If you’re in IT, you probably have a multi-monitor setup in your office or home, right? I currently use dual monitors both at my office and at home. Once you start using a computer with more than one monitor, it’s nearly impossible to go back to just one!
Dual monitors are great because you simultaneously work with multiple programs full screen. Though many people only perform one task at a time on their computers, IT folk usually have at least 10 to 15 different windows open at any given time.
Dual monitors makes us more effective. However, if you are using dual monitors with just the default Windows XP or Windows Vista graphics options, you are really missing out on a lot. There are several things that I hate about a default dual monitor setup:
1. In order to move one application from one monitor to the second or third, you first have to minimize the application and then drag it over to the other monitor! Royal pain.
2. Even though some applications will be on your primary monitor and some on your secondary monitor, all of the applications shows up in the taskbar. This makes it very hard to figure out which program is on which monitor. It’s a lot easier to have a separate taskbar for each monitor with just the programs showing on that specific monitor.
3. There is no way to stretch one application all the way across both monitors. This is really awesome if you have a long Excel spreadsheet that requires a lot of scrolling. If you can stretch the app across two or three monitors, you can see two to three times as many columns!
In order to overcome these limitations, you need to use third party multi-monitor management software. There are really only two worth mentioning, but they are not free. I will also mention one free app that has a small subset of the features in the commercial programs.
UltraMon is probably the best utility for multi-monitor system because it has the most features. Unfortunately, it costs $40. However, what you get is this:
- Ability to quickly move windows or maximize windows across the desktop
- Control the position of applications with shortcuts
- Ability to have different wallpapers and different screen savers on each monitor
- Ability to mirror the primary display to a secondary monitor for presentations
- Ability to segment programs onto the appropriate taskbars
They have also released a new version that supports Windows XP and Windows Vista. Overall, UltraMon is a great program for managing multiple displays. However, the second program I am about to mention, DisplayFusion, has all of the features of UltraMon except for the ability to maximize one program across screen, but only costs $15.
For my own dual monitor setup, I ended up purchasing DisplayFusion because it has nearly all of the features of UltraMon and only costs $15 (after you convert Canadian currency to USD).
Actually, except for the fact that DisplayFusion cannot maximize an application, it works better than UltraMon. For example, in DisplayFusion, you can simply click the middle button on your mouse while hovering over the title bar of a program to instantly zap it onto another monitor.
With UltraMon, you have to press a button that sits in the top right of the title bar or you have to use a keyboard shortcut. Another advantage DisplayFusion has is that it connects to Flickr and allows you to automatically rotate your desktop wallpapers using Flickr pictures.
UltraMon only allows you to choose a picture already stored on your computer. Both programs allow you to drag a fully maximized window to another monitor. All of the other features are pretty much the same according to my testing.
MultiMon is a third candidate for managing multi-monitor setups. The program comes in two flavors: free and PRO. The free version basically adds a second taskbar to your second monitor. That’s about it for the free version, there are really no other useful functions.
However, if you want to spend no money and get two taskbars that show only the applications from that monitor, then this works well. The PRO version add some more features such as the ability to stretch one program across multiple desktops, better handling of windows between screens with different resolutions, theme support for second/third taskbar, etc.
The PRO version costs $28, so it’s almost right in-between DisplayFusion and UltraMon, making the choice even tougher!
Really, it all depends on what features you want. If you can’t live without the stretchable programs across multiple desktops, than you can cut out DisplayFusion. What is your favorite dual monitor software? Let us know in the comments! Enjoy!