Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Use Two Monitors-and Why You Might Want To

Two Monitor System (photo by Dick Eastman)
I have been using two 27-inch monitors on my desktop computers for years. Using two monitors at once is surprisingly easy to do. I love the convenience of my email program, a web browser, iTunes, and RSS newsreader displayed on the monitor to the left side of my desk while my word processor and my favorite genealogy programs are running in separate windows on the monitor to the right. Doing so is a time saver, and I believe it improves productivity significantly. I wrote about the use of two monitors in a Plus Edition article earlier this year at

A picture taken in my hotel room a few minutes ago.
When traveling, I always have felt constrained by being limited to one small screen on the laptop computer. It certainly would be nice to also use two monitors at once on the laptop, especially as I already do so on the desktop at home. A few months ago, I found an easy, lightweight, and not very expensive solution: purchase a second monitor designed only for laptop use. Best of all, it is very is easily packed; it easily fits into any laptop bag or backpack designed for carrying a 16-inch computer, along with the laptop computer itself. My backpack has a pocket for carrying a laptop, and I find I can easily slide both the laptop computer and the external monitor into the one pocket.

In fact, I am using two monitors on the computer I am using to write this article, as you can see by the image above and to the right. Click on the image to view a much larger version. You will note that I am viewing an email program on the laptop on the left while looking at the web site on the 16-inch monitor to the right. (I am preparing to post this article.) While I am using a MacBook Air laptop, you can do the same with Windows laptops as well.

In fact, it is possible to add a third or even a fourth monitor onto the laptop and use them all simultaneously. Admittedly, I haven’t tried that yet. I am quite happy with two screens: the one built into the laptop plus the one external monitor.

Anyone not familiar with my installation who happened to walk by and see me working might think at first that I had two separate computers running with two separate screens. However, a closer inspection shows that I have only one computer, one keyboard, and one mouse or trackpad in the laptop.

Both screens are “live” as if they were connected to two different computers, but both are really attached to the same two-and-a-half-pound MacBook Air laptop. The monitor to the right weighs about two-and-a-third pounds and requires no external power supply. I can even create a really large Excel spreadsheet that spans both screens, showing hundreds of “cells” simultaneously. That is usually an eye-popping demonstration as many people don’t realize that this is possible.

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(Dick Eastman)