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Dual monitors for development

What do people think about using dual monitors for development (one for Visual Studio, the other for the program being debugged).

1) Does this really improve productivity?
2) Suggestions for a dual-monitor video board?
3) Does this mess up testing (most users have one monitor)?
4) Does it work better / different under WinXP vs Win2K?
5) LCDs vs CRTs - does it matter?
6) Other caveats?

Thanks in advance!

Ole Eichhorn
Monday, June 30, 2003

1. Yes.

2. I use an nVidia card, but I also play games. :) For pure video quality, Matrox is probably the best (but terrible for 3D performance)

3. On the contrary, you find multi-monitor related bugs.

4. I love XP for the font smoothing.

5. LCDs only. Using a 17" w/ DVI and a 15" w/ analog. Once I'm rich, then 2 19" DVIs for me! :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, June 30, 2003

1, Yes, even for general use.
2, At work, I use the factory Dell AGP video card plus a cheap PCI video card. At home I have a dual head card.
3, What Brad said
4, Both support dual monitors. XP has ClearType for LCD monitors.
5, Get the best you/your employer can afford. LCD and at least 17" is a must for the main monitor.

Rhys Keepence
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I have not run dual head under windows for some time, but I do it under linux a lot.

In any case, the same caveats apply: make sure your drivers support it, etc.

Dual (or in my case triple, though anything more would be overkill... diminishing returns and all. 3 is handy, though) head is extremely handy: Right now, I have the docs up on my small 15" LCD on my right, my headers up on my left 19" CRT screen, and on my middle (a 21"), I have my C++ code. Going to work to work on one screen is often quite annoying. I'll be bringing in another screen sometime if I decide it's worth coming in after and spending the time setting it up (not likely, but I'd really like it).

In any case, the sheer ability to see N things at once, and well too is indispensible. With one screen you're stuck managing windows painfully, with excessively narrow windows/etc.

Forget the extra 50mhz on the processor, leave off the extra-massive hard drive, and spend the money on multiple good displays. I can not endorse it enough: once you try it, you'll never go back.

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I use two blurry old dim monitors. 19" and 17". It helps.

Anonymous Coward
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Double twenty one inchers, baby.

I love it and now it just feels kind of teeny and one-tasky to work on a computer with one monitor.

I'm not doing the kind of code that has a debugger (don't ask), but it's wonderful to have a reference open on one monitor full screen and code on the other, or server output on one while pushing buttons on the client on the other. So cool.

matt
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

those double 21's better be LCD.. : )  I had two 21" CRTs at work and they took up the whole cube and were shoved in my face.  They were way too deep.  Whenever I looked up there was the crease between the two monitors staring me in the face.  So I got rid of one and I've been fine.  When LCDs get cheaper I'd like to go back to two.

But if you run at 1600x1200 a lot of stuff fits on the screen.  I just work with the desktop in halves for my browser windows, file manager, and text editor -- it's still 600 pixels wide which is fine for a lot of apps.  And then for the IDE and big apps I go full screen of course.  It works well.

Andy
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Huge caveat with dualhead - make sure the video card supports separate resolutions. A lot of the earlier dualhead cards can only run the two monitors at the same resolution. This is fine if you plan around it, but can be limiting.

CRT vs. LCD: LCD's are brighter and crisper (and don't take up much desk space). CRT's have a higher resolution. If you have a "corner" on your desk, then I recommend a 21" CRT (in the corner) and a 17-19" LCD to the side. Make sure the LCD is 1280x1024 - some of the low-end models are 1024x768.

Once you try dual head, you will never go back.

Finally, ditto on the Matrox - that's what I use and it's rock solid.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I just got a shiny new GeForce4 dualhead. Gainward GeForce 4 power pack. Very easy to setup, good software (none of that dialog box split between two monitors crap) - good image quality, fast for games (not yet tested). It's definetlt worth having.

Mr Jack
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I use two 17" CRT monitors (soon to be dual 19" - yay!). My setup was a real pain originally because we went the two video card route instead of the dual head route.

LCD wouldn't work for me because I do a lot of graphics work, but I only use my desk to hold the computers (I'm more or less paperless...) so the space issue is non-existent for me.

Switching to two monitors really improved my productivity because I am always comparing multiple screens to each other.  I am also one of those folks who keeps a million windows open at once, and having another display to spread them out over also helped.

However, I found that I needed to get a faster machine after I got the two monitors, because with another display to spread out my open windows, I started to open twice as many...

Phibian
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

There is NO WAY to go back to a single monitor after developing with two.

I can't imagine how I ran my debugger and used my application on one monitor.

At work I have a 19" CRT and a 15" LCD. I usually have my code on the CRT and run my application, view documentation, run a browser, etc. on the smaller display.

At home I have a 19" LCD flanked by two 15" LCDs. They're all nice Samsungs and it's amazing. If you don't have two monitors, stop what you're doing and go get another.

Fred2000
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

20" and 18" LCD displays on my desk.  Both driven off the same ATI Radeon 9000 card - the 20" is driven via DVI, the 18" driven via VGA analog output.  The Radeon, under XP at least, supports this perfectly.  The 20" is at 1600x1200, the 18" is at 1280x1024.  One gigantic seemless desktop spread across two monitors.

I would never go back - no way.

It even plays games well.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Go tri-head... Three flat panels is heaven.

Myron Semack
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Make sure the video card appears as two cards rather than one wide one with different resolutions.
This stops the problem you get otherwise with message boxes etc. popping up split between two monitors.
ATI certainly had this problem and although their software kludge to fix this kinda worked, it caused other bugs. The matrox cards just get this right (So thats all we buy now).
Note: This is different between NT & 9x.

You will love it! I find using my laptop very frustrating on the road as a result.

Peter Ibbotson
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

One caveat that slipped my mind earlier: fonts.

I am running tri-head under linux (an old install, few frills. I never messed with it much, which may have been the source of my pain).

The issue is this: I have a cheapo LCD (1024x768) and a big Sony that maxes out at 1800x1440. There's no way to take advantage of the big one's resolutions (even 1600x1200 is not really practical), because the fonts that look good at 1600x1200 will fill up a 1024x768 display real quick 8-} My current solution is 1024x768 across all 3, and with 3 I have enough space to not need more resolution 8-}

But keep it in mind, if your screens have different dimensions.

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I need one *big* (as in hi-res) monitor to work on - but am then more productive if I also have a second screen.

Where I differ from some of the above is that I think that one should have a 15" LCD as a second screen - why? because its more or less one's target screen (OK, maybe I need to pitch at 800x600 now but I was able to assume the above in my previous employment).

Develop/debug/make notes on the big screen, run the app (and help and reference material) on the "little" screen.

murph
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Out of curiosity, how do you guys arrange your monitors (physically)?  My thought would be the debugger/IDE/editor/whatever on the main screen directly in front of you, and the application/documentation/whatever on the other screen to the side of the main screen.  I'm just wondering because it seems like having to look to the side often would start to strain your neck after a while

Mike McNertney
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

To the poster that was wondering about arrangements:

I'm linear. I sit pretty far away, so there's not much looking. 3 screens, in a rough arc in the corner about 4 or 5 feet away from me. I keep the fonts big enough that five feet is readable (big screens at 1024x768).

Anyone have something more exotic?

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I have my "reference" flat panel to the left - looking to the left is fairly natural to me. When I get another FP it'll go to the right, I think, but I might put it to the left of the existing one.

Now that I think of it, above the CRT might be cool...

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

BigAss (tm) 20" flat panel straight ahead.  Main development environment runs there.  18" flat panel to the right, angled appropriately. Docs, MSDN library, mail, consoles, test apps, etc run there.  This is as close to sex as you can get with your pants on.

I use a trackball instead of a mouse, if anyone is interested.  Wouldn't go back to a mouse ever except on the laptop for obvious portability reasons.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

You have got to love Apple.  I ran 4 -- yes FOUR -- monitors on an old Quadra 950.  Internal video, RasterOps video board, RasterOps 24XLTV, feeding back through a NuVista+ used to add real-time video overlays.  I only use two now (plus Firewire for video output.)

kshvine
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

1) Yes, noticeably.  It is a very good investment if your income depend on how much work you get done, and you work on complex things.

2) Buy the nVidia one that supports dual DVI.  I've suffered tremendous driver misery with my ATI boards, of which I need two because each has only one DVI output.

3) No, testing is fine.  If you ever have any question as to whether your second monitor is affecting anything, you can disable it with a few clicks.

4) XP has better multi monitor support.

5) I have two identical 19" LCDs, and am extremely happy with them.  I find that CRTs make my eyes hurt, even very expensive CRTs.

6) Other caveats?  Yes, once you get used to multi monitors, you will find single-head setups very restricting, and you won't be able to understand why any of your friends don't have multi-monitor setups  ;-)

Kyle Cordes
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Two 18" 1280x1024 LCD panels: one straight ahead and one to the right, at a slight angle.  DVI for the center screen, analog for the screen on the right.  The right screen video goes through a KVM, so I can look at a second computer.

Mitch and Murray have it right - I also use a trackball, having narrowly avoided the Carpal Tunnel Ride at PainLand by giving up the mouse.

Hardware Guy
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

While having dual monitors is better, don't overlook connecting a notebook to a file share on your PC. Its a lower tech solution that will meet most of your needs, and silly as it seems, its frequently easier to justify a notebook than a second display at work.

Eric Moore
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

$2500 vs. $500?

And I'm guessing you've never used dualhead, otherwise you wouldn't be suggesting that having a notebook on your desk is equivalent.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

An IMAX screen is the way to go!

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I feel so poor :-)
Dual 17 crt's with a Matrox dualheader does me fine when I'm in the office. IDE/photoshop on one, webbrowser/testing on the other.
I had to go back to single monitor land when I started working from home (nowhere to put the second one) and it is painfull. Hot Tip: If you get your windows/palettes all setup on the second monitor, make sure you know how to move them back to the first one without the second one attached. I almost had to reinstall VB6 as it took me an age to get the project tree back to the primary monitor!

Other than that, yeah, its well worth it. Like everyone has pointed out, you do discover subtle (and not so subtle) bugs when working on GUI's under a multimonitor setup. Default window positioning and screen edge detection are a couple that spring to mind

One thing thats handy is being able to have the different resolutions and using the second monitor as a "zoom it up big" display. I had to make some fullscreen screenshots and screencams at 640x480, so I was able to run the app on the second monitor, take the snaps, and manipulate them in photoshop/premiere on the main monitor straight away, taking extra shots as needed. That alone saved me at least half a days work which probably would've paid for at least the dualheader.

Bottom line: Go for it. You'll love it. Your employees will love it. And it looks damn impressive when clients see multi monitor setups :)

Dan F
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Win XP?

I've heard that Windows XP's dual monitor display just splits the screen between the two monitors?

Is this true?

Entrepreneur
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Cheap PCI  Video card?

How well does it work to just get an old PCI video card? 

I'm thinking I could just get an old PCI video driver off Ebay or something. 


(I hate the thought of just tossing my current Dell video card )

Entrepreneur
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

"I've heard that Windows XP's dual monitor display just splits the screen between the two monitors?"

Not true. The only cards that suffer that are old cards with old drivers. Modern cards, and multiple cards, and treated as separate entities, with unique physical position (used for when the mouse pointer rolls from one monitor to the other), resolution, and color depth.

Some modern drivers will also let you mirror the displays, so the same thing is on both monitors (also very useful for some presentation uses).

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I experienced some issues when using multiple video cards, with respect to audio interference. Beats me what the deal was. The PCI card was an old ATI Mach64-based card. Most people don't have any troubles, though. The only issues you might have are BIOS related on boot-up, but the OS should see the two (or more) cards just fine.

BTW, Matrox has a 3-head video card, and I heard rumor that had a 4-head one as well.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I don't like the Parhelia (Matrox's three-head). I'm all about resolution, and the Parhelia only supports 1280x1024 on the three monitors (higher with fewer).

1280x1024x3=3.93e6 pixels

I'm running a 21" monitor at 1800x1440 and an 18" LCD at 1280x1024 =3.90e6 pixels

So why spend $500 to get the same effective desktop space?

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The first thing I learned when running dual monitors: It's all about width. Having multiple monitors lets you run a lot of side by side windows, whereas the ultra-high resolution single monitor (usable by those still in their 20s, I assume :-p) didn't offer nearly the same flexibility.

YMMV, of course.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I am also curious to how coders use their dual (and triple) monitor systems.  Please post your details, here's mine:

I run dual 21" CRT displays (Compaq P1100 & Dell P1110).  Yes, they take up lots of desk space, but I am perfectly fine with that.  My primary monitor has Microsoft Visual C++ and my secondary monitor has Internet Explorer (msdn.microsoft.com or support.microsoft.com usually) or some other document.

I tried placing some of MSVC's detachable windows in the secondary monitor, but, because they come in focus whenever MSVC is in focus, it removes the ability to use the secondary monitor for my research.

It is also very nice to test my software on a dual monitor system.

www.MatthewDoucette.com
Monday, July 05, 2004

An after thought on my last post... Here's how I *might* setup a triple monitor display (from a coder's point of view):

1) Center monitor:  MSVC++
2) Left monitor:  MSVC++ misc. detactable windows (gives me bigger coding space on the center monitor)
3) Right monitor:  IE and other research docs.

Is that an optimum setup?  How would (or do) you do it?

www.MatthewDoucette.com
Monday, July 05, 2004

1) Does this really improve productivity?
Yes. I feel faster, can switch between things and keep better track of everything I have running.

3) Does this mess up testing (most users have one monitor)?
No because you use the same window size, you just keep the app on one window.

4) Does it work better / different under WinXP vs Win2K?
Dunno. I'm using XP.

5) LCDs vs CRTs - does it matter?
I have an 17" CRT and the 15 on my laptop.  The CRT is on a pedistal to the left while the laptop and is straight in front of my keyboard.  The height difference may seem funky but hasn't caused me much of a problem.  The CRT ends up being my primary monitor with Visual Studio and Photoshop and the laptop is secondary where I run browsers, Query Analyzer and NUnit.

6) Other caveats?
In Visual Studio, the build Configuration Manager window cannot be edited when on a monitor where the position is negative.  This means I have to drag that window from the CRT to the laptop in order to change any options.  Its a ridiculous bug.

y0mbo
Friday, August 27, 2004

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