The use of multiple displays is becoming increasingly widespread both in offices and home-office use. Stock traders are a telling example, as they have to make the decision to buy or sell in a fraction of a second based on information gathered on multiple screens. It is indeed essential for this kind of decision to be able to view all the information made available.
Another example from everyday life is the use of multiple data sheets which, unless they are arranged side by side, provide an optimal overview. In general, it can be said: the simultaneous use of several screens almost always represents an added value when information from several sources has to be brought together.
Using one or more screens can also improve productivity. But there is an important ergonomic point to be underlined, namely that working from several screens involves more neck rotation and a situation of discomfort in the neck and shoulders.
A sufficiently large screen and an optimal arrangement of the screens can largely overcome this muscular tension exerted. A screen of at least 24 inches causes much less strain on the neck and shoulders than a small screen. A balance must be struck between the consequences on health and the gain in terms of productivity.
When does it get interesting to use two screens rather than one?
A second screen is a good investment leading to better performance provided that the user spends more than 20% of their time collecting information from multiple sources. Since the price of screens has been falling steadily, the breakeven point has since been arguably well below 20%.
Most of us work with two screens already and there are two scenarios that are the most common: two fixed screens side by side or a fixed screen with a laptop next to it. Often, one screen is used for the mailbox and the other for routine production tasks.
People who work in these configurations do their best to arrange their work plan but do not necessarily know the rules for positioning these materials in good conditions. We have good news. These rules are few in number and relatively easy to implement.
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Equipment To Optimize The Layout
The ideal is to have two similar fixed screens. If you have the laptop case, try replacing it with a second fixed screen of the same size as your current external monitor.
Here the use of dual monitor stands with double articulated arms are a really good solution. The amount of space you can save on your desk and the amount of flexibility such monitor arms can provide is unbeatable.
This hardware allows two fixed screens to be hung, or even a fixed screen with a laptop support. The advantage of these products is their flexibility, freedom of placement, increased productivity, better ergonomics and they allow you to create a more focused workspace.
How to Optimize Your Setup For Two Fixed Screens
Optimizing two fixed screens is relatively straight forward. All you have to think about is that the two screens must be in front of you. Normally, the edges where they touch are right in front of you. Then position them at the same height, such that the top of the screens are positioned at eye level.
Now proceed to the settings for each screen, with the same font resolution, brightness and color calibration (especially if you are a designer). Ideally, the two screens should be of the same brand: the same dimensions and characteristics to simplify the layout. Here is an instructional video on how to properly do color calibration on a brand new monitor.
How To Optimize Your Setup For a Fixed Screen and a Laptop
It gets a little trickier when it comes to arranging a laptop with a fixed screen. The major problem is the obvious difference in dimensions which often prevents a certain balance from being achieved.
It will therefore be a matter of having both screens at the same height, and using a support for the laptop computer. After the height adjustment you’ll have to bring the two screens closer to you, or even with a preponderance for the fixed screen. Finally, try to adjust the display characteristics in a similar way to minimize display discrepancy.
The Software Side
Once you have placed your screens at your desired location it is very important to set them up properly for an optimal experience. Here are a few steps to take into account when you are configuring your dual monitor setup under Windows 10:
- Configure the order of screens
- Improve mouse sensitivity and visibility
Configure the order of screens
Windows 10 automatically detects your new screen and extends your desktop. So to configure the order of your screens here is what you need to do:
- Right-click an empty space on the desktop and click Display Settings.
- Your two screens are recognized by Windows. Click on the desired screen to configure.
- By default, Windows extends your desktop to the second screen. This is the best configuration to make the most of your 2 screens. If you prefer, you can copy the image from the first screen to the second by selecting the Duplicate these displays option in the Multiple displays section.
- Select the screen to configure by clicking on it in the window. You can change its orientation and declare it as the main display (where the taskbar will be).
- If you want to extend the desktop to the left, you can move the second screen. Click and drag it to the left of the other screen.
- Finally, if your two screens are different sizes, switching from one screen to another can be disturbing, depending on where you are on the screen. Adjust the position of the smaller screen by moving it vertically
- Finally click on the Apply button and then on OK.
Improve mouse sensitivity and visibility
Since your desktop is twice the size now, it can be difficult to see where the mouse cursor is and even harder to move it quickly. You can easily fix this in Windows Mouse Settings:
- Click the Start button and then click Settings.
- Click on Devices.
- In the left column, click Mouse.
- Move the cursor speed slider to the right.
- Click Additional Mouse Options.
- Open the Pointer Options tab and check the Show pointer location when I press the CTRL key check box.
- Finally confirm with OK.
Now when you move the mouse the cursor will move faster and if you can’t find the cursor on both of your screens press the Ctrl key to see where it is.
There are many advantages to working with 2 computer screens, but the most interesting aspect is undoubtedly being more productive. We do not realize all the time that we are wasting just by switching from one window to another to fetch the information we need. With a second monitor, all it takes is a quick glance to quickly see what interests us.
When working all day at the computer, it is extremely rare that you have to use only one program, software or document at a time. And even if that is the case, one will still need to go check his emails or check a web page and, unfortunately, we often have to stop whatever we were working on just to find extra information.
Those who use video editing, photo editing or music mixing software will better understand how having more screen area to work with can make all the difference.