Pace - IT Adaptive Tech Reviews
Monday, July 09, 2007
  Productivity with Multiple Monitors
Using multiple monitors is becoming much more common for computer users when they discover how helpful it can be. Laptop users find it the easiest to use multiple monitors because laptops have a port to connect an external monitor and the monitor settings can easily be changed to use the second monitor as an extended desktop or a mirror of the laptop monitor. Windows easily allows up to three monitors to be used as mirrors or as an extended desktop.

What are some of the benefits of multiple monitors. Here's a few scenarios:
1. A student with mobility impairments and has trouble managing print materials can have a word processor on one monitor, their resource material from a website on a second, and have their email or a second source open on a third. This is a lot easier than minimizing and expanding windows repeatedly or trying to squeeze two windows onto the same screen.

2. A laptop user needs a bigger monitor on a destop for aiding with a visual impairment but could use a zoom function on the laptop screen when unavailable. Different resolutions can be used on separate monitors, so something like photos could be full screen on one monitor while print is enlarged and scrolled on another.

3. A tele-commuter computer user may need to use a webcam for contacting co-workers but having their work materials on a second or third monitor will allow them to discuss the work without having a webcam window over the work.

Individual work requirements might create obvious needs for multiple monitors but awareness of the technical possibilities can encourage a relatively inexpensive computer upgrade to increase productivity and reduce fatigue.

Adding an extended desktop monitor to a standard Windows computer is easiest with a USB adaptor like the Tritton SEE2 USB 2.0 SVGA Adaptor. Only one Tritton adaptor can be used at one time currently. They run around $90 and they can be installed on any computer you wish whereas adding a new video card to your computer is more involved and not transportable.
You won't usually find a video card that has two VGA ports so you'll have to use another adaptor for the DVI port. In our project we wanted three monitors active on one computer and had to use both a new video card and the Tritton USB adaptor. You'll want to be sure that the video cards have enough power and memory to support the resolutions on the LCD monitors you are using but non-gaming needs have much lower capacity requirements.

In our project we were using a triple LCD monitor adjustable arm from Arcview. It is very flexible in locating and adjusting its placement. Someone who is using speech recognition software then they won't have to worry about access for keyboard and mouse but otherwise this arm will allow the monitors overhang the keyboard if you wish.

Some users find it easier to look up and down than side-to-side so you may need to consider monitors that are essentially stacked vertically. Two monitors are easier to support than three, as already mentioned, and may provide most of the increase in productivity with diminishing returns in adding a third.

In summary, there is a combined need for ergonomics and productivity in deciding to use multiple monitors. Having three poorly placed monitors is likely to be less productive and may cause more physical problems than one properly placed monitor so ergonomics is a large factor to consider.
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