Monday, October 12, 2009

For Those about to Multiple Monitor Surf!

I multitask all day and I'm not using "multitask" in that buzz-term kind of way either. Between all the many, instant messages, and news updates, it seems like I need one computer for communications and another computer for work. I run several different applications simultaneously and constantly switch among them.
At times, I'm testing an application while taking notes in Microsoft Word. Other times, I'm instant messaging with a friend about a Web page or running Virtual PC to test a procedure in a book I'm editing. Often I'm doing all those things simultaneously. It seems like I waste half the day clicking the taskbar to switch between tasks.
Turns out I didn't need another computer—I just needed another monitor. Windows XP supports using multiple monitors and has the multi-screen feature built in. Dual monitors lets you add a separate monitor to your laptop and view different programs on each display.
In this column, I'll explain how to configure multiple monitors using the Dual screen feature in Windows XP. And I'll help you set up an old laptop as a second monitor by using some cool third-party software that works with Windows XP.
Configure Multi-Monitor and Dualview
If you have a desktop computer and you want multi-screens, your best bet is to buy an external monitor and a second video adapter that supports multiple monitor displays. Here's a list of Supported Display Adapters for Multiple Monitor Display and Dual Monitors. Alternatively, you can upgrade your current video adapter with an adapter that can connect directly to multiple monitors. You can find such video adapters for less than $200 at most electronics stores—just make sure that it's compatible with your computer and has connectors that match the monitors you plan to use.
If you're a laptop user like me, you don't have the option of adding another video adapter, but your laptop might support using Dual Display with an external monitor and the laptop's built-in display. If it does support Dualview, just do what I did: plug a monitor into the external VGA port of your laptop and turn on the Dualview feature of Windows XP. To turn on Dualview, follow these steps:
Right-click the desktop, and then click Properties.
In the DisplayProperties dialog box, click the Settings tab.
Click the Display list and select your external monitor. If you do not see multiple monitors listed, your computer hardware may not support Dualview. You can still use MaxiVista to configure a second computer as an additional display, however.
Select the Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor option. Click Apply or OK.
Now I can have different windows open on my laptop's built-in display and the external monitor. I can move windows between the two displays and even stretch windows across both displays. For more information on how to move from one monitor to the other, see Expand Your Workspace with a Multiple Monitor Computer.