Apr 20, 2006

The Virtues of a Second Screen

Source: The New York Times
Written by Ivan Berger

Fervent computer gamers and the detectives on “N.C.I.S.” do it, but I had no plans to add a second monitor to my computer system — not until I bought an upgraded video card for my PC and noted it had output connections for two monitors. Once I saw that, I could not resist dusting off my old 14-inch monitor and plugging it in along with my new 19-inch L.C.D.

Recent Windows and Mac computers (and some Linux systems) can operate with multiple monitors; with my computer’s Windows XP operating system, it took only a few keystrokes and mouse movements to set things up. Once I saw how it improved my productivity, I was an instant convert.

I should not have been surprised. Survey after survey shows that whether you measure your productivity in facts researched, alien spaceships vaporized, or articles written, adding an extra monitor will give your output a considerable boost — 20 percent to 30 percent, according to a survey by Jon Peddie Research.

So now, while I am editing this article on my main screen, the screen beside it shows the outline or earlier draft I am working from — and, sometimes, Web sites or other documents I keep referring to.

When I edit photos, the second screen lets me compare the copy I am working on with the original, or shows tool palettes and thumbnails of other images, and I can blow up panoramic shots for closer viewing (though with a bar down the middle, like the central pillar of an old car’s windshield). When I am shopping on the Web, my two screens let me compare products. When I work on tables or spreadsheets, I can see all the columns at once. When I expect important messages, I keep my e-mail program open on the side monitor while I work on something else.

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Publishers Note: I can attest to the productivity and usefulness of having a dual screen set up for Photoshop. On my main dual G5 workstation in the studio, I’m running an Apple 30″ Cinema display (2560 x 1600) side by side with an NEC LED display (1600 x 1200) which gives me an effective dual monitors size of 4160 pixels by 1600 pixels. The productivity increases considerably. –Jeff Schewe

Click to see larger sized image in a new window.
This is a small screenshot of my dual display set up. When you click on the image to see a larger sized screenshot, that screenshot is 50% of the actual live size.

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