Dual Monitor suggestions?

I’ve just joined the club guys. It’s mind-blowing thing. I’ve got TWO monitors!

I’ve sort of felt the need since I started programming and I can see how this will be a huge help. But I need some advice…

How do you use them?

I’ve been using computers for YEARS now and I’ve always had one monitor. I have never used virtual desktops either. So I don’t exactly grasp what I’m supposed to be doing with it.

So maybe you guys can share your dual monitor tips? Here’s some of my observations I’ve noticed so far.

A lot of times I’ll forget that I have it. Just for clarity’s sake, I’m using a 17’ iMac and a 17 inch dell monitor side by side. The Dell is 4:3 and the iMac is widescreen. So it’s not quite perfect, but it should be very close.

I tried to get the color matched up as perfectly as possible, but that’s kind of difficult. I’m told that it’s hard to do this even with two monitors that came off the assembly line next to each other.

I have noticed one tactic that I like so far. I am working on animation for this game, and it obviously involves working with a lot of images. I’m applying the same process to a lot of images, so it’s tedious, but I learned that it’s easier to just load all of the images into the other monitor and have them tiled over there while I work with the one on the left that I’m interested in at the moment. Ordinarily I’d open the files individually because it’s too much clutter.

And that’s really all I’ve been able to do so far. I haven’t found any other tactic that helps out so much yet, but again, I haven’t done any coding with it yet.

Before when I ran VMWare though, I would use Unity mode which lets you treat the windows apps as if they were individual mac apps. But I can imagine that I’ll probably run it full screen on my other monitor now.

Anyone have their tips on how to take advantage of two monitors?

I use three myself.

[/nasty impulse to default the newly-enthusiastic dual-monitor dude]

Use them however you want, but in general I’ve found the following techniques helpful:
a) for applications that spawn a huge array of tool palettes (Photoshop is one of the classic offenders here but the digital world is rife with them now), put all those on your secondary monitor and devote your primary to the document you’re working on.

b) Put the environment in which you code in front of you on main monitor; put a text editor in which you make notes about what you’re doing in the upper half of your aux monitor, and let your email program take up the bottom half so you can deal with email without it getting in the way of your work.

c) Or put the most recent beta, fully compiled and open and running as an end user would experience it, on one screen, then put your beta tester’s comments on the top half of the other and the code you’re editing to get rid of those bugs on the bottom half. (You starting to see how nice THREE monitors can be?)

It’s okay… I guess I’m just going to have to get FOUR now! I used to temp in this Hedge Fund and those guys routinely had four monitors though. There were at least a few guys who had as many as six monitors! They seemed to fill them up with graphs mostly though

It’s really funny though. It’s a complete paradigm change for me. I’ve always understood abstractly that there is some utility in it, but I never knew exactly how that would pan out.

Another weird thing I’ve noticed is my mouse. Sometimes I’ll be looking for it in one monitor while I’m moving it around only for it to be in the other monitor…

There are “mouse finder” utilities for people who have things like dual 30" monitors…
I configure my dual 20"s with my email and calendar on one screen, Safari on the other, and then arrange all my other apps as I see fit.

It sounds as if you have more than one computer. What I do is have a KVM controlling one monitor. The other monitor is tied to a particular machine. This means I can compare the two very easily. Similarly, I can remote into another machine on the LAN and have it full-screen while having the helpdesk ticket or documentation or whatever from my own machine displayed on the other monitor.

Another trick is to open Task Manager and Resource Monitor and put them on the second monitor while your app is on the first. It’s so much more convenient than setting log counters etc and you can see what’s happenning in real time.

Frequently while I’m coding I want to refer to some kind of documentation, or another piece of code as reference. Having my code in front of me and the documentation on the second screen makes me way more productive; I find that when I alt-tab between code and a reference I lose my train of thought somewhat and usually have to refer back to the documentation several times. That’s not an issue with a dual-monitor setup.

When debugging, I find it very helpful to devote one screen to the program that I’m debugging and the other to the code. Being able to look at both the output and the code simultaneously makes it a lot easier to figure out what the program is doing in my experience.

Finally, my company does a whole lot of automated testing, and in the course of our work it’s quite common for us to be running series of tests against machines in our lab. The tests don’t need any input from me, but when I’m running a test I like to keep the output from the test in a spare part of one of the screens so I can keep an eye on it. It’s a bit easier to do this on a dual-screen setup because you have so much spare screen area.

I just spent the last year rebuilding a 53-file, 414-table database from the ground up in a single file, all modernized and streamlined (and down to a mere 66 tables, hey!).

I’d put the new system in front of me, the corresponding old file on the monitor to my right, and have email, instant messenger, notes in BBEdit, and little screen shots floating around in the monitor to my left.

End users would call and need tech support on the old (live) system before the transition, and even on BOTH of them during the beta period, and there were definitely times when I thought “I could use four monitors… heck, I could use SIX!”

But having 3 on a PowerBook isn’t half bad, all things considered :smiley:

I use PinPoint but yeah there are a zillion of them out there.

My husband says that he maximizes the compiler in the secondary monitor so that his application launch is in the primary monitor. He can see his code while the application is running.

I have my smaller monitor as the primary (mostly because when I specify the large one as primary it keeps changing back for reasons I don’t understand), so the taskbar and other Windows detritus is on the small one and the large widescreen monitor is completely open.

Sometimes I help organize tasks that are repetitive and have lots of steps by spreading windows associated with the steps over the large left-to-right spread of these two monitors.

Mine are an LCD type and a CRT type. The LCD is of course rock steady in the sense that a given point on the screen does not change its color or shading at all unless there is actual animation, but it has poorer color rendering. The CRT is the other way around. I can choose which monitor to look at something on according to which aspect of its display I want to evaluate. I can also compare both kinds of viewing.

A 17-foot iMac? Dang, I’m jealous. :wink:

Have you upgraded to Leopard yet? If so, Spaces is your friend. I have Spaces hot-keyed to my middle mouse button. As many virtual desktops as I desire, a very quick single click away. I have VMWare set up in one of them with my full-screen bootcamp partition. And it works with a dual-monitor setup.

For programmers, this is language and operating system dependent. The standard compiler on Windows (Microsoft Visual Studio) is moronic about multiple-monitor support. It still uses the ancient “all my windows are contained in a “desktop” window” metaphor, and you can’t drag documents out of it – so unless your two monitors have the save vertical size and you don’t mind having a single window split between monitors, it’s basically restricted to one (although you can pull the utility windows out – I put the output and solution explorer windows on the other monitor). So the “compiler/IDE on one, app on the other” is about the best you can do.

For the Mac, you’ll likely be using XCode, in which each window is separate. For languages like C/C++/Objective-whatever, which have separate implementation and interface files, I often have headers on one monitor and sources on another. I use Spaces to keep all non-compiler stuff out of my hair when working (but only a mouse-click away).

For those who have multiple computers (MacOS, Linux, Windows, or any combination), each with their own monitor(s), take a look at a program called synergy – it’s a little ugly to set up, but once you’re done, you can share a keyboard and mouse across all the computers without KVM hardware – my mouse just flows off my leftmost Windows monitor and right onto my rightmost Mac one.

I use two when in the house. I work off of a PowerBook G4 Aluminum 15". Also use a 23" Apple Cinema Display. I actually enjoy NOT dedicating workflow. That is to say, depending on which documents or elements are more pressing, I’ll put them on the big monitor. Keeps things lively. When using Skype and a camera, I keep it on the laptop because the clip locks nicely onto the edge of the laptop.

Otherwise, things are quite flexible. I’ve come to rely on the real estate. When traveling I do miss the second display.


One thing i find really useful for a dual-monitor setup is UltraMon, a software tool that expands the range of options on Windows, allowing you to do things like have separate taskbars for each monitor, etc.

It’s not free software, but it’s worth the $40 in my opinion.

Here’s my way to use multiple monitors. L/R: 24", 30", 27". Plus telecaster, POD, mixer, speakers, rack w/ HTR, XBOX, RAID.

I was splitting the PC across the 24 and the 30 (and switching in the Mac on one monitor via a KVM), but the video drivers seemed to get really stupid when you use that much screen real estate, so I just put the PC on the 30" and the Mac on the 24". The 27" is for either XBOX 360 or my Vista machine when I have to deal with that.

I used to use two screens for PC – I’d stick my e-mail and IMs on one monitor, and my development environment on the center monitor. If I needed to debug something that wanted an entire monitor, I’d push the development environment onto the second monitor, and leave the main one for the UI of the app I was debugging. Now I just make it all fit on the 30".

UltraMon and Synergy utilities sound really sweet, I’ve got to check those out.