So we look at gamers and the high-tech guys on 24 hour news channels and we see multiple screens, but to be completely honest I hadn’t even considered hooking up a 2nd (and certainly not a 3rd) screen until fate had it that I had to buy a more powerful video card. I had been messing with some video editing software and a RAM and video card upgrade was needed. A positive by product of that was that I had an extra video output. This made me wonder, could I just hook up my old 15 inch LCD so that I’d have extra screen real estate? Turns out it was pretty easy and that was way back in 2005 when I was using Windows XP. Even then it was quite easy, it only took a few mouse clicks and a quick adjustment and VIOLA! It was all hooked up. It didn’t take long to realize that my productivity improved once I started using the second monitor. One screen was for work, the other communications and all in all, I was beginning to save a fair amount of time each day.
I have no idea why I was surprised; I mean survey after survey and study after study all reveal the same thing- that having a second screen improves productivity under nearly any circumstance. As a writer I even added a third monitor that helps out tremendously. I can easily display an outline of a project or tools from various programs. I can compare rough drafts and much more. If I have tables or spreadsheets open it allows me to see all columns open and see them all at once. And as I mentioned before, I can have my communication channels on a screen by themselves. This means that email (of course) is always open. I don’t have to hunt for the right window when I hear the familiar BLING! Indicating a new email. I also have messengers open- AIM & Skype; this means that there isn’t any bouncing between screens. Now it’s true that you can use your keyboard to quickly move through windows, in Windows it’s alt-tab, but that’s time consuming. I mean honestly- a study released by the University of Utah says that you’ll save an average of 10 seconds per 5 minutes worked just by having an additional screen. Those increments add up very quickly through out the week, and trust me, by the end of the year you will have saved a LOT of time.
Game players have been pushing elaborate 2+ screen setups for years. In fact, they’ll often have 4 or 6 screens stacked and arrange in a near oval shape to create the ultimate 3D environment. If there is room on their desk, there is room for another monitor, or at least that seems to be the theme. Especially for first person shooter games (like Call of Duty and Quake, multiple monitors seem to be significantly useful. One of the most popular and best-known multi-screen “games” was Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X (and beyond.) Users have found that they can use extra screens for maps, panoramic views, views to the side, exterior views, and the instrument panels. In fact it makes the game so real that experts use this type of setup to train for actual flight before jumping into a new aircraft.
Of course there are those that prefer to expand their screen real estate by using larger monitors. You can get a 24-inch LED for around $300 and it will provide you with 50% more screen than a single 19-inch monitor. The advantage of this is that it takes up less space than 2 19-inch monitors. But there are those of us that just prefer the two screens. Not to mention that you can probably get 2 19-inch monitors for less than you’d end up paying for the 24 inch.
A few years ago, people might have though that 2 monitors looked tacky or not stylish, but oddly enough as it has become more popular, desks almost look somewhat empty without the extra monitor. In fact, there so popular these days companies recruiting new employees actually use multi-screens as a selling point. In fact many new recruits almost demand multi-screens. The tech sector in particular finds it particularly useful. If you’re a coder, then you probably have one screen filled with information nearly all the time. If you’re staring at code and you get interrupted, then finding the spot you left can be pretty difficult. It wastes valuable time and as they say time is money. Having multiple monitors makes this significantly easier to manage. That’s probably why most tech companies don’t even debate having multiple monitors, it’s a given.
Setting multiple monitors really isn’t that difficult. And regardless of whether you are using MAC or PC, there are just a few settings that have to be quickly adjusted to get everything setup. There are some really neat devices these days to that help make the transition to multiple monitors even easier. For example, you don’t even have to buy a 2nd video card anymore. There is a device by the company Matrox called the DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go. Just like the name implies, they allow you to hook up either 2 or 3 monitors, respectively, without the need to install a new video card. For those of you that are less technically savvy, this is an excellent device that can take your production to the next level, without a lot of expense. I’ve written about the DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go before, and there is a reason why. These are excellent devices that I highly recommend.
But regardless of how you decide to hook up your extra monitors, the key is that you make the decision to make the upgrade. You’ll soon appreciate the time you save as so many others have. We make jokes about an office with multiple monitors looking like mission control or something out of The Matrix, but in all honesty trends are moving towards every office and every profession using multiple monitors. There is enough evidence available these days to suggest that having multiple monitors will benefit your company, so it would be silly to go against the current and try to only use one monitor. As so many others have discovered, you too will soon discover that the additional screen real estate will be a huge advantage to your business and your life.