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Setting up multiple monitors is easily handled by Microsoft Windows. You may want to consider resolution and size factors when looking at what to buy.

Leo, I've checked your website and your technical discussion on the setup of multiple monitors is excellent. I've started to cut and paste data from my IE 9 to an MS Access application I developed and find that I have trouble manipulating the screen displays to see the source and the destination tables. My request is for your advice on buying a single 24-inch widescreen to use as my only monitor versus buying a second 19-inch standard monitor to go with my existing 19-inch Dell monitor. Is one of the configurations better, easier to manage or to get used to than the other?

In this excerpt from Answercast #72 I look at the issue of setting up multiple monitors so they can be used with numerous applications running on the same computer.

Setting up multiple monitors

Unfortunately I can't say. This is one of those things where it really, really boils down to a matter of personal preference.

I love multiple monitors and I really have no problem manipulating data, or having several programs open across multiple windows at the same time... on multiple monitors at the same time. But that's me.

That may be cognitively something that you're not comfortable with - and I can certainly understand that. But I certainly can't make a recommendation because I really don't know what it is about the dual monitor configuration that might cause you some concern.

Monitor size and resolution

If I had one recommendation it would be this, if you can: it's not so much the size of the monitor that matters (mine are all I think 27 inches or 23, I can't remember) but the point is - they're all the same size and they're all the same resolution.

I would claim that resolution is significantly more important in the ease of manipulating monitors at the same time. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it's the horizontal resolution that you want to make sure is exactly the same across your multiple monitors.

So, for example, in my case, my monitors are all 1920 x 1200. Not only are they all the same size, but they are all physically one next to each other horizontally. The fact that that "1200" number is the same for each one - means that I have single, conceptually easy to understand, virtual desktop that is 1920 x 3 wide by 1200 high: 1200 across all monitors.

That means, when you drag something across one monitor to the other, it makes sense. It sort of shows up where you expect it to show up.

Monitors with different resolutions

Windows will happily handle multiple monitors with different resolutions. Consider, I could in fact, have one of those monitors be at 800 x 600. So it's literally half the size of the monitor that's right next to it. What that means is that Windows has to kind of "do" something when you drag something across from one monitor to the other. Things get weird when the height is different on the source and the destination monitor.

So, bottom line is - I would strongly recommend that if you're going to go with multiple monitors, make sure that they are capable of all handling the same maximum resolution. That will give you the best experience overall.

Multiple windows on monitors

Outside of that, ultimately, I'm not sure what was getting in the way of being able to see your different source and destination data fields. It's really not something that I've run into. In fact, it's not something I would expect multiple monitors to either cause a problem with, or solve a problem with. Same thing for single monitors.

I've certainly been able to stretch a single application across multiple monitors as well. So, I might have an Excel spreadsheet that literally goes across two different monitors, or have one Excel spreadsheet on one monitor and one on the other. Those are all options that are available to you; and I think they all kind-of sort-of make sense.

But I have to come back to this personal preference where; how you work, and how you visualize things; and how comfortable you are with the fact that there are two monitors instead of one, really does boil down to personal preference. So best of luck with that!

Article C6057 - November 21, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Chris Calvert
November 23, 2012 11:03 AM

I use a main monitor of 24" (1920 x 1200) with 2 x 1600 x 1200 monitors in portrait mode one either side (all with IPS screens). This is because 95% of what I look at are portrait oriented ie web pages and A4 pages. I also use Displayfusion to handle switching between screens and to make sure the mouse moves in the right direction. Unfortunately 1600x1200 screens aren't available anymore (mine are Dells) but I have a couple of spares. I find that the modern trend to make all screens 1920 x 1080 is almost useless to me. I never watch movies on my PC as I find my 50" plasma much better. The lower vertical screen resolution makes everything smaller with less detail and doesn't help when you need reading glasses like I do know.

Dan
November 26, 2012 12:50 PM

I have two of the same monitors at work, but have one in portrait and one in landscape. I do a lot of coding, so I use the portrait one for that since I can see a lot more on a page. At home I use my 15" work laptop and hook it up to a 25" tv/monitor. I have no problems with either setup - windows 7 handles both dual monitor display options without skipping a beat. When moving the mouse from one monitor to the other, it sometimes bumps up agains the edge because the touching sides don't match, but you quickly learn where the opening is located.

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