Get those pixels working for you
I just can't say enough about multiple monitors. I've had two monitors since 2003 and three since later that same year and have been hooked ever since.
If you're working on a computer I'm convinced you need to fill your field of vision with the work at hand. Working on something important on a 15" monitor is like viewing an eclipse through a pinhole projector. I prefer to stare directly at the sun*!
I was over at Brad Wilson's house yesterday and he mentioned he was going to buy a new 27" computer and needed to get rid of his Dell 30" (3007WFP-HC). Since I freaking LOVE Dell Monitors, I jumped at the chance (after calling my wife and asking her permission) to give myself a Christmas Gift and promptly drove away with a new 30" monitor for $700.
That's insane, you say! That's too much for a monitor! I say, nay nay. Even if it lasts only a year - and it will likely last much longer - that's $2 a day for pure joy and a nice tax deduction.
This brings my collection of Dell Monitors to 4 and my collection of screens to 5. Here's the lay of the land today. I even threw the 7" iMo Mimo Pivot in there for fun.
So that's 7130 wide, and roughly 1600 tall in most places. The machine is still running the same two (now obsolete) $75 video cards as when we built the "Coding Horror Ultimate Developer Rig" a few years back.
I'm running just TWO NVidia GeForce 8600 GTS with 256megs each. They are VERY modest cards, in my opinion, but the work nicely and I still have a WEI of 6.4 for Graphics even on this two year old machine.
All you need to run multiple monitors is, ahem, multiple monitors, and a video card (or two) that has more than one connector. I have two cards that each have two DVI connectors. You can use two cards that each have one connector but you'll soon run out of slots on your PC.
If you don't have an extra monitor, maybe you have an extra laptop? You can use your laptop as an extra monitor with MaxiVista.
Get those pixels working for you! Go get another monitor!
- Gone Quad - Day 0 with the Ultimate Developer PC (series)
- The CodingHorror Ultimate Developer Rig Throwdown: Part 1
- The CodingHorror Ultimate Developer Rig Throwdown: Part 2
- The CodingHorror Ultimate Developer Rig Throwdown: Part 3
- Hanselminutes Podcast 69 - Building a Developer PC
- Hanselminutes Podcast 74 - Jeff Atwood overclocks the Ultimate PC
- Building a PC, Part I
- Building a PC, Part II
- Building a PC, Part III
* I'm kidding. Seriously, what's wrong with you? ;)
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
I have two cards, each with two DVI's--one card dedicated to the 30" (also used for gaming), and the other to the smaller side monitors.
I'm curious, you mention that you have 5 monitors.. and 4 DVIs. Does the tiny Hulu-esque monitor y-split off another?
"At some point you need to see the sun light"
I was convinced at that point that I was being a dork, but then you pull your "Scott and Brad make 7" monitor post and I'm back on my need for more pixels. Hanselman - my wife will be calling you.
lazytom - check out DisplayFusion for applying different backgrounds to each monitor. The free version will give you that. The pay version does a bunch more (multiple taskbars, etc).
Oh... and to answer the first comment, UltraMon or SyncFusion are both must have apps if you're running multiple displays - and they both let you set up different wall papers for each monitor.
Got any plans on an updated version of the Build the Ultimate Developer PC entry? :)
cyril - Actually human direct field of vision is 60 degrees wide, not 6 degrees.
I'm considering updating the Ultimate Developer PC, but I need to get the OK from the wife.
Chris and others - I'm adding an SSD this week I think. ;P
LazyTom - Yes, UltraMon will change your background on a monitor by monitor basis.
What's your typical "in the zone, mind like water" setup as far as apps running on those screens?
Quick statement: I hope you circulate that desktop background, unless you have a preference for Hanselman.Son.dll beta 1 over Hanselman.Son.dll beta 2 :)
Also, the 6 degree field of vision is what your eyes can focus on, though your unfocused field is large (obviously). I don't know if its 6 degrees, I heard a 2 pence coin held at arms length is what you bring into sharp focus.
In the voice of Father Jack ... more ... monitors!
At the moment I use two 19" screens, one for VS and one for Outlook + the Scrum TaskBoard. What I miss is a third monitor for all my ALT tools like NUnit console, MSBuild console and so on ...
Do you have a spare one? LOL :-)
A 'real' window can be seen as an extra screen for inspiration.
At home I've got two main large monitors (24" and 20") and a third one which is a small touch screen (10") which is angled slightly backwards. It's really handy having a touch screen in the mix, so you can quickly tap buttons in apps like media player or calculator.
what a waste of electricity and resources.
Doing your bit to save the planet.
"sufficient resolution to read text typically spans about 6 degrees of arc.."
6 Degrees wide, Yeah!
You may well do more than your average joe....
but 5? that's not excessive?
Cyril - I'm not talking about the size of the spot on the retina. Depending on how you measure, field of view in humans is very wide. Again, wikipedia:
"For example, binocular vision, which is important for depth perception, only covers 140 degrees of the field of vision in humans"
I actually went from 2 monitors back to one, the initial reason being I was twisting too much in my seat during the day and making a existing back problem worse. Since then though I have also found I can stay on task better; I don't have email on one side, IM, etc. to glance at every few seconds. Of course, if I were more disciplined I could have closed these apps and only had those open that related to the task at hand. That being said, I still get the biggest monitor I can afford; I like the desk space to play with.
By the way, thanks for posting your Orodev key note, despite the sound quality I enjoyed it very much, and am working on applying what you said to my email/twitter/IM/news feeds...
I really like 24" 1920x1200 monitors and wouldn't want anything larger. There are studies saying that going from 18" to 24" increases productivity, but going from 24" to 30" actually hurts productivity. Likewise going from 1 to 2 monitors is a drastic improvement, 2-3 is a marginal improvement. Past that is bragging rights.
I could see having a 30" if I made my living doing Photography post production, otherwise it also fits in the bragging rights category :) There are times where it would be helpful, but those times would be more than offset by the time you loose normally.
I just received a promotion and now I'm relegated to a laptop and a 23" monitor. I *do* feel like I'm looking at an eclipse through a pin hole.
But given a limited money supply, I would have to say that you really need to put the SSD cash into your laptop first. That's where you'll get the sickest gain, because laptops spin down the primary HDD *all the time*. They also have slower speeds to begin with, by far, to begin with compared to your desktop. In fact, I would go so far as to say that hard drive speed is the reason I never do development on my laptop at all.
Then again, if you do most of your development on the desktop, it's worth it to at least get an 80 gig X25-M (don't forget to make sure the firmware is up to date) as your boot/Visual Studio drive. Best investment you'll ever make in performance, by far. My computer is a 3 or 4 ? year old Core2 duo and it screams with the SSD. It'll ruin you.
Tim - I vote for rock climbing.
Dave - I have the SSD in my pocket. I'll install this week.
You're monitor setup looks like to disfunctional. Can't you mount some of them on the wall or something to make things a bit more organized?
Five of these monitors cost less (in Australia) than one 30" Dell which only has 4.1 megapixels. The only problem with portrait monitors is ClearType doesn't work properly. Tuning does improve it, but it's not as good as a landscape setup.
I won't use multi-monitor software because when you have enough screen space, you don't need to Alt-Tab; every application has its own area, so why waste space on a 6000px long taskbar? Pixels = productivity and Visual Studio is so much better with 1920 vertical pixels. Adding another screen is a much better investment for most people than a new quad core CPU or SSD, and they're so cheap these days!
Someone mentioned earlier about moving from a dual monitor setup back to one because "I was twisting too much in my seat during the day and making an existing back problem worse". A few years ago I was suffering from lower back pain mainly because I sat down all day. I built a makeshift stand-up workstation and have been working that way ever since. You have to wear good shoes (preferably with paediatric inserts) and it takes about a week for your feet to get used to it. I also religiously do the six stretches described in 3 Minutes to a Pain-Free Life by Dr Joseph Weisberg every day. These two simple measures have completely eliminated my back pain.
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