How to add another monitor for your workspace, and why

By guest author Steven Levy

There is increasing evidence that having dual monitors generates huge productivity gains. If you have a laptop, you’re already set for dual monitors. You’ve got your new widescreen beauty; your laptop screen becomes the second monitor.

For many Windows laptops, simply attaching the new monitor brings up a screen asking you what you want to do with it – have it show the same thing as the laptop, or “extend your desktop” onto the new monitor. Choose the latter. If the dialog doesn’t appear, right-click on the Windows desktop (the screen when you have no application running) and select Graphics Properties; you’ll see a choice with some variant of “extended desktop.”

I recommend you place the new monitor to the right of your laptop, at the same height. Windows sets up automatically for this arrangement. You can drag the positions of the monitors around in the Graphics Properties dialog for other locations. However, sometimes both Windows XP and Windows Vista will lose track of that position when you disconnect and reconnect your laptop, reverting to external-monitor-on-the-right.

Desktop users aren’t out of luck, though. If you have a relatively recent computer, chances are it has a video card that supports dual monitors – e.g., your current monitor plus the new widescreen monitor I wrote about. If need be, you can get a new video card for well under $100; most computers don’t even need a screwdriver when you (or your admin) installs it.

What do you do with two monitors? Extend a spreadsheet or Word across them both! With the mouse, drag the edge of the Word window off of one monitor onto the other. Windows treats the two monitors as one large display. Or you can run Word on one monitor and your matter management system on the other, using them both at full size without one covering up the other. You can even run mail on one monitor while you do real work on the other.

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