• Ryan M. Pierson

Do You Need Two Monitors?

Mitte, a member of the community at large, asked: “Do you really need more than one monitor?

While having two monitors can certainly be helpful in an environment where you need to have instant access to multiple windows that don’t fit on a single screen, there really aren’t too many cases where a typical user needs to have more than a single screen running.

On most major operating systems, desktop management applications can create virtual desktops that you can readily switch between. These virtual desktop spaces simulate the same basic environment multiple screens would give you, without the need for filling your desk space with large screens. Using Spaces or Mission Control on OS X is a great way to manage multiple windows without having to spill your desktop over to another monitor. Windows has a wide variety of desktop management programs available that accomplish the same task, and various Linux distributions have had multiple desktop spaces built in for years.

There are some applications where having two screens can really save you time (and consequently money). Video editors can benefit greatly from having one monitor set for previewing their work and another for running the editing controls. This allows you to see your work on a large screen, eliminating the problems associated with a tiny preview window or having to stop work to load the preview in the primary screen. Any work environment where you need to constantly look between two large windows to process the information (or transfer it) can be more efficient with the use of multiple monitors.

As an entertainment and communications tool, two monitors can give you the ability to split your communications programs (chat, social networks, etc.) apart from your other windows. The benefit of this is of course not having chat windows clutter your primary screen and add to confusion. It can be fun to have Netflix running in the secondary window while doing your day-to-day tasks in a primary window. In a sense, it’s like having a television at your desk while you work.

With every upside, there is a downside. If you’re a gamer, the extra graphics processing a second monitor adds can have a negative impact on your game’s performance. In addition, two monitors can take up critical desk space that could be used for a number of other things. Being surrounded by monitors can sound like a lot of fun, but you may find the extra screen space just sitting there, unused much of the time.

Everyone has their own decision to make regarding single or dual monitors. Ultimately, the decision is entirely up to the user. Not everyone appreciates the extra screen real estate, or has any need for it. For the people that do, they swear by it. After all, what fun is a single screen when you can operate central command from your desk?


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