The ability to run multiple monitors off of one computer is nothing new, but the popularity of such configurations is seeing a surge in popularity. The falling prices of LCD monitors coupled with the desire to comfortably have as much on screen as possible are leading this surge. It might be an even more popular upgrade if people were aware of the ease of installation and the relatively reasonable costs associated with it. To that end, this Tech Tip will take a look at some of the basic requirements and features associated with setting up a dual display desktop on a personal computer.
Displaying your desktop on multiple monitors is natively supported by Windows XP, 2000, ME, and 98, as well as in the popular distributions of Linux. Although this Tech Tip will focus on configuring a dual display setup in Windows, it is possible to go much higher than two monitors if your needs and budget should allow.
With the proper hardware installed (to be covered in the next section), enabling dual displays is quite easy. Simply navigate to the "Settings" tab of the "Display Properties" screen in Windows, and where most people are used to seeing controls for one monitor, you will now see two. The two monitors can then be enabled (attached) / disabled, resized, and reoriented to match the configuration that they physically occupy on your desk. By selecting to "Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor", the cursor will now be able to leave the primary monitor and can freely navigate the second display as if it was all one surface. You can move programs, icons, taskbars, and wallpapers onto the secondary monitor and start taking advantage of the increased desktop real estate. This setup is now ready to make just about any situation where a computer might be used a much more convenient.
The typical home user may appreciate the extra space in order to spread out documents for easy reviewing without having to tab back an forth. Or on a more recreational level, perhaps they will utilize one monitor for their web browser, while the second one is used to display e-mail, instant messaging, MP3 playback, DVD video, and so on.
Another benefit of dual displays in the home can be experienced in 3D games. Many games are now supporting multiple monitors in order to enhance the experience. Unreal Tournament, Quake, and Microsoft’s Flight Simulator are just a few of the series of games that support multiple monitors to allow the player to further immerse themselves in the action.
In business settings, dual displays may be even more valuable. In addition to being able to view multiple documents at once, some may just need more space to see what they are working on. Designers using AutoCAD can now drag all of their toolbars onto the second monitor and use the entire surface of the primary monitor as an uninterrupted workspace. Another example of the benefits of dual displays can be seen with day traders, who may need to be monitoring the activity of numerous stocks at once. Having one window hidden behind another may be not only be inconvenient, but costly, and multiple monitors might be an easy upgrade to justify when money is on the line.
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