Buying a second monitor may provide the best return on investment in terms of productivity and general computing comfort. The expanded desktop real estate is great for work activities like comparing documents, writing emails or articles while referring to online research, and general multi-tasking.
A second monitor can help you gain up to 50% in productivity and be happier while computing
Microsoft's Research Center's findings indicate that users can improve productivity by 9 to 50% by adding another monitor to their computing environment (depending on the type of task). Other studies cited in the New York Times suggest 20% to 30% productivity boosts.
Whatever the actual percent productivity increase, adding a second monitor may provide the most productivity "bang for your buck": you can get more done in less time for a relatively small investment (several recommended 22" monitors are $200 or less).
Not to mention that working with a larger display area just makes working on the computer more comfortable. Productivity tipsters at Lifehacker have long espoused a multi-monitor setup. In their Upgrade Your Life book, they liken having a second monitor to a chef doubling his/her kitchen countertop space. More room and workspace means greater working comfort, which directly translates to better productivity.
In fact, the only downside to adding another monitor may be for laptop users: you may find yourself more reluctant to undock your computer after experiencing that multi-monitor goodness.
What you can do with two monitors
With a second (or third or more) monitor you can:
- Switch between applications more quickly -- instead of using keyboard shortcuts like ALT + TAB to multitask, just point your mouse to the other screen and save a lot of time.
- Segment your working tasks, as Bill Gates does, with one screen collecting the stream of incoming information, another focused on what you have to do at the moment, and possibly another for additional task needs.
- View documents side-by-side for comparison, research, or cutting-and-pasting. Since some monitors allow you to rotate the screen to "portrait" view, as About.com's Graphic Software Guide's workspace photo shows, you can dedicate one side for reading or reference material and the other for your working document.
How to Add an Additional Monitor
Trust me, you won't regret adding a second monitor, and it's pretty easy to add a second monitor on desktop PCs.
It's even easier on laptops that have a DVI or VGA connector -- just plug the external monitor into that port. For the ultimate in convenience, you can also get a USB dock with video support, like the Dynadock, to make expanding your screen real estate dead simple. With a docking station with video support, you can even get a 3-screen setup pretty easily: your laptop screen, the external monitor connected to the USB docking station, and a third monitor connected to your laptop's VGA or DVI monitor port.
A peripheral you can't live without
Ask anyone who has more than one computer display and they'll tell you that the additional monitor -- external monitor, for laptop users -- is the one computer peripheral they would not give up.
Just ask Bill Gates. In a Forbes interview where Bill Gates reveals how he works, Gates describes his three-monitor setup: the screen on the left is dedicated to his email list (in Outlook, no doubt), the center is devoted to whatever he is working on (usually an email), and on the right he keeps his browser. He says, "Once you have that large display area, you'll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity."
Join us as a multi-monitor convert!