(+) How to Improve Your Productivity with Two or More Monitors

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have been using two monitors on my desktop computers for years. I love the convenience of displaying my email program, a web browser, iTunes, and RSS newsreader displayed on the monitor to the left side of my desk while my word processor and my favorite genealogy programs are running in separate windows on the monitor to the right. Doing so is a time saver, and I believe it improves productivity significantly.

My desk with a 27-inch iMac and a 28-inch Dell monitor

Pay no attention to the small screen to the right. That is an Amazon Echo Show, also called “Alexa,” that has nothing to do with this article. Maybe I will write about that in the future!

I especially like to display two different genealogy programs simultaneously, one on each monitor. That makes it easy to compare two different databases and even to copy-and-paste information from one program to another.

Not only can I display different programs on different monitors, I can also move any window from one monitor to the other. You know how you can click-and-drag a window from one area on your single screen to another? I can do the same with two monitors: click-and-drag any window from an area on one monitor to an area on another monitor.

I can even create a really large Excel spreadsheet that spans both screens, showing hundreds of “cells” simultaneously. That is usually an eye-popping demonstration as many people don’t realize that this is possible. It is easy to have the one spreadsheet or image spread across two screens: the left side of the spreadsheet or image can be displayed on the left monitor while the right side of that spreadsheet can simultaneously be displayed on the right monitor.

Having 3 or more screens is also great for Flight Simulator! Your computer screens will look like the cockpit of a Boeing 787!

The bigger the screens and the greater the resolution of both screens, the better the display. However, the use of 2, 3, or more screens will also add a lot of convenience even to the smallest of monitors.

As I write this article, I have a 27-inch internal monitor in my iMac desktop system and an external 28-inch Dell S2817Q 28 Ultra HD 4K LED Monitor plugged into the iMac and functioning as a second monitor on the same computer. I will describe the use of multiple monitors on a Macintosh simply because what I have on my desk. However, the process is almost the same for Windows systems as well.

In the above image, you will note that I am viewing the eogn.com web site on the right while looking at my family tree as stored on MyHeritage.com on the left. Partially obscured by the family tree on the left monitor, you can also see edges of Evernote and a text editor I use for many different purposes.

Anyone not familiar with my installation who happened to walk by and see me working might thinkthat I had two separate computers running with two separate screens. However, a closer inspection shows that I have only one computer, one keyboard, and one mouse in operation.

Both screens are “live” as if they were connected to two different computers, but both are really attached to the same desktop computer. In fact, it is possible to add a third or even a fourth monitor onto a desktop and (some) laptop computers and use them all simultaneously. Admittedly, I haven’t tried that yet. I am thinking of adding a third large monitor. However, I will need to purchase a larger desk first!

Using two or more monitors at once is surprisingly easy to do.

Having two or more large monitors on a desktop computer is great, but how about a laptop computer? Laptop screens have gotten bigger in recent years, but the convenience of portability limits the size of their built-in displays. Wouldn’t it be great to see a laptop’s display on a large screen? How about two? Surprisingly, that is also easy to do on many laptop computers.

When traveling, I always have felt constrained by being limited to one small screen on the laptop computer. It certainly would be nice to also use two monitors at once on the laptop, especially as I already do so on the desktop at home. Luckily, I found an easy, lightweight, and not very expensive solution: purchase a second monitor designed only for laptop use. Best of all, it is very easy top pack; it fits into any laptop bag or backpack designed for carrying a 16-inch computer, along with the laptop computer itself. My backpack has a pocket for carrying a laptop, and I find I can easily slide both the laptop computer and the external monitor into the one pocket.

I thought I would describe how easy it is for many people to add a second or even a third or fourth monitor to your present computer.

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