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Multiple Monitors

By Steve Jones,

I did the coolest thing recently. I got a second monitor.

How is this cool, you ask? Let me tell you, it is the neatest thing and it really does make you more productive. Check out the digital camera shot below:

How I did it? (The technical side)

I run Windows 2000 Professional at work, which natively supports multiple monitors. Once I had a second monitor available and purchased a new ATI graphics card, I was ready to go. I installed the video card and booted the machine.

It was interesting to see the BIOS and character portion of the Windows startup sequence take place on the second monitor (new video card). Once the grpahics mode started, however, it switched to the first monitor and the second one froze on the Windows splash screen.

After logging in, I checked the settings from the display applet, only a normal single monitor screen. Next I checked the device manager (My Computer\Manage) and noticed that two monitors and two video adapters were displayed. Returning to the Settings tab on the display applet gave me the following display:

From here I could easily set the resolutions of the monitors indepentdently, configure them to be side by side, or one above the other. Since they both sit on my desk, I placed them side by side. I do however, have my main window set to 1152x864 and the second window set to 1024x768. This allows me to more easily see the monitor that is further away from me.

How I did it? (The Political Side)

Well, one of the advantages of working for a company that has let some people go is that we have lots of extra equipment. We have about 10 spare computers right now, which means ten spare monitors. Recently the network guy needed to buy a few NICs for some new servers, so I asked him to "slip" a video card into the order. Not the most politically correct solution, but for something this small, it's much easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I wouldn't recommend this everywhere. Especially if you are not on good terms with your manager.

If you don't have spare computers around, keep an eye out for people who are being upgrade. At some point, there will be someone who gets a larger monitor. You may be able to convince someone to give you their old 15" monitor and then I'd spring for a video card myself. It's truly worth it.

Does it Help?

Treee-men-dous-ly

Since I've had dual monitors for over six months, I have noticed that I can work much faster in many ways. Implementing a query from an email, I can view the email with the description and see the query at the same time on separate monitors. When I am debugging things from the web application, I can run the browser on one screen and Query Analyzer on the other and compare the results I am expecting with what I see in the application.

The one area that really has helped is when I am building a query and need to browse through my Visio digram or Enterprise Manager. With one of these on each screen, I can more quickly work with less mistakes since I am not cutting and pasting or Alt-Tab'ing back and forth.

I highly recommend this to anyone who programs. It has made me much more productive and probably saved the company more than the $250 or so spent on this setup.

Steve Jones
©dkRanch.net April 2002
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