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Two Monitors: More Pixels Equals More Productivity?

With lowered prices on LCD monitors and an interest in higher productivity, dual monitor setups are becoming more common. Vendors claim productivity increases of 30% - 50%, depending on the applications used. Early studies also indicate that as long as both monitors are 15" or more, the productivity gains are equivalent to that of two 19" or 21" monitors. Usually, the technology is introduced to an office by the most computer- savvy user and before long the entire office has been converted to dual monitors.

It is better to have two small monitors than one large monitor because two programs can be open and viewed at the same time. For example, a user who worked primarily with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook could glance to their left screen as s(he) notices a new e-mail while working on a Word document instead of clicking to minimize a window or pressing Alt+tab which would distract his/her train of thought. Latent activities such as copying or downloading files, watching printing/faxing status, and installing programs can easily be dragged to one screen without occupying the userís full attention. Comparing two types of items such as documents, spreadsheets, file lists, etc. also becomes much easier as the user can simply glance from one screen to another.

Multiple monitors are supported on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Macintosh OS X. It is possible to install more than one monitor on a Windows 98, Me, or 2000 computer, although the install will be more challenging and the configuration is not guaranteed to work. Laptops are usually easiest to configure as they already have a built-in screen and an external port to connect a SVGA monitor. If you are looking to set up dual monitors on a new computer, be sure to purchase a computer with a "dual-head" video card that supports more than one monitor. If you are looking to add another monitor to an older computer, the easiest way is to buy a SVGA to USB converter. This is an external box that connects from one side to a SVGA monitor and on the other side to a USB port. The only downside to this setup is that the secondary monitor shares the bus connection with your other USB devices and you may experience video lag and other USB performance issues if you have multiple devices fighting for the usage of the USB bus.

For the best integration with your computer, buy a video card that supports two monitors. Some computers support adding a second single-monitor video card, although this is a challenging setup that probably wonít be supported by your computer vendor.

Once you have both screens installed, you have the option to choose a separate screen resolution for each monitor and whether the same desktop will be mirrored (duplicated) on both screens or extended. Most users prefer to extend the desktop. If you go this route, an excellent freeware program to use is MultiMon Taskbar written by Roman Voska. This program allows you to easily and quickly push programs from one monitor to another and includes a taskbar for your secondary monitor to separate the program usage.

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