Friday, September 11, 2015

How to Be More Productive with Dual Monitors

You buy a larger desk and file away supplies so that you can have more workspace. When you have a limited area to work in, things get cluttered and piled on top of each other. You end up wasting valuable time to get to the items you need, if you can even find them.
The same can be said for your monitor space. Why squish and squeeze your much-needed workspace? Treat it like your desk and expand it using dual monitors. Not sure how having more than one monitor can work in your favor? Here are just a few ways the use of dual monitors can improve your productivity.

Battling the Split Screen

There is no doubt that the split screen view available to users comes close to the same thing as dual monitors. You can simply open two applications side-by-side. If you use the apps in Windows 8 or 10, you can easily pop them into a split screen view by just dragging them to either side of the screen. In Windows 8, you can even dock your desktop to one side, while having an app open on the other. In Windows 10, apps thankfully open in their own window and behave like desktop applications.
What is wrong with this approach? Well, nothing except the items you have open in the split screen view are not full-sized. You may have solved the problem of lesser clicks to maximize or minimize your applications, but you really have not expandedyour workspace. You have just shrunk two applications down to fit and squeezed them into one space.
Now, if you do not have the option to use dual monitors for one reason or another, then definitely give the split screen option a try. But, if you can get that second monitor in action, you will be much happier with full views of your apps rather than mini-views.

Spare the Mouse and Stop the Click

First, think about the piling of items when you have limited space. If you can only fit one printout onto your tiny desk and have a report from your boss that you are comparing it to, how does that work? You cannot fit them side-by-side, right? Think of your monitor space the same way and take split screen views out of the picture.
You have your Web browser open for research and your Microsoft Word document open to take notes. So, you read the website article and then click on your document to type some notes. You then either minimize the document or click the browser window to get it back. Then the cycle starts again. Click, click, up, down, up, down, click, click.
What you are doing is de-piling. Wouldn’t it be easier to have that browser open in one monitor with your document open in the other? You get a clear view of each application and never have to take your eyes off of the article or your fingers off the keyboard to capture your notes. No more click, click, click and no more wasted time with up, down, up, down.
An interesting study conducted by the Software Usability Research Laboratory, Witchita State University, involved 60 participants. Here are their findings on this specific aspect of dual monitor usage as compared to single monitor usage:
Participants tended to switch windows more often and click the mouse more in the single monitor configurations. Given the smaller amount of screen real estate, participants were forced to manage the windows by overlapping them or minimizing them.

Reduce the Risk of Errors

During your clicking, minimizing, and de-piling, have you ever accidentally closed out an application? Being able to see both full-sized applications at once means you are reducing this type of time-wasting mistake.
By extending your display you can also quickly drag items from one screen to another. Did you download all of the images for your brochure into the wrong folder? With the wrong folder on one display and the right folder on the other, just drag your items over to move them.
While copying from one document and pasting into another, have you ever made a mistake and didn’t realize it immediately? Try highlighting the text on one screen and just dragging it to its destination on the other without the need for a copy/paste action.
These are the types of efficiencies and error-reducing activities you can perform with dual monitors. With a quick glance of your eyes, while not even moving your head, you can easily see the applications you are working between and spot mistakes faster.

How Can this Really Help ME?

You might be thinking that two monitors works for some jobs or industries, but not yours, so why bother. Sure, programmers and developers can gain a lot of efficiency by writing their code on one monitor while having their output on the other. Seeing immediate results of their work this way certainly helps them be more productive. But, from experience I can tell you that this can work for far more jobs and industries than just Information Technology.
From writers to business analysts to video editors to account managers to sales people, if you work on a computer and use more than one application per day, dual monitors is sure to make you more productive. Just think different applications on separate screens.
Respond to emails using one display while keeping your photo editing software up in the other, exactly where you left off. Perform cross-browser testing and comparisons with Internet Explorer on one monitor and Firefox on the other to quickly spot differences. Drag and drop items like text and images from one display to your content management system on the other, reducing errors.
In a Microsoft post, John Swenson expresses his opinion on the use of dual monitors in relation to Windows 7:
Suddenly you’ll spend a lot less time flipping through open files, programs, and emails, hunting for what you want. With all of that screen real estate spread out before you, you’ll soon realize how much time you used to waste switching windows and looking for things. You’ll then ask yourself, “How did I ever get by with just one monitor?”
For Windows 10 users, you can still take advantage of the snap and quadrant features while using dual monitors. You can also use the multiple desktop feature introduced in this version of Windows to show them on two separate displays. You can see which applications you have open easily and just click to open them where you want them. Below is a good video explaining how to use these features for your dual monitor setup.

Wrong Uses for Dual Monitors

Some people disagree that the use of two monitors can increase productivity. Some might even argue that it could decrease it. Honestly, this is certainly possible, but most likely dependent on what those screens are being used for.
If you intend to use your second monitor for your favorite movie, new video game, or the latest Jason Derulo music video, then chances are your eyes will be there instead of on your work. The point of dual monitors is to, again, expand your workspace, not invite a playground that takes your mind off of your work.

What is Your Preference?

Do you use dual monitors and cannot imagine what you would do going back to a single display? Or, are you resistant to getting that extra monitor set up for some reason, and if so, why? Since there are still varying opinions on whether or not a dual monitor setup can really make you more productive, we would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Credit: PrinceOfLove via Source:

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