Productivity Series: Dual Monitor Setup

What you’ll need:

  • Your laptop
  • A second monitor (duh!)
  • A VGA, HDMI or other cable capable of connecting the two

Who this can help:

  • Students in high school and especially college
  • Professionals that do a lot of work on the computer

Welcome to the very first entry in the Productivity Series! Today we’re going to learn about why having two monitors is an excellent way to increase productivity. Are you a student who writes reports and constantly finds herself switching between the browser, word processor and PDF viewer? Are you a programmer always alt+tab’ing from an IDE to Stack Exchange to a console? What about a designer constantly running back and forth between PhotoShop, his gallery and his website? If you are any of these people or someone else that uses multiple programs at a time, then setting up two monitors can drastically improve your productivity.

Why it’s awesome

I personally love having two monitors set up and I don’t know how people can manage to write a lab report without them. When I write a lab report on just my laptop’s monitor, I’m constantly alt+tab’ing between Word, Excel and my lab manual. What is great about having two monitors is that I can put Word in front of me and keep Excel and the manual to the side. I have to keep glancing back at the spreadsheet while I type the document and the frequent switching is time consuming in the long run because (a) it takes a moment for the programs to switch and (b) hitting alt+tab requires moving my hands away from the home keys and then coming back. Not good.¬†Instead, I can just look at the spreadsheet side-by-side with the document.

It’s also great for work. When I’m managing my company’s site I need to juggle an open browser, a text editor, an FTP client and even GIMP. It’s almost impossible to do all that without having two monitors in front me.

How to do it

It’s a pretty simple setup. All regular laptops usually come with a VGA port like this one:

VGA Port on a Laptop

What a VGA port looks like on the side of a laptop.

In order to use it, you’ll need also have a VGA cable. Both ends look like this:

VGA cable

Both ends of a VGA cable look like this.

Simply connect one end to the port on your laptop and the other end to identical port on the back of the second monitor. Usually, that’s it. From here your laptop will usually take care of it. If the resolution doesn’t work out well, try adjusting them in the video settings. The video settings will also let you choose which side to position the monitor, it’s colors and other features.

It’s a bit more complicated for a desktop computer that already uses the VGA port on the computer (you’ll need something else like a DVI or HDMI cable) or a Mac (which has no VGA port). Come back in the future for a desktop explanation. If you’re a Mac user, have a talk with the “geniuses” at the Genius Bar in an Apple store (*snicker*).

If you’ve got any questions leave a comment and I’ll do my best to address it. Good luck and happy producing!

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