Next best thing to having 2 heads
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.
You can use features in newer versions of Windows to split your screen into parts, but it’s not as elegant as having multiple monitors. Dual monitors makes us more effective. However, if you are using dual monitors with just the default Windows 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. (This is no longer true in Windows 8 and Windows 10)
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 a couple worth mentioning, some of which are free. The commercial apps have more features and may be worth the cost, depending on your needs.
Dual Monitor Tools
Dual Monitor Tools is a completely open-source program that gets updated very often. It’s got a ton of feature and options that let you control pretty much every aspect of a dual monitor setup. I recommend trying this program first since it’s free and has so many features.
For my own dual monitor setup, I ended up purchasing DisplayFusion because it also has a ton of features, but is more professional looking than Dual Monitor Tools. They have a free version, but I decided to spend $29 for the Standard Pro version.
Out of all the paid options, this is the best choice. It even has quite a few features that are specific to Windows 10, which pretty much no other software has. I also like the triggers feature, which is unique to DisplayFusion. It lets you run certain commands or scripts when events occur on your PC.
Actual Multiple Monitors
Actual Multiple Monitors is a program from DisplayLink. The price for the software is $25, but it does have a free trial. This program also has most of the standard features you’d expect like custom taskbars, additional title bar buttons, custom hotkeys, window snapping, desktop divider, desktop mirroring, etc.
UltraMon is also a good utility for multi-monitor systems, but it’s not as feature rich as the others I mentioned above. Also, 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
Overall, UltraMon is a decent program for managing multiple displays.
MultiMon is an older program that still works on most versions of Windows. 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 (though Windows does this automatically now). 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 $35, which is really high in my view! It also hasn’t been updated since 2013, which makes it very hard to recommend.
Those are the best options out there currently for managing dual monitors. There really isn’t all that much else out there in this category. If you use some other program, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!