Back in the day, most computer users only used one monitor. Can you believe that? Today, more and more PC users are switching to multiple monitor setups.
Multiple monitor setups are excellent for those who work or write essays on their computers. And if you have a powerful video card, multiple monitors take PC gaming to a whole new level.
Are you thinking about buying multiple monitors? Do you want to optimize your multiple monitor setup? Today, we’re going to explain some of the best ways to take full advantage of having multiple monitors.
Setting up your multiple monitors
Many people are surprised to learn how easy it is to setup multiple monitors. Here’s an easy step by step guide:
-Look at the video output ports on your computer (HDMI, VGA, or DVI-D)
-If you have more than one video output port, then your PC or laptop very likely supports multiple monitors
-Buy a monitor (it will likely come with an included HDMI cable; if you have a PC with a free DVI-D port, you may need to purchase a DVI cord)
-Attach that monitor to your PC
If you don’t have a free video port on your desktop PC, then you can easily upgrade your video card to get one. Upgrading a video card is ridiculously easy: just take the old one out of the slot and gently press the new one in. Once you’ve installed your new video card’s drivers, you can add another monitor.
Using your new monitor
When you first boot up your computer with a second monitor, it may not recognize that second monitor at first. Don’t worry! That doesn’t necessarily mean you did something wrong. Instead, go into your video card’s Nvidia Control Panel or AMD Control Panel (you can find both of these programs by typing them into the Windows Start Menu search bar) and then look for the multiple monitor setting.
Nvidia lets you easily choose which monitor you want as your dominant display and which monitor to have as your secondary display (the dominant display will hold your Start menu bar).
As you can see in this screenshot, I have two identical Acer G245H monitors, with the one on the left being my dominant display.
How to stretch a wallpaper across multiple monitors in Windows
If you look at pictures of multi monitor setups online, it seems like everyone has some fancy wallpaper that stretches across all of their monitors. But actually setting up that wallpaper isn’t as easy as you might think.
You can install third-party multi monitor programs like DisplayFusion, but that software costs money after your free trial period is up. So here’s a neat trick I learned: to stretch your wallpaper across two monitors in Windows 7, choose the tile option from the Desktop Background setting in the Windows Personalize menu, which can be accessed by right clicking anywhere on your desktop. This seems counterintuitive, but for whatever reason, it works.
If you have 2 full HD monitors, then displaying a 3840x1080p wallpaper looks awesome. There are also 5760x1080p wallpapers if you have a triple monitor setup. For whatever reason, a lot of wallpapers also come in 3840×1200 varieties, which is slightly larger than your 2 full HD monitors, but still looks good.
Installing third-party multi monitor software
Windows 7 and Windows 8 have got significantly better at detecting multiple monitors. But power users may want to install software like DisplayFusion, which comes with a free trial but costs $25 after your free thirty day trial is up. UltraMon, which costs $40, is also a good multi monitor software tool if you’re feeling wealthy.
Each of these software programs allows you to maximize the effectiveness of your multi monitor display with the following features:
-Stretch a wallpaper across both displays (although you can sometimes do this in Windows, see above)
-Stretch your Start bar/Quickbar across all displays
-Maximize windows across multiple monitors
-Mirror your main monitor to a secondary monitor, which is useful for presentations
-Set two different wallpapers and two different Start buttons on your two monitors
If you ‘only’ have two monitors, then these third party software programs aren’t totally necessary. But if you have 3 or more monitors, buying one of these software programs is probably a smart investment.
Tips and tricks for multiple monitors
Now that your multiple monitor display has been set up, you’re probably wondering about cool things to do with it. Here are some things that I do with my multiple monitor display:
-Set one monitor in portrait orientation to read documents (like PDFs) without scrolling
-Hook up a big HDTV to your extra display port and watch movies from your computer while playing games on your main monitor
-Display reference work on one monitor and Microsoft Word on the other for writing essays/articles
-Enjoy 3D gaming if you’re lucky enough to have 3 monitors
-Add desktop widgets to fill out all the new screen space you have (I have a clock and network usage monitor on my desktop, among other things)
-Compare windows side by side, like if you’re developing a website and want to see how it looks in both Firefox and Chrome
-Enjoy health benefits, because apparently having multiple monitors increases your neck movement which can reduce stiffness over long hours at the PC
Create multiple virtual desktops
There’s a cool program called VirtuaWin that allows you to run multiple virtual desktops in each part of your screen. You can create 4 virtual desktops, also known as virtual workspaces, in each corner of your dual monitors, for example.
I’m not sure who would need to use 8 virtual desktops at a single time, but there are plenty of people who find VirtuaWin useful. You can actually create up to 20 virtual workspaces at a single time across all of your monitors. You can download VirtuaWin for free here for any version of Windows.
Why you should avoid multitasking
I know it’s tempting to multitask with your multiple monitors. You probably think it makes you more productive. But in reality, there are times when having dual monitors can be counteractive to your productivity.
For example, when I’m working on something that only requires one reference screen to be open, I snap Word to one side of the screen and the reference work to the other. I turn the other monitor off. That way, the two most important things are directly in front of my face and the other monitor isn’t filled with distractions.
Sometimes, I also find myself lazily staring at the wallpaper on my second monitor – especially if I have a detailed wallpaper or a high resolution picture. Your mileage may vary, but don’t automatically assume you’re going to be more productive because you added a second display to your office.
When used properly, multiple monitors are an excellent productivity booster. But with great power comes great responsibility: use your second, third, and fourth monitors wisely.