BOOT CAMP 412 (21/02/06)
DUAL MONITOR DISPLAY part 1
I have played around
with dual monitor displays ever since Multiple Monitor Support was included in
Windows 98 but it wasn’t until six months ago that I became a serious convert.
I changed my mind whilst
building my website; having two
monitors greatly reduced the workload and sped up the design and compilation of
more than 3000 web pages. However, the clincher was the recent dramatic
reduction in the cost of LCD monitors, which made the installation of two
screens on my modestly sized desk a practical and economic proposition.
Next week we’ll be
looking at how to set up a dual monitor display on your PC but first a few
words on how it all works. Until you have actually used a dual monitor display
it can be difficult to see what all the fuss is about. Quite simply it makes
your PC easier to use, more flexible, and you more productive, particularly if
you routinely have two or more programs on the go, and that doesn’t include
your email client and web browser.
applications like video editing programs, games such as MS Flight Simulator and
PowerPoint AV presenter all have dual monitor features built in. For example,
in Flight Simulator one screen can be configured for a normal cockpit view
whilst the other shows a view of the ground. In PowerPoint one screen is used
for the presentation whilst the other one displays the speaker’s notes.
For those accustomed to
using a single screen it can be hard to visualise how a dual screen display
works on a normal PC but the basic idea is very simple. There are several ways
of configuring a multi-monitor setup (see Top Tip) but Windows simply extends
the desktop onto the second screen. In other words the two screens behave as if
they are one wide display. If you move your mouse pointer off the right hand
edge of screen 1 (on the left) it instantly appears on the left side of screen
2. If placed side by side the two screens seem almost to merge together.
How you use the two
screens is entirely up to you. I’m still fine-tuning my setup but I have Word
and my web-editing program on screen 1 (on the left) and email, web browser and
image-editing programs on screen 2. This arrangement lets me work on a document
or web page on one screen with web references, or the page I’m editing
displayed on the second screen. Ideally I would like to have Word the web
editor and web browser on separate screens and I am working on that. I’ll be
adding a third monitor as soon as I’ve figured out how to squeeze it on to my
Obviously you can’t just
plug a second monitor into your PC, it has only one monitor socket, but don’t
worry, it really is very easy, more on that next week.
Multi Monitor Support is
built into Windows 98, SE, ME, 2000 and both versions of XP (and yes, I know
Apple Macs have had it since the early 1990s…).
Windows XP can support
up to 10 monitors and with specialised software many more. No extra software or
special hardware is needed but you will need a separate video adaptor card for
each additional monitor, or a single card with dual monitor output. If your PC
currently uses an integrated video adaptor (built into the motherboard) you
probably won’t be able to use that so you will need to buy two video cards (or
one dual output card).
You can use a mixture of
PCI and AGP type video cards -- you may already have one if you have an old or
retired PC gathering dust in the attic -- but you cannot use the older ISA/EISA
type cards though it’s largely academic as very few motherboards have the
necessary sockets these days. Any type of display (CRT, LCD, projector etc) can
be used -- provided it is supported by the video adaptor -- and you can have a
mixture of types. For instance, you might want to use a video projector for a
PowerPoint slideshow and a desktop monitor in view of the speaker for the notes
Windows lets you specify
which monitor is Screen 1 or the ‘primary’ screen and you can set a different
resolution and colour depth for each display. In most situations you will want
them to be both the same but this could be handy if you are using a projector
and a monitor or two different types of adaptor card.
Running two or more
monitors can result in a reduction in the performance of your PC though the
faster the processor and the more RAM it has the less noticeable it will be. It
also helps to use video cards with plenty of on-board memory (64Mb or
more). Finally, some graphics
components like Direct X, Direct Draw and Direct 3D may not work correctly on
some games set-ups; there’s no easy way to tell beforehand but you might find
some helpful advice on the game manufacturer’s web site.
NEXT WEEK - Dual Monitor
Display, part 2
Graphics Port – dedicated socket on a PC motherboard for high performance video
Extended Industry Standard Architecture,
obsolete expansion card socket used on older PCs
Component Interconnect - high-speed expansion/connector system used for sound,
video, and network adaptor cards, etc.
Multi-monitor support in
Windows is limited to an extended desktop but various software and hardware
alternatives are available that allow different display configurations. Some
dual-output video adaptors support ‘Clone’ mode, where the same image appears
on each screen. ‘Span’ or ‘stretch’ mode -- also available on some dual output
video cards persuades Windows to treat both monitors as a single entity (so
they have to be the same type). This can be used to create a single large
widescreen display for games and applications that do not have built-in
© R. Maybury 2006, 1502