Q: How do I setup multiple flat panel displays on my computer?
A: If you've never had the pleasure of working with multiple displays on a computer, you're missing out on one of the "best bang for the buck"
productivity upgrades you can make to virtually any workstation.
You don't have to be a stock broker or day trader to justify multiple displays anymore as the cost of doing so has dramatically dropped because flat-panel displays are so inexpensive now.
Even better is when someone you know decides to upgrade to a new fancy widescreen display and has no use for their "old display"; these "throw away" monitors are perfect as a second display.
Since virtually everyone runs multiple programs simultaneously (email, web surfing, streaming video, etc.), having your email always opened on one screen while you do everything else on another screen eliminates a lot of task swapping and reduces repetitive stress injuries from the extra mouse clicks.
Another spectacular use of dual displays is when you are doing a lot of copy/paste activities like research or graphic design.
If you like to monitor news via live video streams or you have a TV tuner card installed in your computer, the second monitor can essentially serve as a nice television display so you aren't stuck with a tiny window of video.
If you work on large spreadsheets, the ability to stretch it across two screens saves a lot of sideways scrolling as well.
You could just get a really big wide-screen monitor that is capable of displaying two programs in portrait mode side-by-side, but for us older folks with failing eyesight, those super high-resolution displays generate harder-to-read text in their native display modes.
Some computers actually come with dual video displays built-in, so all you have to do is add another monitor and configure the displays in the proper order (search "dual displays" for your operating system for the exact steps).
Laptops, for instance, have an external video port that most folks use to connect to a projector for a presentation so that it mirrors what is on the laptop's display, but you can also use the same port to connect a second display and extend your desktop.
If you have a desktop computer and it only has one video display, you will need to add a second video card or install a dual-video card and disable the on-board video for best results.
If you have Windows XP, I would recommend disabling or removing your existing video card and installing a dual-video card that still supports Windows XP for the best results.
If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you have a better chance of getting two different video cards to work together, so you can generally get by with simply adding a second video display card. If you really want to get crazy, you can add a dual-display card and use your existing video display to stretch your desktop across three screens!
If you aren't really sure what you have, consult someone that works with computers on a regular basis so they can evaluate what you have and determine the best method for adding a second display.
There's another option for those that already own an iPad and don't need to have the dual displays on a regular basis; it's an app called "Air Display" - $9.99 http://goo.gl/58NdV - that works with both Windows and Mac computers.
Once you install the app on your iPad, you simply download the client program on your computer to turn your iPad into a second display.
No matter which approach you take, once you get used to having the extra real estate, it's really hard to do any serious work on a single display anymore!
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio
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