Do 2 monitors really make us more productive?

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Eric Durbrow

Aug 20, 2010, 6:13:57 PM8/20/10
There is an interesting discussion at 

regarding whether 2 monitors do indeed increase productivity. In the comments someone suggested that people who write (e.g. academics) benefit from two monitors but many other commentators note the opposite: A second monitor just increases distractions.

I am curious with an academic writers benefit from a two monitor set-up or if they tried it and abandoned it.

Thanks for any comments.


Don Blohowiak

Aug 23, 2010, 10:12:34 AM8/23/10
I used two monitors, one vertically oriented, for articles and papers once upon a time. 

Now that I use DevonThink Pro, I find that interface to be superior, more flexible and serviceable. It renders the two-monitor set-up for academic work unnecessary. It finds and conveniently displays relevant information in various file formats far faster than anything else I know of. 

My basic rule now is: If I think I need two monitors, reconsider how much I'm trying to do at one time. 


Don Blohowiak
PhD student, Human Development

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Kevin Coates

Aug 25, 2010, 1:01:13 PM8/25/10
I used to use two 4:3 ratio monitors before widescreen monitors became relatively cheap.  I think the debate should really about how much screen space you need: for me, being able to view a draft text at the same time as a reference document is extremely useful.  Anything more than that, I agree, is just clutter.
Kevin Coates
Skype: kevin_coates
Tel: +32-485-80-30-25


Jul 16, 2011, 6:28:06 PM7/16/11
For writing my PhD thesis I find 2 monitors extremely useful.
I have a 13" Notebook and a 22" flat screen and especially for writing with LaTeX I find it very helpful to have the tex source files on one screen and the "rendered" PDF on the second (a whole double page at once).

When analyzing data, I sometimes even have a second (old) notebook at hand - however working with more than one keyboard is a disadvantage IMHO, as it is not possible (with a normal desk) to work on both computers comfortably.

Derek Chirnside

Jul 16, 2011, 7:47:12 PM7/16/11
It's crystal clear to me:
When I want to refer to something and write elsewhere, two monitors are a HUGE help.
eg, I'm writing a note to a student re something they have written, I'm grading, I'm writing individual e-mails to a list, I'm summarising, I'm course building with a student view on the right and a design view on the left.  (etc etc)

No more tabbing, no more printing a reference list.


Derek Chirnside -
For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century a powerful tide bore Americans into ever deeper engagement in the life of their communities, but a few decades ago--silently, without warning--that tide reversed and we were overtaken by a treacherous rip current. Without at first noting, we have been pulled apart from one another and from our communities over the last third of the century - Bowling Alone; Putnam, 2000, p.27

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Jul 19, 2011, 8:37:33 AM7/19/11
Honestly, it's more about screen space than the number of screens.
I've done the two monitor thing and it is only more efficient if you
run your windows maximized. Personally, I have a 26" monitor and have
usually 4 or 5 windows up at a time in varying sizes around the
screen. That way I can refer to multiple sources of information at
the same time, rather than just two. You end up with things cropped
off and split with multiple monitors if you attempt to work in that
fashion on a dual monitor setup.

Lalit "Leo" R

Jul 19, 2011, 1:12:48 PM7/19/11
13" (laptop monitor) to 24" monitor (external) - I prefer an additional monitor - this is usually a laptop working as a secondary screen. I have not experienced two 17" or greater monitors side by side - I would love to though!

With a 26" and above, my limited experience tilts me towards Wayland's suggestion of multiple sources in one screen.

As for writing - I enjoy the portrait mode with the dell monitors. For doing spreadsheets I prefer 24" and above.
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