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Using Two Monitors Makes You More Productive? 602

Posted by Cliff
from the it's-all-about-the-screen-real-estate dept.
Double Vision asks: "In my job, I work with several software applications at once. I find that constantly switching back and forth wastes a tremendous amount of time and causes me to lose focus. My video card supports two monitors, so I found a discarded monitor in my office and hooked it up. This has made it much easier to do my job. However, we are getting ready to go through an equipment audit, which means I will likely lose my additional monitor unless I can justify keeping it. How can I make this case? Is anyone aware of studies that support my claim that two monitors makes me more productive?"
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Using Two Monitors Makes You More Productive?

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  • Trivial ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:18AM (#18632697)
    Monitors are cheap. Dirt cheap compared to the salaries of most people sitting in front of them.



    If you merely spend five additional minutes on work each day that you would have had to spend on shuffling windows around, the investment in an additional monitor will pay for itself within weeks.

    • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:25AM (#18632745)

      Dirt cheap compared to the salaries

      That really depends on where you work; there are a lot of shitbox companies around there that pay the minimum amount to put food on the programmer's table. A lot of managers don't think of "if we spend this we'll save twice that" they think "if we spend this we immediately reduce the bottom line by the same amount, fuck that!"

      • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:37AM (#18632805)
        A lot of managers don't think of "if we spend this we'll save twice that" they think "if we spend this we immediately reduce the bottom line by the same amount, fuck that!"

        Well, that's the bad thing about capitalism today - it's been replaced by blind greed and short-term thinking. The term "investment" (the basis of all capital) is pretty much forgotten. Instead, "investing" money is considered "spending" it.

        • Re:Trivial ? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:37AM (#18633319)

          Instead, "investing" money is considered "spending" it.
          And speculating is considered "investing" -- have you seen Wall Street lately?
        • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyYar (622222) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:31AM (#18633913)
          Well, if this strategy weren't the most successful, then the long-term-thinking companies would win out in the end, no? Capitalism won't allow an inefficient system to survive in a competitive marketplace.
          • Re:Trivial ? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Stamen (745223) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:14AM (#18634519)
            Yes, that is exactly right, all things being equal and fair. That is hardly the case, often large companies maintain their market share not through capitalism but through good old fashion organized crime (Enron), or through good old fashion communism (state enforced monopolies, such as telcoms). What US is becoming is a Corporatocracy, which is just soviet style communism with a better marketing department.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MightyYar (622222)
              It's very hard to argue that the bulk of the US economy is centrally-administered.
            • Corporatocracy (Score:4, Insightful)

              by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000.yahoo@com> on Friday April 06, 2007 @01:34PM (#18637415)

              Yes, that is exactly right, all things being equal and fair. That is hardly the case, often large companies maintain their market share not through capitalism but through good old fashion organized crime (Enron), or through good old fashion communism (state enforced monopolies, such as telcoms). What US is becoming is a Corporatocracy, which is just soviet style communism with a better marketing department.

              Instead of Corporatocracy I think "Corporate Aristocracy", which Thomas Jefferson [thomhartmann.com] warned of, works better. He saw corporations as one of three threats to natural rights, the other two being government and organized religion.

              Falcon
          • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday April 06, 2007 @11:02AM (#18635213) Homepage
            Well, if this strategy weren't the most successful, then the long-term-thinking companies would win out in the end, no? Capitalism won't allow an inefficient system to survive in a competitive marketplace.

            In the long term yes, at least in theory (and I'm sure others will point out problems with that theory, as they are ample). In the short term, anything goes, even in the theoretical.

            It takes millions of years for evolution to find an "optimal" solution, and even then it isn't necessarily optimal, just "good enough for the environment". And if one species consumes all of the resources due to short term 'thinking' as it were, then another species in the same ecosystem that only consumes in moderation so as to maintain balance will still die.

            Right now the environment rewards short-term thinkers. Companies have adapted to it. Long-term thinking requires an (indeterminate) long time to pay off and thus prove itself superior. If the short-term thinking of most companies destroys the economy, then the long-term thinkers may still die, and then who do you say was superior?

            It's not like the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith reaches down from the sky and bitch-slaps any organization that performs an economically sub-optimal action. The theory says that in the limit an optimal balance will be reached, but in the meantime (as in what's happening "now" whenver "now" may be) could be wildly stupid and inefficient and still win.
          • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ChaosDiscord (4913) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @11:15AM (#18635407) Homepage Journal

            Well, if this strategy weren't the most successful, then the long-term-thinking companies would win out in the end, no? Capitalism won't allow an inefficient system to survive in a competitive marketplace.

            In the long run, yes. But in the short run huge corporations crash and burn, glutting the market with unemployed. In the long run they'll usually get new jobs, but in the meanwhile some people will run into problems like a medical emergency, drown in bills, lose their house, and be forced to declare bankruptcy. People who relied on a pension from their business will find what they were promised reduced or eliminated. Shareholders who had been mislead have part of their portfolio reduced to nothing. In the short run a business can boost profits by turning as many costs into externalities as possible: polluting, overfishing, and the like.

            Meanwhile, the CEOs, presidents, and other upper management made lots of money in direct salary, bonuses for raising the stock price in the short term, and profit some selling their own stock while it was artificially boosted. And since they made out just fine, there is incentive for others to follow in their footsteps, making short-sighted decisions for short term gain that doom other companies in the long run.

            For those companies that do have long term thinking, they're penalized by the stock market and other potential investors because they don't look as successful in the short term. If a potential investor waits to see a company's long term work, it could easily be thirty years later and the entire management team has changed, so it's still not a reliable indicator. (The fall of once reliable Hewlett-Packard comes to mine.)

            The invisible hand isn't full of magical pixie dust that just makes everything work. Primarily because participants in capitalism have deeply imperfect information, there are large windows of opportunity for abuse. In the long run capitalism tends to sort things out; but in the meanwhile new abusers have arisen and created new problems.

            Capitalism sucks. But like a cockroach you can't eliminate it. And no matter how much it sucks, the other options suck more.

        • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jafac (1449) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:08AM (#18634429) Homepage
          It's called being "Penny-wise and Pound-foolish".

          We've all worked for "those" people at some point.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zopf (897522)
          The beauty of capitalism is its relationship with evolution... in capitalism, only the most resilient business models will survive over the long term. Hopefully that will result in the survival and growth of companies that have intelligent management and competent staff (cough, cough, Google etc). Unfortunately, for every company that survives long-term, there will probably be five or ten that burn themselves out through incompetence. The trick is to find a job with a company that has a chance for long-t
        • Re:Trivial ? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Maltheus (248271) on Friday April 06, 2007 @11:14AM (#18635393)
          Short term? Like what, a day's worth? I recently calculated how much time I spend watching my screen paint and for application servers to restart cause the huge ass telecom company I work for won't invest in new hardware. Multiplying that amount of time by my salary means that a new computer would pay for itself in a month. Not to mention all the time we spend with "clever" little scripts to offload data from an overworked 5 gig production drive cause they don't want to spring the lousy $150 for a new 500 gig drive so that we'll never have to worry about space again. I can't even begin to calculate how many millions we lose in lost productivity each year just because management lacks the ability to engage in short-term thinking, much less the mid or long term.

          My home server services one person, me. It's not all that high end, but it blows the equipment we use at work out of the water and that stuff is servicing millions. The Sun workstation they expect me to use goes for $20 on eBay (sans/monitor), but they still want new applications delivered in a week. I've given up expecting any of this to change. I'm just so tired of making these arguments and seeing people shrug their shoulders. I wish that guy good luck in his quest for a second monitor. For me, if I want a decent working environment, I have to pay for it myself.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jahz (831343)

          A lot of managers don't think of "if we spend this we'll save twice that" they think "if we spend this we immediately reduce the bottom line by the same amount, fuck that!"

          Well, that's the bad thing about capitalism today - it's been replaced by blind greed and short-term thinking.

          Um that is a problem with humanity, not capitalism. I am entirely confident that greed affects other economic forms as well. For example, before taking greed (and a general desire to have more than others) into account, socialism seems like the nirvana of economic systems.

          I think the real problem there is greed caused by flaws in the management structure of these companies. Being out of touch with your employees and lacking the foresight to understand how to increase productivity are marks of POOR MANAGE

      • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Firethorn (177587) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:08AM (#18634435) Homepage Journal
        Dirt Cheap Programmer: $10/hour
        Cost per standard week: $400
        5% performance increase savings :$20/week
        Time needed to pay for additional monitor: 10-20 weeks.

        More realistic:
        DCP $30/hour (remember taxes!)
        CpSW: $1200
        5% increase: $60/week
        Payback: 3-5 weeks.

        easy justification.
    • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:29AM (#18632763)
      Wrong, when audited, you can't compare a hidden benefit with a visible cost, no matter how positive it might eventually be.
      An old french playwritter, Molière, has one of its characters say it is better to die according to the medecine than to live against it. You can also check todays post about outsourcing for more examples.
      • Hidden ? Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:34AM (#18632783)
        Wrong, when audited, you can't compare a hidden benefit with a visible cost, no matter how positive it might eventually be.

        If your salary is $50 an hour, then every second you spend on unproductive things becomes a very visible cost, especially if those seconds add up.

        If the bean-counters at the company don't see that, they're effectively incompetent. Which usually points to bad prospects for the future of the company.

        • by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:04AM (#18633011)
          I disagree, wasted time is a cost, but it is not visible one, I would even say it is the best example of hidden cost since it has a real effect on your productivity but doesn't show on beancounter's charts because it doesn't change your salary.
        • by kalirion (728907) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:42AM (#18633381)
          If your salary is $50 an hour, then every second you spend on unproductive things becomes a very visible cost, especially if those seconds add up.

          So how much money has Slashdot cost your company?
          • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:06AM (#18633643)

            So how much money has Slashdot cost your company?

            Not much, I got two monitors!
          • by jafac (1449) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:16AM (#18634539) Homepage
            The value of the pedantry and trollery notwithstanding, I would argue that the time I spend on slashdot is TIME WELL SPENT.

            I'm not about to quantify that - I have neither the expertise, nor the time to produce hard numbers supporting this idea. But if you read Stephen Covey's "7 habits of highly successful people" - you read about a habit called "sharpening the saw". 30 minutes to an hour a day, SURFING THE WEB, has exposed me to ideas and information I would never have been exposed to any other way. Every day I deal with "engineers" who are completely clueless to entire areas of knowledge - anything outside their little niche of expertise, may as well not exist.

            Of course, you have to be judicious about where you spend your time. 30 minutes a day on the boss's clock, looking at porn and webcomics is not likely to make you a better, or more innovative worker. But sites like Groklaw, Slashdot, Sourceforge, Wikipedia, etc. can really broaden your horizons.

            As a tech lead, I encourage my workers to do a little bit of online saw-sharpening.
            But I have not been caught by my boss yet. :)
        • by dereference (875531) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:54AM (#18633535)

          If your salary is $50 an hour, then every second you spend on unproductive things becomes a very visible cost, especially if those seconds add up.
          Your fallacy is highlighted above. Most "employees" are not paid by the hour. Contractors, who are paid by the hour, simply don't complain about unproductive work conditions provided at their environment by their customers. They'll happily take the extra time required to do their job with the tools at hand; it's the capitalist way, after all.

          My guess is that you've simply conflated two issues. You've forgotten that any employee on a salary will simply be expected to put in overtime to compensate for any inefficiencies. It costs the company exactly $0.00 for a salaried employee to simply "waste" those precious extra seconds that you claim will add up. They add up to nothing but more "free" hours put in by our protagonist for the company served.

          If the bean-counters at the company don't see that, they're effectively incompetent. Which usually points to bad prospects for the future of the company.
          The bean-counters know exactly what they're doing. They're extracting more value (your time) from you at no cost. That free productivity (salaried--unpaid to the employee--overtime) looks great on the balance sheet, compared to the price of an extra monitor. If you can't see that, I think you might need to re-evaluate the target of your insults.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by King_TJ (85913)
            Sure, most I.T. workers are on salary ... but even the "tightest" company has to realize that you can only ask people to work so much overtime before they become disgruntled and quit. (And often, before it even goes that far, they become extremely unproductive, because they're upset with the working conditions - and do their best to slack off, to compensate for the long hours they're expected to pull.)

            There's really no such thing as "free productivity". Even if it's "standard practice" to squeeze 10 hour
          • The bean-counters know exactly what they're doing. They're extracting more value (your time) from you at no cost.

            Skimping on tools or environment spending does have a measurable impact on the bottom line, if it increases the turnover rate. Replacing a knowledge worker costs one to two times their salary (look at some of these [google.com] search results).

            Before praising the bean counters, ask them if they know what the company's turnover rate is for those jobs, and how that compares to the average for their competition
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by dereference (875531)

              Before praising the bean counters, ask them if they know what the company's turnover rate is for those jobs, and how that compares to the average for their competition. If they don't know those numbers, they aren't counting all the relevant beans.

              I'm hardly "praising" the bean counters. Apparently many of you have mistaken "understanding" for "advocacy" in my post. I don't agree at all that this is the best (or even a good) way to count what is "cost" and to increase productivity. I only noted that a bean-counter will, in fact, see the world in that way.

              The real problem is at the executive levels, who base decisions purely on the bean-counter approach. Executives (who, incidentally, I believe are far too highly compensated these days) should t

          • by GNU(slash)Nickname (761984) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:40AM (#18634869)

            Contractors, who are paid by the hour, simply don't complain about unproductive work conditions provided at their environment by their customers. They'll happily take the extra time required to do their job with the tools at hand; it's the capitalist way, after all.

            Now that's quite a broad generalization.

            I'm an IT contractor, and I make it a point to draw my customer's attention to inefficiencies in my work environment. Why? Because it's in my best interests to maximize my productivity.

            First of all, I truly enjoy my work, and working efficiently increases my personal satisfaction with the job at hand. It also allows me to proceed to the next interesting challenge that much sooner.

            More importantly though, the more productive I am, the happier my customer is. In a business where my personal reputation is what gets me the next contract and supports my hourly rate, a happy customer becomes an asset I can take directly to the bank.

        • by mhall119 (1035984) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:51AM (#18635043) Homepage Journal
          I tried this line of reasoning once, but on a much larger scale. I proved that an automated system could save hours of work each day. Adding in the hourly equivilent of the effected employees salaries, I could show a cost savings in the tens of thousands of dollars annually.

          My response was this: "If we can't fire someone or cut someone's pay, it doesn't save any money". It made me furious, how could the reject the logic behind my math? Only later did I come to understand their reasoning: All the work that needed to be done was being done for what they are paying the employees. Taking away work to be done, without taking away pay going to the employees would not save money.

          So to justify your second monitor you either have to show a real money reduction of cost, or a real money increase in revenue. Your efficiency is your responsibility, not the company's responsibility. After all, why should they pay more tomorrow get you to do the same job you did yesterday? Its often easer to replace you with someone more efficient at the same cost, than to increase your cost to make you more efficient.

          As an aside, whenever I make proposals for automating processes now, I don't calculate how much work I reduce, or how much more efficient I can make it, I calculate how much revenue they are missing out on because their processes can't handle the extra work, then show them how automation would let them handle it, and therefore gain the extra revenue.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cgenman (325138)
        Well, say it takes 5 seconds to switch between applications. Say you do that 10 times an hour. Add in the information that you need to see in one application vs another, with, say, 60 seconds of time to do so, which happens 4 times a day. That's 640 seconds per day, or an additional 10 minutes of productivity. With a cheap CRT costing 50 bucks, the productivity gain on the above lightest-case scenario pays for itself in the first week easily.

        And if they still won't let you have it, just pick one up off
        • by vagabond_gr (762469) on Friday April 06, 2007 @10:33AM (#18634769)
          Also, after buying a second monitor you need some time to configure it, get the latest drivers, adjust the resolution, etc. You also need to figure out which application to move where, try several options, etc. Then you have to post on your blog (or better slashdot) to let people know about your great dual-monitor system. You need different wallpapers for each screen. You have more free screen space so you can download some more desktop goodies like dancing teddy-bears or virtual pets that you have to feed every 10 seconds or else they get sad. You can have your mail client open all the time so that you instantly see all the funny-videos/urban-legend/spam and forward it right away to even more people. You can even have youtube open all the time so that you can finally catch up with the millions of people who upload so fast that you couldn't watch everything with a single monitor. You don't need to switch back and forth between tetris, solitaire and google earth, everything is nicely arranged in front of your eyes so that you don't lose a second of your precious time.

          And when you get bored of all that, you have the wonderful idea of configuring
          your dual monitor in Linux, using of course XGL and all the mambo-jumbo effects from the latest build of Beryl. So you're set for a lifetime of great productivity at the cost of a lousy second monitor.

          PS. Gadgets are toys for big boys (read geeks). They have nothing to do with productivity, you lame Blackberry junkies.
      • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ePhil_One (634771) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:38AM (#18633327) Journal
        Wrong, when audited, you can't compare a hidden benefit with a visible cost, no matter how positive it might eventually be.

        Don't make it a hidden benefit. Quantify how much time it saves, you don't need big numbers. Can you demonstrate a 5 minute per day benefit? (10 seconds a windows switch, thats just 30 switches a day). Thats 100 minutes a month. In 6 months, thats 600 minutes, or 10 hours. Now your company almost certainly has an internal billing rate they use when considering your time (even better if they have an external rate), its likely at least 2x your current salary (it costs to hire you, house you, train you, etc. You are an expensive asset). Lets say you are a young average programmer, thats still a $50/hour internal billing rate. So long as your second monitor costs less than $500, it pays for itself in 6 months.

    • Re:Trivial ? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:26AM (#18633841)
      you wish! the bean counters at most companies will frown on ANY expense for employees, ESPECIALLY if it's for one employee only, since at that point other employees might want it as well.

      The way things are nowadays in terms of hardware I don't see why any developer should be expected to work on less than a dual or quad core workstation, with two 24"/30" lcd monitors, 4 gigs of ram, plenty of sata disk space in raid and ergonomic keyboard, mouse, chair etc. etc. etc. heck, even if they were given a fully loaded dual-quad-core workstation for 10 grand, it'd still be only a fraction of their yearly salary, and would very much positively impact productivity.

      Instead you still see companies giving their employees pentium 4s at 2.5GHz with maybe 1 gig of ram and 80gigs of ide disk, a single 19" (if not 17") 1280x1024 crt and the absolute cheapest keyboards/mice/chair possible (often the mouse doesn't even have a scroll wheel and the chair is the local staples $100 special). Same deal with managers more often than not getting laptops, ergonomic chairs, big monitors, ... when often 'individual contributors' could use all of them more.

      If hospitals were run the same way as computer companies surgeons would operate with box cutters and duct tape, and diagnose with an old x-ray machine, while the hospital managers would have MRI machines in their offices and clip their cigars with surgical grade scalpels...

      Regarding the OP's problem the solution is simple: they should pony up $200 of their own money and buy their own secondary monitor, when the audit comes either they can show the second monitor is theirs or take it home that day and bring it back once the audit is done.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by couchslug (175151)
        "Regarding the OP's problem the solution is simple: they should pony up $200 of their own money and buy their own secondary monitor, when the audit comes either they can show the second monitor is theirs or take it home that day and bring it back once the audit is done."

        I brought my own ergo keyboard, trackball, and scanner/printer (the shop buys the ink cartridges and paper). My comfort can convenience are well worth it. All are well-marked as personal property.

        Auto mechanics customarily supply most of the
  • Here's a study (Score:5, Informative)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:21AM (#18632721)
    After a bit of Googlin':
    Two Screens Are Better Than One [microsoft.com]

    The best part is that it was done by Slashdot's nemesis. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209)
      I think having two monitors is totally unnecessary, simply because they make very big single monitors now. Many of my co-workers have gotten the Apple 30" monitor, which has more screen real-estate than two 1600x1200 screens put together, and no big black line down the middle. It's almost too big, you have to turn your head to cover the whole thing.
      • Re:Here's a study (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:28AM (#18633221) Homepage
        1) Many OSes don't tile windows well. To have two windows properly tiled on a single monitor, you need to minimize everything but those windows and then choose to tile all nonminimized windows. (At least this is my experience with Windows XP) It's faster to just drag one app to your second monitor and maximize it.

        2) The aspect ratio of a single 16:9 screen doesn't fit two 4:3 screens well. While for editing Word documents this is not a bad thing (and could be good in fact), for editing PowerPoint documents, images, and Excel spreadsheets, dual 4:3 is better.

        3) Moderate sized 4:3 flat panel displays cost a fraction of the price of an Apple 30" display. The Apple 30" display is $1500-2000, 19" 4:3 displays are $200-250 each.

        4) Most workers already have their first monitor. Adding a second is cheaper than chucking it and buying a large widescreen, even if that large widescreen were remotely competitive for these purposes with dual 19s in price.

        I have a second monitor in my cube, but it's an old beat-up CRT and I don't have the desk space to use it. :(
      • Re:Here's a study (Score:5, Insightful)

        by julesh (229690) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:37AM (#18633311)
        Speaking as someone currently using two 17" monitors, I think two monitors is better.

        1. 30" monitors cost a *lot* more than two 17" monitors. Like, £1000 more.
        2. 2560x1600 isn't as good as 3200x1200, IMO. The 30" monitor is too tall, I prefer something wider and flatter.
        3. My monitors are arranged to surround me, rather than forming a flat panel. This means I'm looking at them close to straight whether I'm looking in the middle or either edge. With a single big monitor, I'd have to have them flat, and would be viewing them significantly off-straight at the edges.
        4. With multiple monitors, software can be manipulated easily to take up exactly half of the display (using the maximize buttons), which is useful when you are using exactly 2 applications -- something I do regularly (e.g. IDE for development and web browser for reference). I don't believe achieving this is easy with a single large display.
        • I work at a semiconductor company doing chip layout design. They came through about 6 months ago with upgrades offering the choice: One 24" LCD, or two 19" LCDs. Everyone in my group opted for the dual screens. It is absolutely the bomb because of what the parent poster mentioned. Total square inches sounds good, but managing that space (and trying to look at it) when the height and width are both too big is problematic. Having two discrete viewing areas is a huge improvement.

          When doing layout design,
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bwalling (195998)
        Two is better than one. No questions asked. Tiling windows sucks. With two monitors, your windows will automatically maximize to a single monitor, making it quite easy to get full screen apps on both screens at once. I've tried the large monitor thing, and you spend more time fooling around with window placement. With two monitors, much of that ends up being handled for you. I'm actually at the point where I'm ready for a 3rd monitor, I'm just afraid to ask for it - I figure it will become a spectacle
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bushcat (615449)
        We give people all the screen estate they ask for. We can always take it away again. A short while ago everyone wanted big widescreens which we couldn't afford for everyone, so I un-PC-ley gave them to our "best" people. Right now, the "best" are back on multiple screens, having passed them down the line. The general opinion is that it's way faster to pop a windows up to full screen on separate monitors than dick around getting the widescreen set up just so. We use cheap USB video adapters most of the time
    • by CDarklock (869868)
      Actually, a lot of us here read Slashdot. It's just that only a tiny minority have the flame resistance to post on it.
  • Always (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:21AM (#18632725)
    I had two monitors on my desk for a long time. One eventually got bad enough they replaced it with a flat panel. The new panel was so good that I couldn't use the remaining CRT (and also, my eyes were fucked as a result of the shitty old CRT they wouldn't replace sooner).

    Long story short, I ditched the second CRT and they wouldn't replace it. My productivity dropped enormously. I actually found it most beneficial to have email, a browser or some documentation for the toolkits I was using open in fullscreen on the second display. It made finding a reference a simply matter of glancing across rather than bringing up another window, losing the context of what I was doing then having to do the shuffle back and forward.

    Not only that, but I save on printing because I can keep things open on the second screen for reference like the output of a program working on. The same applies to anyone who is expected to multi-task at work though. Two screens are better than one unless the one screen is a 30" high resolution panel.

    I don't know how anyone wrote software back in the days before dual high resolution screens. It's a time consuming chore, requiring a number of dead tree tomes open on one's desk and constant shuffling about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916)

      "I don't know how anyone wrote software back in the days before dual high resolution screens."

      Simple - we had both a vga and a monochrome monitor hooked up to the same computer (vga video + hercules mono). Borlands' compilers, dbase, etc. all supported the /dual command-line switch. Also, you could switch monitors manually "mode co80" "mode mono" . Use ansi.sys to assign each string to a function key, and switching monitors was a 1-keystroke operation.

      It was nice to be able to step through your source

    • I don't know how anyone wrote software back in the days before dual high resolution screens.

      Answer: MultiEdit [multiedit.com].

      Seriously, what the heck is wrong with using a text editor to program? Ok, maybe I'm biased because I'm so old I am genetically incapable of learning OOP but shouldn't 100 files open at once be enough for anyone?
  • by Jearil (154455) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:25AM (#18632743) Homepage
    At my job we had a consultant that worked on the desk behind mine. After he left his computer area was left abandoned, and actually the desk and other parts of it were to go to me for my work area (for some reason my boss felt I needed both a desk and a "writing table"). Anyway, they didn't seem to have any purpose for the computer and monitor on the desk when I asked my supervisor, so I hooked up that second monitor to my machine.

    I of course told my supervisor about this, who after hearing the explanation of it thought it was actually a good idea. All I needed to do was write up a justification on why I needed a second monitor, and they let me have it. Justification isn't really that hard, especially if you're a programmer. The ability to have your IDE or editor or whatnot on one screen while viewing the output, documentation, or APIs on another is incredibly useful, and can speed up your work significantly. I'd go and say something like that to whatever supervisor or person in charge of equipment before they got to looking at the equipment at your desk.

    Interestingly, after I got my second monitor, a coworker friend of mine came to my desk from the building across the street and saw the setup and was extremely jealous. He ended up finding a spare monitor near his desk for his own setup. After that, all of the people near his desk saw his setup and wanted it to. We actually ended up having some ITS meetings where enough people brought up the idea of dual-monitors that it's now a standard request for people to get with minimal justification. So who knows, maybe you'll start a trend like what happened for me.
    • by jamesh (87723)
      We recently sold one of our clients (accounting firm) about 100 flat screen displays, quite a few second (or dual) video adapters, and a few computers (to replace ones that couldn't be upgraded) to give their 80 or so users 2 displays each.

      Anyone with a laptop now seems to have an additional display hanging off it now too.

      It is definitely catching on.
    • by acidrain69 (632468) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:50AM (#18632915) Journal
      I had the same thing. I took a spare CRT, and my boss at the time really liked the setup, so he got me matching 17" LCD's. One of my coworkers also got matching 17's. My old boss now has 4 monitors, 2 19" LCD's, a 17", and a widescreen 24. He only really does work on 2 of them, the 17 is for viewing our internal help desk website for new tickets, and the widescreen is for our camera DVR system. My new boss now has a 19" LCD to connect to his laptop, and we are talking about pushing 2 monitors down to some of the regular non-IT employees in certain positions where they would benefit.

      It's nice to work in an environment where people recognize potential productivity increase when they see it. 17" LCDs are cheap now. Easily $150 or less. A spare video card or a dual vid card can be cheap, I spent $35 on the one I use at work.

      If you job complains about spending $150 on a long term investment in your productivity, then you should start looking for a new job. Of course, people are giving away CRTs all the time, you could always offer to bring one in. Check freecycle.
  • In my experience... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FredDC (1048502) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:27AM (#18632747)
    At my previous job I was also using 2 monitors, which definitely made me more productive as I could more easily compare information on different screens.

    At my current job I only have 1 monitor and it took me a while to get used to it again. I would ask for a second screen but I already know the answer... "No, because otherwise everyone would want a second screen."

    While on my departement, everyone would be better of with having a second screen, the average amount of windows open at the same time is at least 10. It would definitely increase productivity but explaining this to management who at most have their e-mail and text processor open is a lost cause I fear. Well, at least at home I have 2 screens to enjoy.

    Also, on a related note, I found synergy [sourceforge.net] to be an amazing tool when using multiple computers at the same time. It allows you to share the same mouse and keyboard between multiple computers by sending the signal over the network and it behaves just as if you had multiple screens on 1 computer (move between screens by going to the side of the screen). I haven't used it for a while though because I didn't have to work on multiple computers at the same time. But if you are, definitely check it out!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Andy Dodd (701)
      Synergy is wonderful. Unfortunately, a lot of corporate IT departments will likely frown upon it for security reasons, which is why I never try to use it when I have both my laptop and desktop turned on at work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eln (21727)
      I used to use Synergy, and it worked really well. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with our VPN. At work, I have a Linux box and a Windows box. The Linux box is constantly VPN'd into the server network, which is not normally reachable from the internal office network.

      The Windows box is a laptop, and the Linux box is a desktop. I have a second monitor hooked up to the laptop, so I effectively have 3 displays (laptop builtin display, extra monitor for laptop, and monitor for desktop). This way, I have plen
  • Does asking the same question twice mean you get twice the quality of answers? I'm pretty certain I've seen this asked in the last six months.
  • Works for me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jamesh (87723) on Friday April 06, 2007 @07:35AM (#18632791)
    I spend a reasonable amount of time in RDP (Remote Desktop) sessions to clients MS Windows servers. Things are better these days but a few years ago we had a lot of customers on fairly slow connections, and RDP, being the wonderful protocol it is, wants to redraw whenever you bring it to the front.

    So I would connect, log in, then wait for a a minute or two for the screen to draw (remember, I am normally connecting in to solve a problem, so performance is often much worse than normal!) then slowly try and figure out what is going on.

    What made it horribly sucky was that I couldn't minimize the RDP window while it did it's thing, otherwise it would just start to redraw again. With a second screen I could just put the RDP session there and let it do its thing!

    Just recently I have been porting an older C++ application to C#. I have the source code for each application on each screen, way faster than trying to flip between them on a single screen.

    The nice thing is, this works so well _because_ they are two separate screens. Having one screen that was twice as wide just wouldn't be the same (unless it functioned as two screens of course :)

    My setup is my 15" laptop display and a 17" CRT, both running 1024x768 resolution. I'm almost thinking I should track down a USB VGA adapter and run a 3rd screen. Performance might suck (being USB instead of PCI) but i wouldn't be doing anything on that display where that was an issue.

    Hmmm... here's a more interesting question. At what number of screens does productivity start to drop? I guess the answer will depend on what tasks you are doing but it would sure make an interesting study... I'm imagining 3 screens across and 2 screens high as a starting point :)
    • by nelsonal (549144)
      Many trading floors (they spend whatever is desired on equipment) usually have no more than 4-6 screens usually deployed in an upside down T or 2x3 array. When you're spending a couple hundred thousand (bare minimum on the trader and at least $50,000 (Bloomberg alone is $20,000) on data services it pays to pay $600 on enough monitors to show all the data services.
  • If you really think it helps that much, ask them if you can bring in your own monitor. You should be able to find one pretty cheap. I bring in my own trackball to work, because I don't like the mouse they gave me and I had an old trackball lying around that I was more comfortable with. If it doesn't cost them anything, I don't see why they would really refuse. But I work for a small company, so maybe things would be different for a larger corporation.
    • Don't do that. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ihlosi (895663)
      If you really think it helps that much, ask them if you can bring in your own monitor.

      It's not the employees job to throw money at the company he works for. Unless doing something like that has benefits for you (like not getting carpal tunnel syndrome by using your own mouse), don't do it.

      If the bean-counters are too stupid to invest in good working equipment, don't bail them out.

  • At both my current job and my previous one, we had plenty of people with laptops and docking stations at their desks, complete with CRT or flat panel monitor. At my previous job they seemed stunned when I simply opened up my laptop at the same time and ran dual-desktop between the laptop monitor and the CRT! Worse yet, at my current job the typical docking station had a platform on the top that the CRT sat on, meaning you couldn't open the laptop even if you wanted to. I removed the platform, opened the
  • Do you work where I do? We're about to do the same thing but our management is smart enough to realize that multiple screens really helps. With two monitors I can keep an eye on our monitoring systems with one and work on the other, it makes keeping track of what's going on MUCH easier.

    There's a reason stock traders have so many screens....
  • My work got all of the 50ish developers and 50ish other staff dual LCD screens (replacing the CRT or adding to the already present LCD). While I can only offer anecdotal evidence, it does come in the form of 100ish people having nothing but positive things to say about the change. It just feels more natural... it lets you free up some of your internal buffer and brain power from 'remembering'. It lets us have the IDE on one screen and the Database on the other (no more switching back and forth to check t
  • I generally split my monitors into two separate tasks. On the left is my e-mail and productivity apps. On the right, I do my actual work. The other benefit is that our corp environment is windows and our prod environment is RHEL. Depending on which office I am working from, I wither have two computers connected via synergy, or a windows instance on the left and a Linux VM on the right. It's a pleasure to be able to copy a Java stack trace out of k/g/e/term and paste it into an e-mail to a developer in
  • At my company most of IS has standardized on dual displays. I know very few developers that are still slugging it out with a single display. Here the trick is just to justify 1600x1200 versus 1280x1024 panels. I'm happy to say I have two of the former, and I pity the fools who don't. In fact, I could easily see a use for a third, but perhaps that's just getting greedy...
  • My experience, from the amiga and elsewhere, is that the problem is window-shuffling. If you can't have two monitors, use virtual desktops, with no more than one application per screen.

    Ion3 ftw.
  • I've been using dual monitors for years at home, but I don't have an extra one at work yet. I'm still relatively new, and though many people do have two monitors (and waste them enormously by setting the monitors at some grotesque resolution like 800x600 or 1024x768), I need to get the balls and ask for it.
  • In the game industry, I have seen people with 3+ monitors and various machines configurations. Often you'll have one monitor for your IDE and/or debugger and the application or game on the monitor. Then you toss in people monitoring server / client interaction and various game console dev kits for a third+ monitor. The more screens you have the more crap you can observe at once -- it is that simple. Trust me when I say it's easier to test multiplayer bugs with more than one machine -- it's just common s
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:12AM (#18633071) Homepage Journal
    You're not really productive until you have seven flatscreens suspended around your desk. [wikipedia.org] Only then can you build a 3D virus that will help you break through the firewall of that 1024-bit encryption.
  • I feel a lot more productive if I have enough screen real estate to keep overlapping windows to a minimum. I like to keep one screen for IM, e-mail and web documentation searches and one for editing code and doing development stuff on other machines on the network. This seems to work out VERY well. Having room for the sprawl may really only save me an extra minute or two a day but this will more than make up for the price of the second monitor within the first month.

    I find that the wide screens on my Appl

  • but I don't have to..
    \
    one pc at home has a 24wide, landscape, and a 19inchwide portrait just to the left (only place I could mount the arm)
    the others- at home (main pc#1) and on my desk at work, 24 dell wide main, landscape.. 20in wide portrait mode (turned 90 degrees)
    this means my main screen has 1920 wide X 1200 deep, and the side has 1050 wide, and 1680 deep.
    my start/task bar is horizontal on the right smaller portrait oriented screen, runs from the top to the bottom on the left side of that monitor
    and
  • It works wonders (Score:2, Informative)

    by Warbringer87 (969664)
    You can try to show people HOW it helps you. Like drag them over and show them how it helps you, all the stuff you do to become more productive. You can always send them this [nytimes.com]. Also this [microsoft.com]. is a pretty good one. Just some googling will bring up a swathe of articles claiming statistics, usually up to 50%, so at the very least you can use those, or figure out what studies they use.

    Personally, I've got a widescreen laptop, and the added screen real state made me start wondering if I should switch to two monito
  • I use fvwm2 with a 3x3 layout. I found that if I have less than 3x2 desktops, I am not happy. With 3x3 I am. I have developed conventions on what to place were and I can have 3 or more projects open at the same time, some with more than one screen.

    So, no, two monitors would not make me more productive. Two is not enough by far!
  • THREE Monitors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KermodeBear (738243) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:41AM (#18633361) Homepage
    I do web development for a living, and I find that having three monitors works the best for me. I have the web browsers on the left, all of my code in the middle, and my documentation on the right. No need to waste time alt+tabbing around, switching desktops, etc., etc. I find it to be very helpful. I think that four would be overkill, though.

    I would imagine that for any kind of development, two is better than one. For some, three may or may not be as useful, but as I said above, I like three.
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:41AM (#18633369)

    Come audit time, stuff the extra monitor under the desk or pile some binders on top of it.

    If anyone gets too close to it, smack them on the back of the skull with a lead pipe and put the body in the cubicle of someone you don't like.

    This advice brought to you free of charge by /. and Sponge Bath.

  • I've been a big monitor hound for quite a few revolutions around the Sun but I've never liked two monitors on one machine, even when programming. I would way prefer having two or more computers near at hand. There is no multi-tasking like two completely separate machines, you can do a true test on a second machine/setup, and distractions like the help center thing someone else mentioned go where they belong -- on a separate computer.

    Having said all that, I think we are not far away from the "Your desk
  • by timothyf (615594) on Friday April 06, 2007 @08:56AM (#18633551) Homepage
    Try the links here: http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&q=d ual+monitor+productivity+study [google.com] You'll even get a Slashdot article linking to a study done on it: http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/1 0/09/137232&mode=flat&tid=137&tid=196 [slashdot.org] See, that wasn't hard...
  • it's a no brainer. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Churla (936633) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:04AM (#18633627)
    If you have to look at output while editing anything two monitors tends to be more effective.

    I actually started using a dual head setup years ago (think pre-AGP days) when I had two PCI cards pushing monitors and Windows 2000 had just finally gotten a semi-automatic way to span them. And I've never gone back.

    You'd think "ALT-tab" wouldn't be such an effort... until you don't have to do it.

    My wife made fun of it, until I upgraded my CRTs to 19" LCD. Giving me a spare CRT to hook up to the second video port on her nVidia card. Then she found the ability to have research and documentation up on one screen, and whatever she was working on on the other. She's also never gone back.

    At my work they have been moving us to Thinkpads for almost all of our production network boxes (test racks are a different matter). They got us docking stations with monitors for when we were in the office. Then I realized instead of that I could use the laptops screen as primary and the docking station screen as a second monitor. On top of that the LCD's they got for us were some nice Dell model that you can rotate to portrait mode. You don't want to know how much faster and easier is it to scan a dual column diff when you have portrait mode...

    From a money perspective, if a second LCD monitor costs your company $150, and you make $40 an hour all it has to do to pay for itself in a year is save you 3 hours and 45 minutes. Over a 200 day work year.... Meaning about 1 minute and 12 seconds a day and it pays for itself.
  • by ElectricRook (264648) on Friday April 06, 2007 @09:14AM (#18633727)

    Bean counters will be bean counters. Use ignorance to battle ignorance.

    Put a label on the monitor saying "Do Not Inventory". And sign the note illegibly.

    The bean counters will either ignore the monitor, which you want. Or they will count the monitor. If they count the monitor, then put the monitor in an empty cube, and make it look like it is connected to a computer. If there is no name on the empty cube, make a name plate for the cube. The name on the plate must be "M T Box", and explain to your cow-orkers that the cube is being held for the new Chinese intern. If there is no empty cube, get a keyboard, and make it look like there are two people working in your cube. Explain that you have to share your cube with the new Mexican intern named No-Say Yama...

  • by Locutus (9039) on Friday April 06, 2007 @11:02AM (#18635223)
    The only time you can REALLY justify a dual monitor setup is when your primary job/task requires you to quickly see a whole lot of data at one time. Otherwise, use a multi-desktop configuration where you can assign quick-keys to switch views from one desktop to the other. UNIX and Linux desktop systems( CDE, KDE, Gnome, etc ) and probably others have always had multi-desktop support so you can run apps fullscreen in different desktops and with a keystroke you can instantly switch to the specific desktop. Toggling through the apps with the task-switcher( Alt-Tab ) isn't efficient since you likely vary the number of apps running at one time and switching to a specific desktop will get you right to the data or app you want/need to see.

    Again, unless you absolutely must simultaneously see a ton of data which can only be efficiently done with 2 or more monitors, you'll probably have to snowball your IT department into thinking you need the extra monitors. One thing you might try is to tell them you have epilepsy and a quickly changing/flashing display window could trigger an episode. ;-)

    2+ displays are easier but saying it's required is gonna take some work. IMO.

    LoB
     
  • by owlstead (636356) on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:13PM (#18641297)
    Here are some advantages of one approach against the other:
    * better organization and looking at different (two) applications at the same time: dual monitors
    * GUI development: wide screen monitor
    * side bars, additional content: wide screen monitor (and a window manager app)
    * 100 programs open at the same time: dual monitors (and multiple desktops)
    * multimedia (video/games): wide screen monitor
    * internet browsing: dual monitors
    * email: dual monitors

    At work I have significant speedups for dual monitors. But then I am creating applications where I have to debug both the client and the server at the same time. Also, when programming it is really good to have documentation next to the code. With a good IDE it is also possible to have the debug and code perspectives on different screens (e.g. Eclipse handles this *really* well). I would always go for dual monitors at work if I had the choice. Using two 17" monitors is not that expensive, with 19" you get bigger letters, but most of them are 1280x1024, just like the 17" - so only go for 19" if the price difference is neglectible.

    I feel that my speedup is between 5-10% easily. So the company started saving money in about, oh, two weeks time, tops.

    If you have a choice in choosing the flat screens for work:
    * 4:3 aspect ratio (two flat screens does not work well, too big a turning angle for your head/eyes)
    * anti-glare
    * 170 degrees looking angle (if you have a rotating screen, this becomes *really* important)
    * DVI is nice (better colors, less chance of syncing problems, needs a - passive - video card with dual DVI output)
    * height adjustable, tiltable (forget about rotation and pivoting the screen - you won't use it)
    * USB hubs are nice (but don't work well in combination with a rotating screen)
    * refresh rate is not important anymore

    At home I am used to watch video and play games, so I went for the wide screen. Some websites do look a bit weird on 1680 pixels wide though.
  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Friday April 06, 2007 @06:28PM (#18641457) Journal
    I use a Matrox Parhelia at work and Matrox's TripleHead2Go [matrox.com] at home for Triplehead. Right now I'm using 3072x768, using one new and two secondhand Dell/BenQ 15" LCD panels. At work it's 3840x1024, using one LCD panel and two old CRTs.

    Contrary to what many others have said, I find that one of the major benefits of Matrox's triplehead implementation is that as far as Windows is concerned it's one screen. This not only provides maximum compatibility with software not properly written to cope with multihead, but it means I can easily grab the entire three screens for, say, a wide Excel spreadsheet, Photoshop, or some complicated bit of code. Matrox do provide software to make the single desktop behave like three screens for the purposes of maximising windows, but I have that turned off.

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