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Multiple Monitors Increase Productivity 539

Posted by michael
from the print-out-and-show-your-boss dept.
eggoeater writes "An systematic study conducted by NEC-Mitsubishi, ATI Technologies and the University of Utah has concluded that the use of multiple monitors in the workplace increases productivity. The study is discussed on Tom's Hardware, EE Times, and there's a detailed press release on NEC-Mitsubishi. For those of us who use multi-monitors, this is not shocking. But maybe now that it's official, IT managers will view it as a good investment and not just for gamers."
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Multiple Monitors Increase Productivity

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  • In other news, (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Unknown Poltroon (31628) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:04AM (#7171572)
    "some other company says buying more of what they manufacture is good for you. Really. Theyve got studies they paid for to prove it!!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:06AM (#7171604)
    what about virtual desktops?
    Multiple displays have been around for years - I used to work on a 9 head xterminal (still in use at the nyse) - can't say it speed up my work, but it certainly heated up the box...

    (Think of the lifesize p0rn possibilities)
  • Separation of tasks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TiMac (621390) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:07AM (#7171616)
    Just like a Dual Processor machine--but rather than assigning a thread to a CPU, you're associating a thought process with a visual/spatial location.

    I replaced my dual monitor setup with an 20 inch Apple Cinema Display when I got my new G5...but I am finding myself missing the twin screens, even despite the size and aspect ratio of the gorgeous new screen...may have to find a way to get another Cinema...and a bigger desk!

  • Re:I'd have to agree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bedouin X (254404) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:08AM (#7171624) Homepage
    Amen, and there is nothing like being able to write web code in one monitor and reload the browser in another. Or compile a binary app to run in the one monitor while debugging in the other.

    My co workers come in my office and look at my dual flat screens and think that I'm just hoarding resources. Little do they know that the money that they save from me not having to click around and precisely resize windows has paid for this other monitor many times over.
  • mmmm, EMF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kisrael (134664) * on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:10AM (#7171646) Homepage
    An double extra dose of healing CRT radiation!

    (Guess we should ask for the LCDs...)
  • Damn Straight... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Bent (533421) <ben&int,com> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:13AM (#7171679) Homepage
    I've had two 21" monitors for my system at work, and it's made me much more productive. One of the main benefits is that I can debug rendering code much easier because I don't have to switch back and forth between the editor and the application (triggering extra repaints that screw up the codepath I'm trying to debug).

    Also, it lets me put my editor (JBuilder, in most cases) on one monitor, and have a UML diagram, a specification, or a bug report, etc...on the other. And considering I was able to add the extra monitor for 300, it's totally worth it.
  • Neck strain? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sphealey (2855) * on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:13AM (#7171685)
    For those of you with multiple monitors, how do you set them up? One straight ahead and the 2nd at a 45 deg angle? Or both to the left and right at 20 deg or so?

    My question relates to neck strain: while I would like to try two monitors, I am concerned that the constant looking to the left or right for the second monitor (or both in the low-angle setup) would increase strain on the neck muscles and/or neck and shoulder joints.

    sPh

  • by Phil John (576633) <phil@w[ ]tarsltd.com ['ebs' in gap]> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:15AM (#7171704)
    The only problem with this is that you then have to precisely [sic?] resize the windows so that stuff is aligned well, whereas on a dual monitor setup, if you had an IDE open in one window and some documentation open in another, they can both just be maximised at the click of a button into their fullest sizes on their respective monitors.

    For the same effect on one large monitor you'd have to resize one window to half the screen by using the resize zones on the edges of the window, then resize another to the other half of the screen, it would take longer and thus negate some of the benefit you were trying to get in the first place.
  • Re:what's the use? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maan (21073) * on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:20AM (#7171774)
    I have 2 17" screens at 1280x1024, and I think I'd still like it better than one screen at equivalent total resolution. The seam down the middle doesn't bother me. On the contrary, it's a nice "logical" separation. I maximize my windows to occupy one full screen, so I have my editor on one screen, and a browser+email on the second one, for example.

    On one screen, I don't think I'd manage to keep myself organized in the same way.

    Maan
  • It's not new! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by basingwerk (521105) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:24AM (#7171814)
    We used a bank of six monitors, two rows of three, one on top of the other, for planning satellite manoeuvres back in the 80's. We needed that many because X hadn't been invented and we needed several screens at the same time. It was _much_ better than using a Windows box because no screens overlapped. The problem was that each "work station" had 6 keyboards as well, so you had to be careful to type into the right one! The other solution was to use an IBM 3270 screen on the 370 mainframe. Those screens could be operated in split screen mode. You could split the screen into several horizontal sections, giving you tiled windows. This predated Windows by about 10 years.
  • Productivity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:27AM (#7171853) Homepage Journal
    The first I used a dual monitor setup was over 12 years ago in an Autocad 9 workstation while doing a co-op project. I had grown used to the limitations of having crappy graphics and terrible mice, so I (and most of my classmates) got used to type in coordinates into the command line for ACAD and never had to worry about forgetting to turn on grid snaps, etc. Well, we went to this pharmaceutical and they had a sweet CAD rig, and it had TWO nice monitors instead of a crappy one.

    What did I get out of it? A nasty neck headache. The monitors were setup with all graphics in one, and text commands on the second. Terrible neck strain because of the monitor placement.

    Next multi monitor setup was working at an Army satellite network ops center, the telemetry workstation had 5 monitors but the placement was more ergonomic so it was much easier to handle than if all the info was crammed into one huge screen. That pretty much worked.

    At my previous job (dot bomb) as we started shutting down branch offices we got an influx of extra equipment and eventually most of the people that had desktops were assigned a second monitor. In almost every case the second monitor translated into increased productivity. These people were doing things like building flash animations, editing videos or doing web programming, so they appreciated the increased screen space. Even our instructional designers were doing great because they could have more documents opened side-by-side.

    Of course, it is awesome to have a second monitor if you are a gamer, but for most of us that work with a gazillion windows opened at the same time, having dual monitors (or for the lucky bastards, a huge widescreen monitor like the Apple studio series) is a godsend.
  • by southpolesammy (150094) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:28AM (#7171872) Journal
    I tell ya. The one thing I hate about Windows vs. UNIX-type systems is Window's bad use of screen real estate when compared to X displays running on Linux, Solaris, etc.

    For example, with the same 19" monitor in my house, I can have so many more windows open and viewable with Linux than with Windows. Also, Windows in 1280x1024 resolution or higher gets unreadable whereas I don't tend to have that problem with Linux for some reason.

    So I'm not so sure about needing >=2 monitors, but perhaps to enhance the GUI readability of various OS's at higher resolutions.
  • by ayjay29 (144994) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:31AM (#7171900)
    Working for a .com that "re-orginased" it's staff several times, we had a room full of unused monitors. Most of the team now use two monitors. It really helps with apps like Visual Studio.
    I tried four monitors once, this was great, the only drawback was I kept loosing the mouse pointer.

  • by neuroklinik (452842) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:37AM (#7171949)
    Where I work, we are beginning a feasibility test where we are replacing our usual two monitor arrangement (one 21" CRT and one 17" CRT) with a single Apple 23" Cinema HD display.

    Our users are creative folk, working on G4s with Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, etc. Historically, the mindset has been to keep application palettes on the smaller display while the current document is open full-screen on the larger display. Usual resolutions are 1600x1200 on the 21" monitor and 1280x1024 on the 17" display.

    Our test hopes to show that users not only work faster with a single 23" 1920x1200 display, but also that the single display will save money in the long run, and make associate moves easier. It should also improve ergonomics in our smaller cube workspaces, because the thinner display can be pushed back closer to the cube wall. I do think, however, that 1920x1200 might just be too low a resolution for a 23" display.

    We are also beginning a migration to Panther, and we are hoping to show that Expose makes the navigation of multiple open applications more intuitive and efficient.

    As resolutions increase and flat panels become larger and less expensive, I think this trend may increase. Instead of using two large, bulky CRTs, it might be easier, cheaper, and faster to work with one large high-resolution LCD.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:37AM (#7171952)
    My primary development machine has two Matrox G200 PCI (8MB) cards and runs XFree4 with xinerama across two 19" monitors. I use WindowMaker as my window manager. This allows me the use of dual monitors and multiple virtual desktops. I can honestly say that after becoming accustomed to this setup it is *painful* (in numerous ways.. reduced productivity, brain strain, etc) to do extended development on a single-headed setup.

    -AC
  • by Frymaster (171343) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:45AM (#7172033) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, until some PHB decides that, if 2 monitors = productivity gain, 4 monitors = 2x productivity gain,

    well, you're actually pretty close. not four monitors though, but four vitual desktops.

    where i work there are coders with dual monitors and there is me with one monitor and (as the only linux user in the company) 4 desktops. while they maximize all their windows and spend time poking around the taskbar and moving things from monitor to monitor, i race around virtual monitors with the alt-Fx keys.

    i have a very simple layout for the four desktops:

    code i am working on

    remote sessions

    email and second remote session if needed

    browser if you build for the web, the write/test cycle is as fast as alt-f4 ctrl-r. focus is transfered automaically when you switch desktiops so there's not fritzin' about with the mouse!

    less monitors (to a minimum of one, obviously), more virtual desktops.

  • by alispguru (72689) <bane AT gst DOT com> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:59AM (#7172256) Journal
    Of course developers are more productive with more screen space. If I can have more windows open at once without overlapping them, I'll spend less time raising/lowering/rearranging them, with less disruption to my thought processes while I'm coding/testing/debugging. More information in front of me with less effort to get it keeps me in flow, which is where I want to be.

    I used to have a 17" Apple monitor that I ran at 1600x1200 for development, solely to keep as much text as possible in my field of vision while working. My favorite monitor of all time was a Sun 20" monochrome 100 DPI screen - ran at something like 2000x1500.

    Screen space is an extension of my short-term memory - it lets me deal with more complex things with less effort.
  • Re:what's the use? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:14AM (#7172468) Journal
    How is this faster than using alt-tab to bring windows to top?

    Because you don't have to press alt-tab? They already have a visible spot on the desktop.

    Additionally, if you need to do a series of calculations, it takes a LOT less effort to just run through it all without even changing focus from the calculator, than to go through "get a number from app 1, alt-tab, enter in calc, alt-tab, get another number, alt-tab, enter in calc, alt-tab, get another number...".

    And that only deals with interactive tasks such as a calulator. How about something passive but informative, like the task manager (or top, in the *nix world), where you need it visible to make use of it? I can't even count how many times I've avoided a crash because I noticed the CPU use suddenly spike as some app began behaving poorly. If I didn't have that window always visible, I'd never see the usage spike until the machine started to crawl, by which time the opportunity to kill the offending process may have passed (Windows Media Player does that on occasion, just brings the machine to a crawl and leaves no choice but to reboot - But if you catch it within about five seconds, the machine hasn't totally stopped responding and you can kill it).

    I don't claim you can't do things almost as well with a single monitor. But once you've used a dual, you'll never go back.
  • by Richy_T (111409) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:15AM (#7172477) Homepage
    That brings up the intriguing possibility of a "fractional maximise" button in the titlebar. That could well be useful even if you did not have a widescreen display. Say maximise your editor to 2/3 of the screen and your helpfile to 1/3 (kind-of like docking).


    I think maximising tends to produce the wrong layout anyway, the human eye is better at reading narrow columns (that's why newspapers are layed out as they are). That's why you get all sorts of cruft down the side of webpages. So why are all the browser controls at the *top* of the browser window instead of down the side?


    Rich

  • by hawkfish (8978) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:16AM (#7172502) Homepage
    I can generally tell code that is written using small monitors because it tends to be "local". There is not much awareness of existing functions in the same file or in related files.

    I have two monitors on my desk (both larger than the laptops preferred by many these days) hooked up to a OSX box. Editing on one with BBEdit, Terminal shell open for the target machine on the other, translucent windows so I can find stuff that is buried. It may seem silly, but I honestly feel that these little details translate into better designs and code.
  • I use three (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tryfen (216209) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:45AM (#7172888) Homepage
    A good resource for multiple monitors is here [realtimesoft.com].

    I use 3 monitors at home Left is API, Centre is IDE, Right is Application (plus Trillian, WinAmp etc). One you've gone double, you never want to go back :-)

    On windows 98 & XP it's dead easy. Shove in an old PCI card and away you go. I've never got it working properly with Linux.

    T
  • three is better (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yukster (586300) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:50AM (#7172962)

    I have a windows box and a linux box. I wanted dual monitors on both, but I didn't want to deal with two KVMs and monitors that have switched, dual inputs are expensive. So, I got three monitors... the middle one is switched by the KVM, the outer ones are dedicated to each box. The nice thing about that is you can view stuff from one box while working in the other. I've become completely addicted to it... I couldn't imagine using just two monitors! ;-)

  • Re:WideScreens (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tigersha (151319) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:56AM (#7173055) Homepage
    True. And if there is ONE ting I want in both windoze and X, its a button on the keyboard tha simply switches all the windows between the two screens. I veryoften have one window open on my main display and something else (like a help text on the other). A quick-switch button would do wonders.

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