Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tech Column: Two Eyes, Two Monitors

by Bill Adler

This is the single best computer tip ever: Attach a second monitor to your computer. I'll get to why in a moment, but first let me get the how part out of the way, because while it may seem scary to do, it's easy.

Here's how to do it on a Windows desktop PC: Plug the second monitor into a spare graphics port on the back of your computer. If you have a laptop, attach the monitor to the graphics port. That's it. Windows will recognize the second monitor, and you're in business.

You can attach a second monitor to Macs and Chromebooks, too.

If your computer lacks a graphics port, you can attach a second monitor through a USP port with an adapter like this one: www.amzn.to/UMeQpv.

You can even use your iPad or Android tablet as a second monitor. That's handy and cool, if you travel with a Windows of Apple laptop and tablet. You'll need an app to do that. One app that converts your tablet into to a second monitor is Air Display: www.avatron.com.

Here's the why part. On one screen you can have what you're working on. On the other screen you can have your notes or a browser for research.

Put the paper you're writing on the screen in front of you, and your Internet search on the other monitor. Put your Powerpoint-in-progress in front of you, and the images you're editing for it on the second monitor. Put your annual report on your main monitor, and Facebook on the other one. Oh, Facebook. I'll say this once --never again-- and deny it if somebody tries to quote me: Having Facebook open all the time on a second monitor will increase your work productivity. Why? Because you won't be going back and forth between that spreadsheet and your timeline.

Flipping back and forth among applications on a single screen is a pain and time-consuming. It's so much better to be able to see everything you're working on all at once. You can, of course, easily move data between screens. You can move entire programs, too, so that if you get tired of Facebook occupying one monitor, you can put Excel there instead.

Having two screens is particularly useful if you have a laptop with a puny 13 or even 11 inch screen. A larger screen is much easier to see and use. There: the small laptop screen problem has been solved (at least for when you're at your desk.)

Give it a try. Once you've used two monitors, going back to just one will be difficult.


One of my recent columns was about the Google Chromebook, a $250 fully featured laptop that uses Google's Chrome operating system. Rothman Tech Tips interviewed me about the Chromebook, and if you'd like to know more about this excellent travel companion, you can see the video interview here: www.rothmantechtips.com/?p=258.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," www.amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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