Friday, November 03, 2006

multiple monitors = maximum geekiness (with the right setup)

well, i've been a total multi-monitor man since my first Geforce2 and TNT Riva.  i remember having to open my window in the winter to let some cool air in; i swear i could have used the CRTs to heat my room.  i then experimented with several different setups; side-by-side and vertically stacked.  however since CRTs are rather big, you were kind of limited to where you could put the monitors. then finally LCDs finally hit the market and became affordable.  LCDs offered us monitor geeks the freedom to put them almost anywhere (w/the help of a VESA mounting bracket) and also cooled our rooms down quite a bit too!  my first LCD was a KDS Rad-5; finally got rid of it last year. then moved up to a 19" and then finally to my 24" wide-screen.  most people had never really had multi-monitor setups until prob the last 3-4 years. nowadays its almost a requirement for anyone that works in IT to have this kind of setup.

what i've found through the last few years is that just having a multiple monitor setup will not make you that much more productive.   multiple monitor setups are very cool to look at and really give you that 'uber' geek image. however, most setups are not utilized to their max potential due to the users not having the most productive tools to manage their setup.

a couple of problems i faced when i initially started using a dual monitors included:

1. taskbar for the secondary monitor

2. no real way to toss windows from monitor to monitor

3. desktop wallpapers were the same on each monitor

4. save desktop icon locations on the secondary monitor

after doing a ton of research and searching (before it was googling, hehe); i stumbled upon what i would consider to be one of the best utilities/applications i've ever purchased: Ultramon (www.ultramon.com)

Ultramon is basically a multiple monitor management utility. it allowed me to have a seperate taskbar for my secondary monitor, so when i had my Outlook on the secondary monitor, i'd have the taskbar showing it on that monitor than on my primary monitors taskbar.  Also, it allowed me to setup hotkeys to toss a window/program to the primary or secondary monitor.  nothing is more rewarding than being able to just do a CTRL+ALT+Right Arrow and see the window move to the opposite monitor.   Another thing it did was to save your desktop icon locations; one thing i had noticed when running dual monitors was that no matter what i did, my icons would always reset to the primary monitor when i wanted them to be split up (main apps on the primary, entertainment icons on the secondary).  Nvidias NView came close to doing this but it didn't do it all.  Finally, Ultramon solved my seperate wallpapers for each monitor or the ability to stretch one image across both monitors.  

my latest setup consists of 2 Dell LCDs; a 24" widescreen and a measley 15".  when i was running Media Center 2005 on my box, i used my 15" for TV while i did photoshop/browsed on the 24".   Photoshop w/a multi monitor setup is great!  or just browsing a site on the 15" and have a DVD going on the 24".  all being driven by an ATI X800 and an Athlon X2 3000+.

one more tip i have to offer is this: when i go to bed, i like to have my main monitor play my movie however having the secondary at the desktop can be a bit distracting.  So what i do is i setup my ATI Catalyst Control Center to use hotkeys (i know, i love hotkeys!!) to switch profiles.  most new video cards will support overlays on the secondary monitor, what that means is that when i have overlays on and a movie going on my main monitor, the secondary monitor will have the same video playing in full-screen overlay mode. :)  now that's easy on the eyes.

so if you haven't tried a multi monitor setup, i'd recommend it! once you go multi, you can never go back.  plus, it shows your friends how big of a geek you really are! ;)

major photoshopping

my geek setup