Using Two (Or More) Monitors At The Same Time

I work for a company and a new task is requiring getting info from a database, and then filling in information on forms.

It would be much easier to have two monitors up, one to read and the other to use for entry. We just need to be able to look at information on one screen (MS Access) database and either click and drag that info into various forms and reports on another screen or simply type in the info. I think this would also be helpful when looking at PDF files on one screen and fill in data on the database on the other screen.

I was told at my local Fry’s Electronics that is is a simple process - just buy a second or even third monitor and get a video card.

Sounds simple enough, but before I lay my neck on the line and have the head honchos here all buying second and third monitors, is there anything I am not considering that will come back to haunt me later?

I’ve only had experience doing it in Windows XP, but the process was as simple as you stated: Buy another monitor and video card, install them and choose which monitor you want to be the primary, as well as the layout under Display Properties - Settings.

The only mistake I made when setting up my dual monitor setup was that i initially bought another AGP video card, when my motherboard only has one AGP slot. So, I brought it back, got a PCI video card and all was well.

Well, the social aspects are a better question for IMHO… but my advice is that you just have to enforce a consistent standard for who qualifies for two monitors and who doesn’t.

Now, that said, it’s actually not expensive or difficult.

First, you want a card designed for two monitors. That makes it easiest, and offers the most features. Try the Matrox Millennium G450. If you’re not working with video or playing 1st person shooter games or anything, this card should work fine. You should be able to get one for about $115.

Second, buy the same size monitors and run them at the same resolution. 17" and even 19" CRTs are inexpensive.

Third… well, there is no third. Run the Matrox software and follow its advice, it’s just not that hard.

It’ll be far harder to deal with all the folks stopping by your office oohing and aahing and asking “how do you rate?” :rolleyes:

I started using dual monitors many years ago with NT 3.5 (I think). I’ve used cards from Appian and Colorgraphics as well. They’ve all worked pretty well. I went to three monitors several years ago, and used a four-output capable Colorgraphics card in my last machine. I didn’t install the video in my current work machine, and as such I’m not sure what’s in there.

One thing you’ll want to research in advance is what the accompanying software allows you to control. On a two monitor setup, it can be annoying to have your dialog boxes pop up split between the two screens. I used to use a utility called Mover to control that, but I’d hope dual monitor cards by now include that control with their drivers.

The OPs question has been mostly answered, so I’m going to ask him a question.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more efficient to program the database to automatically fill in the form? Not to mention more accurate.

I have to disagree on this point. I have set up lots of multi-monitor systems, and the cards that produce dual outputs on a single card are a pain, and are much more expensive. Any $50 video card will be perfect for the job of a secondary monitor, and you won’t need any proprietary junk software from the manufacturer…in newer operating systems (Win2K or XP), it just works, and works well.

…and using two cards eliminates this restriction. The cheapest way to set up a secondary monitor is to get a cheap 2nd video card and then just scrounge the extra monitor from someone’s hand-me-down.

Once you’ve installed the hardware and drivers (which is just like installing any video card – ignore the fact that there’s already one there), all you need to do (in XP) is to right-click on the desktop, choose “properties”, go to the “settings” tab where you would normally set the resolution, and you’ll see that there are two monitors in the little diagram. Click on the extra one, set its resolution, check the “extend my windows desktop onto this monitor” checkbox, and voila! You can even drag it around appropriately so that it’s spatial relationship to the primary monitor is accurate (e.g. left vs right, or even on-the-right-and-slightly-higher, etc) so that when you drag windows back and forth between them they’ll go where you expect. It’s great.

You’ll never go back. :slight_smile:

Ok, one catch: depending on where you put the card in your PC, your computer will choose to use one or the other as the screen to use when booting. So if it uses the wrong one and that bothers you, you’ll have to change which slots the cards are in.

Even a cheap video card like this GeforceFX 5200 will have two video outputs. Simply install this type of card, plug in two monitors - they don’t have to run at the same resolution or be the same size, do a bit of tweaking in nView, and you are done.

Just don’t be too cheap. I bought a very cheap card at CompUSA, some generic 8MB ATI Rage XL card for about $30, and I simply could not get it to work in a multi monitor setup, either as the primary or secondary card. I could get either the onboard (Intel) video or the Rage to work, but not both. I tried different drivers for both, changed some BIOS settings, moved it to a different PCI slot… nothing.

I exchanged the Rage for a Radeon 7000 and it worked perfectly.

Ah, you are a wise person…unfortunately, the people I work with/for are not so wise…they come up with some new form almost daily, and for awhile I was able to keep up, but now they are changing the data in the database, and then the forms again. To make a long ugly story short - it is easier for them to take the form du jour and fill it out by cutting and pasting, than for me to work on populating the fields. BTW, the most recent new form to fill out was 8 pages long, in small type. If they ever do keep one form for more than a couple of weeks, I will do what you suggest.

At any rate - THANK YOU ALL for you help and comments. So it does sound fairly straight forward and simple…I am going to go to Fry’s in the next week or so, pick up a new monitor and video card and see how this flies. My guess is that I will soon be doing this for about 35 other people in this office if it works like I think it will.

Sounds like the powers that be get off on designing forms without due consideration on how the form will be used, or whether it’s even necessary. You have my sympathies DMark. use site search to look up DoubleSight DS-1500. Essentially 2 15" LCD monitors side by side…

I printed that out and head honcho number one…well, his eyes just bugged out and I can swear I saw a slight drop of drool form at his lip. Plus it is only about $150 more than he was planning to spend anyway. Looks good - have you actually used it, or know anybody who has used it?