Beginner’s Guide to Multiple Monitor, Becoming More Productive
Having two monitors means doubling screen real estate. It sure looks good to have two monitors sitting side by side on top of your desk, but are you putting them to good use? Whether you’re looking to open multiple programs and work across monitors, web surfing while live streaming on the side, or playing games while doing your research, it will be good to have all the utilities you need to give justice to your dual display or multiple display setup, and make each pixel on your dual monitor or triple monitor count.
(image from Amazon)
Dual Display Basics
If you haven’t jumped into the hype of doubling up on monitors, you have a few options to do so; you can add a second video card to computer, replace the old video card with a new one that supports dual display, or simply plug in your second monitor into your laptop and use the monitor as extra screen. If you’re looking to convince your boss to get you a second monitor for your workstation, then tell him about the studies that show improved productivity with dual monitor setup.
Once you have hooked up the two monitors to your computer, configure their arrangement at Display Settings. Set one of the screens as your primary monitor (numbered 1) and the other as the secondary. Click Identify button to see the numbers labeled for each screen. If your monitors are not of the same size, drag and drop the smaller monitor icons to align to the bottom or top of its bigger comrade and set it the same way as they are physically set on your desk. This way, you get the smooth window and mouse movement in both displays.
Wallpaper and Taskbar
Mac OS X handles dual monitor setup better than Windows OS, the former allows you to set screen-specific wallpaper images by default without having to download and install extra software. Simply choose “Set Desktop Background” and your computer will show you a panel on each screen for you to configure separately.
Windows on the other hand, needs the help of extra software to set different wallpapers on each screens. One image for both displays however, is not so bad, except if you have monitors of different sizes. If you’re using monitors with different sizes, Windows will not be able to use the “stretch” option to fill both screens with the same image.
The taskbar is easy to move across displays, just make sure it’s not locked in one monitor (right lick and uncheck “Lock Taskbar”) then click and drag the taskbar to any side you want to make it stick. Make sure you don’t place it to the side where you constantly point your mouse, or you may accidentally click icons. To extend your taskbar across your dual or multiple display, use MultiMon. This is a utility program that allows you to add your taskbar to your secondary monitor (even the clock at the bottom right corner of your screen). This program also comes with some handy keyboard shortcuts for convenient computing and a button near minimize windows icon to move windows easily.
Use Free Stuff
Free utilities such as DisplayFusion will help you set different wallpapers per monitor or stretch a panoramic image across two or multiple screens. DisplayFusion has some nice advantages, one is the Flickr support, allowing you to search for beautiful images you can use for your computer.
Speaking of wallpapers, there are lots of good sites out there that offer amazing images (both free and paid). Some examples are authority sites with breathtaking images of nature like National Geographic’s wallpaper library where photographers from around the world submit their field photos. If you love the cosmos, then NASA’s Image of the Day is for you.
Other good sites for wallpapers are Devian Art, Digital Blasphemy, Interface Lift, Simple Desktops, and Wallbase.
Invest A Little for Great Multi-Monitor Apps
If you’re looking to really revamp your dual and multiple monitor display and take full control of your configuration from all aspects, then you may have to plunk down some cash for improved wallpaper management, such as UltraMon. A single license of this program can cost $40, but that includes all the features you want and can think of in a multi-monitor configuration.
You have your wallpaper set and your taskbar stretched throughout your displays, it is time to start take advantage of every inch of screen real estate with the programs and apps you actually use every day. Obviously, the biggest gain you can get from dual monitor display is the ability to open multiple windows and applications simultaneously and see everything across your wide expanse of space without having to click through Minimize Windows or pressing Alt-Tab.
With Windows, you can tile software programs and arrange them on your display without having to download and use extra software. Simply choose as many programs as you want by Ctrl+clicking them on your task bar, right-click and then choose between “Tile Horizontally” or “Tile Vertically”.
If tiling programs isn’t enough for you, there are a few utilities you can add to help you do a more. WinSplit Revolution is a free software that lets you easily resize and move windows through your display into halves or even quadrants, with handy hotkeys that makes moving windows between screens and resizing them through quadrants such a breeze.
AutoHotkey’s script called WindowPad works similarly to WinsPlit’s default, it works through the Windows key and keyboard’s number pad to move windows across monitors. One of the good things about this app is that, you can actually modify the hotkeys yourself.
Desktop Pinups and Overlays
Just because you have dual or multiple monitors don’t mean you have to fill your entire screen space with active windows. Dual and multiple monitor setup can make “ambient” information visible without being straight right into your face all day. For laptop and LCD monitor configuration for example, you can use the wider screen as your main monitor where you do your work, while keep the laptop on the side for secondary applications such as video streaming, for music, for email, chat, social media, etc.
(image from Amazon)
Also, a secondary monitor is great for pasting your “To Do List”, calendar, monitor graphs, etc. One of the better overlays out there are the GeekTool for Mac users and Samurize for Windows users. Both support embedding images as well.