Multiple monitor functionality was brought to the Windows world with Windows 95. Unfortunately, that implementation had some problems, and monitors were so expensive that most people didn’t use more than one. Now, however, monitors are fairly inexpensive and many video cards have built-in support for 2 or more monitors. Quite a bit of software has been written with multiple monitors in mind. If you haven’t tried multiple monitors before, or if you want to learn how to make your current multi-monitor setup better, just keep reading.
The most obvious benefit of having multiple monitors is that you get more desktop area to have more applications visible at one time. Instead of being limited to 1280×1024 of a single 19″ CRT/LCD monitor, you can have 2560×1024 of total area on two 19″ CRT/LCDs or even 3840×1024 with three.
However, the advantages don’t end with a larger desktop area. If you like to run applications in maximized or full screen modes, you’ll be able to fill one screen with each application. So if you want to have your email program maximized on one screen (if you have a lot of email), you can still use the other screen for your web brower, spreadsheet, word processor, or any other progrm. It makes copy/pasting easier because you can have the “Copy” window on one monitor and the “Paste” window on another so you can see exactly what you are doing.
It’s also possible to combine the multiple displays into one big display on the computer. Then you can watch a DVD and stretch it to fill all the monitor space.
Microsoft Flight Simulator supports multi-monitor gaming excellently, and a few other games do as well (many only work with Matrox Dualhead cards). It’s possible to get different views or even play head to head, depending on the game. Unfortunately, the displays other than the primary display do not have the full set of DirectX options and usually will only work in a software rendered mode.
In short, if you’re using just one monitor, you’re hurting your own productivity. If you can spare the desk space, you’ll definitely be able to do more with two.
So how do you go about setting up a dual monitor system? You’ll need two monitors and either 2 video cards or a video card that has mutiple monitor outputs. It’s even possible to mix and match multi-monitor video cards with single-monitor video cards for more monitors.
You can also use a laptop since most of the time the built-in LCD display can be seperate from the external VGA output. It’s even possible to have a third display on a laptop using a PCMCIA video card.