Culture & Competency

Go buy a bigger monitor

My good friend Eric Mack blogged last month about using multiple computer monitors to boost productivity. He linked to the NY Times article The Virtues of a Second Screen that explored the idea.

I’ve been using multiple screens for ages now, and I can attest that there’s some meat here. Here’s what I found:

  • I had a 15″ laptop on which I was building financial and market growth projections for various reports while I was an analyst at Ferris Research. I had to constantly scroll up-and-down and back-and-forth on the Excel spreadsheet to see linked numbers and the consequences of changes. I purchased a 20″ external monitor, and the problem disappeared. I could just focus on the work.
  • When I was doing software development, I used the 20″ external monitor. However, given that the design client was different from the run-time client, I was constantly swapping back-and-forth between the two different views. So, I purchased a second 20″ external monitor and had the design client on one screen and the run-time client on the second. It was awesome … make a change on the design side and see immediately the change in the run-time environment.
  • 20inchscreens

  • The most amazing thing I experienced when first getting the 20″ display was the ability to actually use the ‘month-at-a-glance’ view of the Outlook or Notes calendar. You could actually see what was on each day, not just some preliminary words for each item.
  • In my writing endeavours, I hate having to scroll up-and-down the page to see the next few paragraphs. I just want to be able to see a full A4 page (it’s a bit bigger than US Letter), and it is great to be able to see 2 A4 pages side-by-side in full glory. So … I have 23″ monitors now on my Mac and Tablet. I find that I can just focus on writing instead of looking through the document.

My current setup is an iMac 20″ (1680×1050) with a 23″ Apple Cinema Display (1920×1200), plus a Toshiba Tablet 15″ (1400×1050) with a 23″ Philips display (1920×1200). It’s awesome!

Rod Drury’s 24″ Dell monitor has just arrived, and he says:

Lovely …. Acres of room for Visual Studio. Just plugged into my Sony laptop and worked a treat …. After getting over my initial disappointment of not being able to drive a 30″ screen, 24″ is actually plenty. Definitely has that command center feel. Similar to an iMac, the screen is the computer. Soon what computer plugs in is irrelevant … Single copy of apps and data on a laptop driving a large external monitor seems to be a good model. I could go for a smaller laptop with more portability.

I agree with the 30″ quote too … I seriously considered buying one last year, but came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t do that much more for me over a 23″. A 23″ shows two A4 pages side-by-side … which was my critical requirement, and a 30″ would add some stuff around the side, but wouldn’t actually do much beyond that. The key is the number of pixels … 1920×1200.

Conclusion: If you want to increase productivity whilst at your computer, direct your next dollars into a bigger screen. As a means to pay for it, don’t buy Vista or Office 2007 … you’ll get more productivity out of the big screen, IMHO.

P.S. Sigh … this would be perfection! (If Digital Tigers is listening, I’m more than happy to trial run one of these units!)

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Categories: Culture & Competency