined up horizontally. It was a few too many monitors. “I started getting dizzy spells after a few days from turning my head too much,” he says. “I found I really only used the middle three effectively. The others basically devolved into scratch space and log output.” For Thompson, three feels about right, with a middle monitor rotated vertically for document editing. “Having a single monitor would be crippling,” he says.

Like Musgrove, Tom Anderson stumbled onto using multiple monitors accidently. The last time that Anderson Analytics, his Stamford, Conn., boutique market research firm, bought computers he ended up with two extra flat panel monitors. He started using them and was immediately smitten. “It’s so natural,” Anderson says. “Whether you have e-mail up on monitor one and are surfing the Web or typing an e-mail response or other type of document in Word on monitor two, it’s so nice to have both there at a glance.”

And like Musgrove, Anderson eventually upgraded to using more than two. Today he uses three identical 24” widescreen flat panel displays connected to a Dell Studio XPS 435 MT with an Intel Core i7-920 processor and uses a swivel office chair “so I can easily change my angle slightly,” he says.

Anderson’s advice for anyone thinking about adding a screen? “Why wait, splurge, you won’t regret it.”

SIDEBAR: Getting Started with Multiple Monitors

If you’re interested in adding a second monitor to your desktop or laptop computer, here are some resources to get you started:

Official Microsoft how-to guide -- Step-by-step instructions for configuring and using multiple monitors with Windows XP.

Linux user’s multi-monitor wiki -- Instructions for setting up multiple monitors on Linux computers either in clone mode, where each monitor displays the same thing, or in “multihead mode,” where each monitor displays a separate session.

Social Wallpapering -- An online purveyor of background wallpaper with dozens of scenes suited to dual screens.

Utility software -- Multi-monitor utilities include programs such as UltraMon, which sets up a multi-monitor system, and Multi-Mon, which opens a new Windows task bar on a second monitor. Multi-Mon developer MediaChance also sells a heftier pro version that works with XP and Vista.

Graphics expansion modules -- External devices such as Matrox Graphics’DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go connect two or three monitors to a PC or Mac, laptop or desktop computer through the VGA or DVI output.




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