Friday, 15 April 2011

Using two computer monitors for writing

I'm currently looking after someone else's PC, and for an experiment I hooked up the second monitor for an extended desktop. Over the last twelve months this seems to have become the habit at work - in a number of offices now a single monitor is an exception rather than the rule. The only time I had tried this in the past was with a laptop, spreading the desktop space over the laptop screen and an external monitor.

I am still not sure whether it makes me more productive or not. It is possible to spread a document across both screens but the gap between the monitors is a distraction; however, working on two documents side by side, one on each monitor, is definitely something that can be useful when editing or comparing. Another use is having the story I am writing on one screen, and Web/email/Twitter/music/distractions/Netvibes on the other. However, I suspect that does not make me more productive! So it seems to be more geared to leisure use (and I was intrigued to find that a PC game I am playing, Supreme Commander, runs across both monitors and does make it easier to develop strategies with two aspects of the game being controlled at once).

So what are the advantages of a dual monitor set up for other people? Can some of you enlighten me? This article provides a good overview, but personal opinions are always interesting.

I have found one very definite writing advantage to this set up. A cat called Dolly from down the road likes to visit me while I am working, and when she wants attention she sits in front of the monitor and cleans herself so I can't get on with any work. However, with two monitors I can just switch the document from one screen to another as in the video below, foiling her! Sorry Dolly!

Update 18 April 2011
Two replies via Twitter.

Phil Bradley (librarian and Internet consultant) said: "Can't live without two monitors. I have different sized monitors with different calibrations for various reasons which is v helpful"

Julia Ault (Technology Enhanced Learning specialist) said: "Email on one and browser on t'other works for me"


Paul Richardson said...

Interesting. Reminds me of a great interview with Terry Pratchett a couple of years ago. When asked why he had nine monitors set up, he replied: "Because there isn't room for ten"...

Karl said...

Thanks Paul, that made me laugh! Good to hear from you. For other readers I highly recommend reading Paul's posts on the Teaching & Learning, and ACL, sections of Paul seems to know something about every subject under the sun, and can show the relevance of apparently eclectic connections linking the world, education and technology. (Librarians will also be interested in the Learning Resources section at which I used to write for).