Q: I’ve been trying to convince my partners that we can boost productivity if we add a monitor to each desktop computer so each workstation will have dual displays. Most of the partners think it’s a waste of money. Since most of them read your Tech Q&A column, I figure you might be able to influence them.
A: I’ve used dual displays for years—and there is no question it makes my work faster and easier. When I travel with my laptop, it’s a reminder what a handicap a single display is—trying to cram even two screens—say, a spreadsheet and a memo—onto one display.
Here’s the setup I use: A laptop with a 13-inch display, and sitting right next to it is a 19-inch monitor that runs off the laptop. I can put a spreadsheet on the monitor at full width and a supporting memo on the smaller, adjacent laptop screen. Both are big enough for easy viewing, so I don’t have to try to squeeze both onto one screen or flip windows back and forth to transfer data or to refer to information on the screens.
Several workplace studies confirm my bias: They found that people working with dual monitors are significantly more productive. And the cost of monitors is certainly not an obstacle. Prices have dropped in recent months. You can buy a 19-inch model for a little more than $100.
Setting up your computer to handle two monitors is easy. The setup is natively supported by both Windows XP and Vista via the Control Panel. Just click on Display and when the Display Properties screen opens, press the Settings tab, which opens the multiple-screen control functions (see screenshot below).