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Benefits of dual monitor set up

What are the benefits of moving from a single monitor to a dual monitor set up ?

- Has this improve your productivity while debugging and performing other task.

I'm trying to gather all the benefits of having 2 screens
(ie, watching TV while checking his e-mails ....)

It seems that the folks at FogCreek uses
Dell systems so I'm also considering purchasing a brand new Dell computer, could you recommend me any particular model ... I think I'll for for the largest monitor (21 inches?)
Tarek Demiati Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The biggesting benefits for me as a developer is being able to have all my necessary tools and references visible. For example:

For webapps: IDE / Debugger and Browser at same time for step through debugging.

IDE and Documentation, IDE and Specs, etc, etc.

Even things as simple as needing to write an email and refer back to an article or document while writing is much easier when you have either 2 monitors or just one large widescreen monitor.

Especially with monitors so cheap these days you can get two 19" LCDs to place side by side for under $500.  I think it's a very worthwhile investment for increaing productivity.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Sometimes I wish i had three monitors, its extremely useful to be able to have sql in one window, VS in another, email in another, or virtual pc in one, etc.  I can still work fine with just one...I don't think the increase in productivity is super dramatic, but it sure is a nice convienence.
Phil Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Makes it real easy to look at the IDE in one monitor, and look at the webpage (we do mostly websites) on the other monitor.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I've found several benfits. I can be composing an email in one window while looking at what the email is refering to in another. It's great for copying files: I have one explorer window open on each monitor. One at the source folder and another at the destination. Working thru tutorials: Tutorial (usually a web page) is open in one screen while the program the tutorial is about is in the other. Debugger in one, running program in the other, etc.
Mark Brents
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I normally have docs/specs/notes in one window and whatever editors in the other.
KC Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
It's really useful when debugging anything graphical, or coding and referring to docs at the same time.
Mr Jack
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Synchronicity! I just set this up today with my laptop and and old Gateway 17" that was lying around our test lab :) For manual tests it's nice to have the application under test on one screen and the test script on the other. My only downside is the 17" takes up a lot of space in my cube, so I'm going to lobby for an LCD...
Former COBOL Programmer
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Watching a movie while drinking a red bull while programming my app. Or the reverse. Depends on how good the movie is versus how interesting the code is.
Yes, it's a hobby for me, not a job.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Visual studio in one monitor, application I'm debugging on the other. You can refer from one to the other. No brainer :)

Also, I don't think photoshop really fits on one monitor.

optimal setup is two monitors on a dev machine and a laptop too, so you can browse the web and edit the wiki or whatever at the same time.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Developers can definitely use them, as everyone has said very well already.

A common benefit, even to non-developers, is to have all "accessory" apps on the secondary monitor and keep your primary working app maximized on the primary monitor.

That way, if you're working in a browser or an office app fullscreen on the primary monitor, you can have all of the email/IM/music programs on the secondary, and temporarily glancing at them or typing a quick message doesn't obscure the primary work program.
Marco Arment Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
2 is better than 1.

but basically it means less alt-tab, minimize-maximize,winkey-d....or however you switch between programs.

Just move the mouse to the other screen.
Josh in Jersey Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
A couple of benefits:
1) GUI debugging (my old Turbo C++ for DOS supported this)
2) Web site development
3) Desktop publishing (I've seen 4 monitors used at once for this purpose, but that was a Mac-based system)
QADude Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
2 monitors lets you multi-task much better. 

Likes others said, code in one, reference in other.  (A write screen and a read screen.) 

Personally, I prefer 3 monitors, however the third is a second computer for testing my app (web). 

Also, when the main PC is crunching on SQLserver or whatever, I can then do something else on the second machine instead of picking my nose.  Not that I don't like picking my nose. :)
I forgot my posting name
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
What is interesting is I'm pretty sure the optimal number of monitors is two.  A coworker and myself have tried the three monitor deal and we both found ourselves never using the third monitor.

I dont know why this is however.
Cory R. King
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
There are numerous useability studies that suggest the more screen space you have available, the more productive you will be.  However, I have not seen any experimental evidence that suggests two monitors are bigger than one large monitor (or vice versa).

Some of the potential concerns that our ergonomics department have pointed out include...

1) A divider down the middle of your "view space" (caused by the bezels) can be distracting or fustrating for some people.  To compenstate, people have a tendency to spend most of their time looking to the left with occasional glances to the right.

2) If one were to sit square on with one monitor, you still spend a considerable portion of the work day swivelling your head to one side but not to the other.  This phenomenon actually appears more often when you frequently answer the phone or read from something propped up next to the monitor.

In both cases, people sometimes develop neck pain.

As a result, they suggest that for prolonged work, bite the bullet and get an extra large "square" monitor or a widescreen. Ideally, get three monitors.  The only time you'd want two separate monitors is when there's a clear division between the work you do such that you'd face one monitor head on, when doing the tasks on that monitor.

Personally, I use both a widescreen and a second square monitor at the same time so I obviously don't follow these guidelines.  But it's something definitely worth spending a few minutes thinking about before you rush out and buy $500+ worth of computer equipment.
Anonymous Coward
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
There's an ATI/NEC-sponsored study showing that having multiple monitors is more productive. For something less biased, see .

As for 1-big-monitor vs. 2-smaller-ones, with the single monitor, you'd have to do some amount of window management to arrange the windows, whereas with the double monitor, all you'd have to do is maximize each window to fit their respective screens.
Mark Cidade Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Do not forget the impact that a herd of monitors might have on the lesser beings in your workplace. You need more monitors to feed your voracious intellect. Monitors are a badge of status amongst the geekii, if one intrudes upon the domain of a greater geek, he will be humbled by the magnificence of his superiors display capabilities.

Monitors are like potato chips. Once youve got one, you want more, until youve ordered a custom crescent shaped desk to give you a 270 degree arc of information overload.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
To the OP: I think everyone has pretty much covered the benefits to Dual Monitors.

Now, as to Dell.  What do you want to do?  The workstations are the best machines (asside from gaming and servers) that Dell offers.  You can get those in dual-core, dual-proc and single proc.  And with all sorts of features.

If you can afford a workstation from Dell, get one.  Just don't skimp on the warranty to get more hd.

And if you need help on specs, start a new thread.  I am sure a lot of folks can offer advice.
Eric D. Burdo Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I had four monitors while working on a trading software product. Turns out most traders operate with this setup, where they put studies on the monitors in the periphery and real time data updates in the center. I had seen pictures of customers with upto eight monitors as well.
Amit Malhotra Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I'd like to emphasize that my experience is dated, so take it with a grain of salt.

Dell monitors are wonderful.

Dell PCs, i.e., that combination of CPU, motherboard, RAM, hard disk, network card, etc, leave something to be desired. Quality and price aside, they are designed to be serviced or replaced extremely rapidly (by swapping common parts), and one consequence is the lack of flexibility in modifying your system.

If you're not in a corporate environment where support is more valuable than the hardware, don't be afraid to consider mix-and-match solutions where vendor X makes your desktop, Dell sells you your monitor, and vendor Y sells you periperals.
Anonymous Coward
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
We run a wide range of Dell machines.  Laptops, Desktops, Workstations and Servers.

As for the Desktops and Workstations, they are easily upgradeable.  They use standard components.  In most cases, we have a full warranty, so we rarely do upgrades beyond more RAM or a new Video Card.
Eric D. Burdo Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I've worked for a few months on the trading floor where all workstations had 8 monitors. This was derivative (option) trading where there is a TON of information to be displayed, and even with 8 monitors, the fonts were really small (8pt).

I did development work on one of these, and after trying to run with 8 monitors out of curiosity, and consistently getting headaches, I switched 5 of them off.

Never again. :)

In case you're wondering, after about 4 monitors in a row, they start stacking them you're essentially sitting in front of an LCD wall.
Andrey Butov Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
"However, I have not seen any experimental evidence that suggests two monitors are bigger than one large monitor (or vice versa)."

Most people run a 21" monitor at 1600x1200, yielding 1.9Mpixels of desktop.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you intend to replace that with two 19" monitors. The comfort factor there is usually 1280x1024, or 2.6Mpixels of desktop.

So out of the gate, you get almost 40% more desk real estate.

The problem with the "one big monitor" argument is that I'll take your one big monitor ... and add a second. Always.

"Some of the potential concerns that our ergonomics department have pointed out include..."

The benefits MS Research have pointed out are at

"1) A divider down the middle of your "view space" (caused by the bezels) can be distracting or fustrating for some people.  To compenstate, people have a tendency to spend most of their time looking to the left with occasional glances to the right."

Go walk around your office right now. Tell me how many developers have books open on their desk. They're already moving their necks.

FWIW, if the "divider" is a concern, you can go like I always do - I have a primary monitor and an "auxiliary" to the side. I keep my IDE or other workspace open in front of me then pull reference info to the right. I've been working like this for five years, and I *hate* flying single monitor - it's like tying an arm behind my back.

Which leads me to my final thought - instead of asking ergonomics or management to decide, have you tried asking the people who are actually doing the work what THEY want?

Philo Send private email
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
"As for 1-big-monitor vs. 2-smaller-ones, with the single monitor, you'd have to do some amount of window management to arrange the windows, whereas with the double monitor, all you'd have to do is maximize each window to fit their respective screens."

I love my two 17" LCDs, but I find that maximizing windows is a bad habit. If I leave windows unmaximized, I often find it didn't need the space, and so I get room for other windows. And if most windows are unmaximized, a big monitor's lack of a divider would allow more efficient use of space.

The big advantage of multiple monitors is that they cost much less per pixel. Two 17" LCDs have more pixels together than one 24" widescreen LCD, but will cost about half the price.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I like having 2 monitors, but I don't like scrolling between them.

To be honest, having seperate workspaces under gnome, assigned to function keys, is also a very good solution.

With 2 mon's, it's nice to see the documentation in one screen, the code in another. But scrolling across to page down is a PITA.

With gnome, changing view and focus with a single keypress is neat - but it would be nice to be able to see both at the same time, somehow.

For me, an ideal solution would be 2 mon's under gnome, one workspace on each. Sure it can be done, but I've never bothered to work it out ...
revert my buffer
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Some people are talking about how much screen space, or how many pixels, are available with two monitors or a bigger monitor at a higher resolution.

The issue is NOT how much "screen real estate" is available. The issue is the way the space is utilised. Sure you can have a 24" screen at 1600x1200 but you can't maximise your IDE to one half of the screen and your documentation to the other half. You could do it manually but this is tedious and annoying.

The advantage is that you have two SEPARATE work areas that behave independently. I can drag something over to the right screen, maximise it and it effectively utilises all of that desktop with a minimum of effort.

It seems to me that if you could have a very widescreen monitor that actually behaved as though it were two separate side-by-side desktops, depending on which side of the screen you were operating within, it would be more popular than having two different screens.

That said, one of the other advantages if you're a web developer of having two separate screens is the ability to run the second screen deliberately at a lower resolution to try and emulate the screen size of your target market. I personally run my second screen at 1024x768 and my main screen at 1280x1024. I also use Photoshop a lot, and it's extremely useful to be able to shove all of the palettes onto the second screen and leave the main screen clutter-free for working on.
Nathan Ridley [View My Blog] Send private email
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Dual 20" monitors, in portrait. 2400 x 1600 bliss!

You've never seen things until you see them portrait. Perfect for code, e-mail, word, and the web.
Brad Wilson Send private email
Thursday, November 10, 2005
I would recommend NOT buying a compuer through Dell.  You'll probably be able to get a much nicer system at a lower price through a small local shop.  Get the monitor at Dell, but find someone local to build your computer.

If you are in the Seattle area, I would recommend  They have a simple to use web page and after they send you a quote you are able to call the person that sent you the quote directly without having to go through six different menus while being transferred four times (which is what happened when I called Dell).

I was able to get the following system at USMicro for $1430 + tax:
P4 820 2.8GHz Dual Core Process w/2MB cache
Intel D955XBK motherboard with 955X chipset (top of the 
line with 2 PCI Express slots)
10/100/1000 Ethernet card
3.5" floppy
256MB 6600 nVidia Video card with dual-monitor support (I plan to install another Video card eventually so that I can run 4 monitors)
120 GB Hard Drive
Sony DVD+/-RW (reads and writes DVDs and CDs)
Microsoft keyboard and mouse
Microsoft XP home edition OS
3-year parts and labor warranty

This is an awesome system at a great price.  Plus, if anything goes wrong, USMicro is just a few miles away.

Anyhoo, I would definitely check out some local computer builders before going to Dell.  You'll be able to configure your system exactly the way you want it and you won't have to deal with Dell's less than spectacular customer service.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
"but you can't maximise your IDE to one half of the screen and your documentation to the other half"

I've run dual head on four or five different systems (mostly Matrox cards, but recently ATI and nVidia) and the drivers have *always* allowed me to maximize a window to the current monitor. The start bar is on one monitor, things snap to monitors, etc.

Now that I'm running two monitors at 1920x1600 and 1280x1024 I actually don't maximize windows so much any more, but when I do, they snap to the screen.

Philo [MSFT] Send private email
Friday, November 11, 2005

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