Multiple-Monitor Proponents Point to Productivity Benefits

But IT support for such setups may be lacking

Stefan Thibeault, a programmer at a clothing maker in Montreal, is convinced of the value of attaching dual monitors to his PC. Doing so has given him a larger electronic workspace, eliminated annoyances such as the need to frequently Alt-Tab between applications, and cut down on his trips to the printer.

In short, the dual-monitor setup has made Thibeault more productive. “I couldn’t live without it,” he said.

But when the IT manager at Thibeault’s company asked other employees if they wanted a second monitor last year, few jumped at the offer. Thibeault said it may be that people were concerned about losing desk space or weren’t certain of the benefits of using more than one monitor. He asked that his company not be identified.


Multimonitor setups can take up lots of desk space, but users say the ability to view more than one application is a big plus. Workplace adoption of multiple monitors can be hit or miss, especially if an IT department doesn’t actively encourage or support the practice. End users may need technical support help to make it possible. Desktop systems in particular may require a video card upgrade that can support separate video outputs.

But Thibeault and nearly a dozen other end users with multiple monitors said this month that they now can’t imagine working with just one. The ability to display e-mail on one monitor, a browser window on a second and in some cases an application on a third, and then seamlessly move their cursors from screen to screen, is a clear benefit, they said.

Denys Beauchemin, an independent wireless and storage consultant in Spring, Texas, is so committed to using dual monitors that when he travels, he packs one in his suitcase to set up next to his laptop.

“It’s a bit of a pain to lug around, but I’m so addicted to multiple monitors,” Beauchemin said. “I think they’re a real boon to my productivity.”

Vendors are also paying increased attention to multiple monitors. This month, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced a 690G desktop chip set with an integrated Digital Video Interface (DVI) output for supporting intensive graphics across two monitors.

Windows Vista includes support for multiple monitors, as does Windows XP and even Windows 2000 to a lesser extent. That means end users with the initiative to create their own dual-screen setups can do so.

Multitasking Advantage

Jason Quint, an accountant at The Home Depot Inc.’s HD Supply wholesale distribution unit in Atlanta, has configured his laptop screen for side-by-side use with the regular LCD monitor on his desk. “I can look at a spreadsheet while typing an e-mail,” Quint said.

Although adoption of multiple monitors may be ad hoc in most workplaces, that isn’t the case at Durkin Agency Inc. in Englewood, N.J. When the insurance firm moved to electronic documents last year, it also installed multiple monitors on desktops to make it easier for employees to open documents and use applications in tandem. The LCD screens are connected to monitor arms made by WorkRite Ergonomics Inc. that suspend them above people’s desks.

Eileen Durkin, one of the owners of the insurance agency, estimates that dual monitors have helped increase employee productivity by 10%. “People who weren’t organized are organized now,” she said.

Dual-monitor use isn’t without glitches. For instance, if a laptop is disconnected from a stand-alone monitor, upon restart an application may look for the second screen. Some users said they also “lose” their mouse, but they characterized both issues as minor and easy to resolve.

Quantum Data Inc., which makes equipment for testing audio and video products, operates in a paperless environment, and 84% of its workers use more than one monitor, said Mark Stockfisch, the Elgin, Ill.-based company’s chief technology officer. Fourteen percent have three.

Almost all of the monitors are 19-in. LCD devices. If an employee has monitors with different resolutions, Stockfisch said he recommends using the highest one for applications such as browsing and e-mail. For resolutions higher than 1280x1024 pixels, he suggests using a DVI connection to get the best display quality.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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