Thursday, August 14, 2014

Using Multiple Monitors

I've been an advocate of multiple monitors even since I realized that productivity wasn't decadence. I have three monitors attached to my computer all of them are Dell U2211-H panels. The U2211-H panel has a 16:9 aspect ration which makes them a little too wide. Text is best read in long, thin columns so the extra width is overkill for that. Also, if you have three 16:9 screens you need a really wide desk. 4:3 is the perfect ratio for multiple computer screens. If you're working on text all day, a portrait oriented 4:3 is even better since you can fit more text on the screen that way. It's also close to the ratio of a standard sheet of 8.5 X 11.

The main problem with 4:3 screens is that they are very expensive new. The rumour is that most computer monitors these days are simply a repackaging of HDTVs. Even the 16:10 aspect ratio is getting hard to find and 16:10 is better than 16:9.

My three 16:9 monitors are laid out with the left most one in portrait mode and the other two in landscape. I put my code editor and email client on the portrait screen and use the two landscape monitors for everything else. Having a 16:9 monitor in portrait mode is comically tall but works really well for code and emails. Using a 16:9 monitor in portrait mode allows me to see 95 lines of code on the screen at once (with a nice big font!) without having to scroll. To get the same effect from a larger 16:9 monitor you'd have to almost double the display size.

I use my computer for both gaming and coding. Having the leftmost monitor in portrait mode is a comprise. It means that whenever I code I move my mouse and keyboard over to the left so that this screen becomes my primary screen. Then, once the day is over, I slide back over to use my centre, landscape monitor for games and web browsing. My monitors are actually on a pivot so I should try just pivoting the centre monitor while I'm working then pivoting it back when I'm done. Maybe I should put all three monitors in portrait mode, since the bulk of what I do involves reading code or text. I'll have to try that over the next few days and get back to you.

Recent Window management features added in Windows 7 make super large displays a second option to the multi-monitor setup. Windows 7 has the ability to snap a window to the left or right half of the screen. This makes managing two windows on the screen at once far easier. The keyboard shortcut for this is windows key-left or right arrow.

That's really the only difference between multiple monitors or one massive monitor - software support. With multiple monitors the OS knows you want to use each monitor as a separate region so that works already. If you're using one giant monitor the OS has no idea what to do. Do you want one big window or a bunch of regions or what? Back when I bought my three monitors I didn't know about the Windows 7 snap features so, I chose multiple monitors rather than rely on software that might not be there. Oh well.. I still love my three monitors.

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