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Multiple Monitors

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 16 years and 33 days ago. Viewed 6,912 times. #2
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Do Multiple Monitors Increase Productivity?

Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using three different computer configurations:
  1. single 18-inch monitor
  2. single 24-inch monitor
  3. two 20-inch monitors
Here's what they found:
  • People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor
  • People who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones.
  • Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen.


Personally, I'm a fan of multiple monitors. Thanks to my laptop having an external VGA port, I can connect an external monitor to it. With the Dell laptop stand, it means that I can use the LCD at the same time, resulting in more screen real estate.

My external monitors range from large 20-inch CRTs (run at 1600x1200) through one site where I have a 17-inch CRT (1280x1024), and at home I have a 19-inch LCD (also 1280x1024) hooked up to the docking station.

At one point in the past I had three 17-inch CRT monitors hooked up to a Sun Ultra-5. It was perhaps overkill, but I found it made sense for me to have certain things always on certain screens, and it permitted me to keep, for example, a whole whack of computer usage graphs displayed all the time where they could be perused at a glance.

Today I find I use the laptop's 1680x1050 LCD as the primary monitor, no matter where I am or what I have for a secondary monitor. This is mostly due to a problem I had with Vista, where if you configured a docking station to use the large monitor for the primary display, then suspended the computer, and then unsuspended undocked, the login display always appeared on the non-existent external monitor (because hardware reconfiguration doesn't happen until you log in) and you therefore had to login blind.

I end up doing most of my work on the primary display, with email open on the second screen. If I need to refer to a large applications, then I leave the reference application open on the second screen too. However most of my work is done in putty sessions, and I can have more than one of those open on any screen without any competition for real estate. Most of the putty sessions are ssh connections to screen sessions, so I am used to having a lot going on.

Some people say that virtual desktops are just as good, but for me they are not. When I started out, I used olvwm with Sun's keyboard accelerators (alt-arrow let you jump around the virtual desktops really quickly, and the Front key let you bring applications to the top of, or send to the bottom of, piles of windows really quickly. Once I got a taste of multiple monitors I stopped using virtual desktop managers totally.

Regardless of studies claiming efficiency gains, I find that multiple monitors work for me.

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