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January 2015

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4 Huge Benefits of Dual Monitor Setup

Having two computer screens set up side-by-side can make an enormous difference in how effectively you can get things done on your computer.  Some of the big advantages are:
  • increased productivity
  • more enjoyable computing experience
  • inexpensive
  • easy to set up and use in Windows

Increased Productivity

Studies have shown that the use of a second monitor can improve personal productivity 20-50%. If you use your computer for work, then consider what 20-50% of your annual salary is worth. People who regularly use a dual monitor setup commonly state that they’d never go back. Think for a minute about:
  • editing a photo: editing tools on one screen, the full photo on the other
  • designing web pages: HTML code (or other such design specs) on one screen, web page on the other
  • composing (report, email, etc.) on one screen, source material (e.g.  X-ray, web research) on the other
  • comparing two documents side-by-side
  • editing one section of a document on one screen (e.g. a table of contents), while perusing the document on the other
  • copying spreadsheet data from one document to another
  • For Windows 8: desktop on one screen, metro (tiled) interface on the other.

More Enjoyable

Imagine having a second screen just for your email. Imagine having a second screen just for your web browser. You can get work done and still have email and/or web just a glance away. For people who love to multitask (and hate to wait), dual screens enhance the possibilities dramatically. For those who hate a desktop cluttered with tons of windows, but also hate to have to open each application each time they require it (e.g. email, web), dual screens is a great solution.

Windows and Mac operating systems have, in general, done a very good job at making your two screens seem like one big extended screen. Still, when you maximize a window, it takes up only that one screen fully.  Think about how constraining a small screen is terms of how much you need to open, close, move, and resize windows, scroll around documents and spreadsheets, using Alt-Tab to switch from window to window. Then you can get an idea how liberating all the extra screen space can be.

Inexpensive & Easy

The cost of a monitor increases dramatically with size. Therefore, two 17-inch monitors is much less expensive than one 34-inch monitor. Most computers have the capability to drive two monitors; so, you don’t normally require an upgrade on the computer side. Furthermore, setting up the second monitor so that Windows utilizes it properly is generally not very difficult.

Great Computing Habits

Sometimes people fall into bad habits; sometimes they fall into good ones. If you haven’t discovered and developed these computing habits, then now may be a good time to try them out:

Mouse Wheel
Most computer mice now come with a wheel between the two buttons. Turning this allows you to scroll up and down through a document. It’s a lot faster and easier than dragging the scroll bar up and down or clicking on the scroll arrows. It also allows finer grain control on how quickly or slowly to scroll.  Get used to it. You’ll use it without even thinking.

Most applications save your document when you hit Control-S. It’s a lot easier and a lot faster than looking for Save in the menu options. Get into the habit of hitting it early and often. I use it so frequently that I do it unconsciously now.

For those of us without dual monitors, Alt-Tab quickly switches between the two most recently used windows – usually. Hold down the Alt key to see which window you’d like to switch to.

Red X
Most applications can be closed by clicking the red X at the upper right corner of the window. This is much easier than looking for Exit or Quit in the menus and won’t do any harm. I use this instead of Alt-F4, even though Alt-F4 may be the preferred method. The red X has two big advantages for me: (1) I don’t need to glance at the keyboard to find F4, (2) Alt-F4 has too often closed the wrong window for me (i.e. the active window, not the one I was looking at). With the Red X, I know which window I’m closing.

Control-B, Control-I, Control-U
Most software that works with text (e.g. MS Word, MS Excel, etc.) allows you to toggle bold, italics, and underline with these keyboard shortcuts.  It definitely beats trying to figure out where Microsoft has chosen to hide these options in their latest software versions.

Email & Web hot keys
It’s worth the extra few dollars for a keyboard with a few programmable keys so that you can quickly get onto the web or check email with a single key press. It beats even the quick-launch taskbar.

Maximize your Windows
I paid for every square inch of my monitor. I’d like to be able to benefit from every square inch. I regularly maximize my email, Word, Excel, and web browser windows. Unless you need access to two different windows at the same time, why not?

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