Do You Prefer a Single or Dual Monitor Setup?


A dual monitor setup is something which I have considered for a long time. I am yet to go for it because, honestly, I think it could distract me instead of enhancing my productivity.

Having said that, a lot of people seem to work better with two monitors. Even with a laptop, some people prefer to add another screen on one side. This setup does have its advantages. For example, you could assign one monitor for native applications and the other for browsing and web research. That’s just one example – there are many other merits.

Some people prefer to go for a big 30 inch screen instead of dual monitors because it offers bigger screen real estate that eliminates the need to scroll down often.

So, what do you prefer? A single or dual monitor setup? Have you tried using two monitors? How has it affected your work?


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Abhijeet Mukherjee is the editor of Guiding Tech, a blog that publishes in-depth articles and tutorials on all things tech, including mobile news and tutorials. He's been into web working since 2008 and continues to enjoy each day of it. He loves to interact with people so hit him up on Twitter.

Discussion

  1. Steve Robillard on the 5th August

    I have 3 full size wide screens (2 19in. and 1 20.5in) plus a sub monitor (9in). I can’t imagine going back to a single monitor and I am considering adding another monitor a vertical one for word docs etc.

    • dre on the 20th June

      I am an I.T guys and currently have 4 monitors.
      Since 1999 i had 3 17″ CRT monitors hooked to my computer due to my IT work. Eventhought I suggested to a lot of IT people and work environment to go for 2, had always met with oposition only to findce out that few years back it is becoming the standard in work industry.

  2. Kristina Hansen on the 5th August

    Now that I have a dual monitor set up I can’t imagine having to work on a single again. I’ve gotten spoiled!

  3. Thomas James on the 5th August

    Since the keyboard and trackpad on my current laptop no longer work, I’m considering getting a new computer and using the old one as a second monitor. This might help me to split up my tasks of Illustrating and running a professional blog, but I’m interested in hearing what others have to say.

    Thomas

  4. RJ McCollam on the 5th August

    Definitely need two monitors. I like to use one dedicated to a web browser. I can also see the reason for having three monitors, but am content with my two for now. I alway shave my iPad and Air Display if I need some more screen real estate.

  5. William Herring on the 5th August

    Two monitors are better than one. Can’t imagine going back to one. I may step it up to three.

  6. Christopher Masiello on the 5th August

    I would prefer a giant 30 inch monitor, but I use my laptop with a 19 inch instead.

    • Lucas Lower on the 15th February

      A 30 inch screen does not give you mare screen real estate, it simply increases your resolution and makes programs seem larger.

  7. Mickey on the 5th August

    Kristina is right; once you go double, you’ll never go back. I have a triple setup at home, and a drag an extra monitor with my laptop when I go on the road.

    Triple didn’t make that big of a difference, but I believe that almost everyone would benefit from having two.

  8. Eugene Cheung on the 5th August

    How about using two 19″ or 20″ screens and putting them beside each other vertically? It would fix the scrolling issue…

  9. JohnO on the 5th August

    Dual monitors.. Been dual monitor for about the last 10 yrs. Current sets is two 24’s. But even if I had a 30″ monitor, i’d still be running a second monitor right next to it.

  10. Mauricio Zambrano on the 5th August

    Dual is always the way better

  11. Lis on the 5th August

    Agree with Kristina, I can’t imagine going back now that I’ve been working dual. You definitely get used to the extra work space.

  12. Peter Lockhart on the 5th August

    Once I started using a second monitor, every setup I’ve had since has been dual. Couldn’t go back now.

  13. Andy on the 5th August

    Dual, absolutely – when I switched from one 24″ widescreen to two, my productivity (and nerdiness) shot through the roof. Need to get me a new ATi Eyefinity card so I can grab a third screen!

  14. Raf on the 5th August

    I had my laptop plugged into a 20″, but the lid was closed, it made no sense to keep it open. It sure stays closed now that I went for a 30″ screen.

    How’s the 30″? For the first week I said “whoaah” every time I sat in front of it. Now I’m sure it was the best computer related purchase ever. Having Coda open next to a browser, both about 1500 px high is how web-dev was meant to be.
    Photo editing gets even better. Very recommended.

  15. Yalanda Medina on the 5th August

    Without questions its dual monitors. I am thinking of adding a third.

  16. WC on the 5th August

    I preferred one big instead of two monitors. Two monitors is distracting to me. And, if I do duel monitors setup, two monitors need to be an exact same sizes. Something like 20″ monitor with 15″ laptop monitor, I rather to use the one of them instead.

  17. Anil Amrit on the 5th August

    Definitely dual set-up, been running dual for the last 5 years, 1 Lacie 19″ CRT Calibrated and 1 Formac 19″ TFT.

    i use the lacie one primarily for print work and the TFT for web/online work.

    I did however use a 30″ apple screen last week but still missed the 2nd monitor

  18. Mike Abasov on the 5th August

    I combine 15′ laptop and an iPad. Works great!

  19. Hilary on the 5th August

    If I didn’t have “spaces” (multiple/virtual desktops) on the macbook I would definitely go for at least two monitors. I prefer this though because I can focus on things, group open programs together on different desktops and also remain portable.

    If I had a netbook or something smaller I would definitely opt for an extra monitor even if I found a windows equivalent to spaces.

  20. Ben Brooks on the 5th August

    I used to be a dual monitor guy for a long time, but I found the second monitor getting cluttered with distracting things like Twitter. Now I just use one monitor and I am much more focused – for me one is best.

  21. GlennS on the 5th August

    I’ll go the contrarian route. My MBP recently conked out and I had a dual monitor setup back then. When using my current replacement desktop computer, I have been stuck on single monitor duty ever since.

    While I have been pining for another monitor, I found out that Spaces can fill the need for an extra monitor if all the other monitor does is status updates like incoming SMS, mail and system stats. So my fall back is working pretty well and I don’t miss the extra real estate as much and I save on some electricity too.

  22. Bill Reid on the 5th August

    Two monitors is definitely the better setup. Particularly with Win7, it means you can snap a window to fullscreen/halfscreen just by dragging.

    I normally keep Outlook open in one and active work in the other. When I need a second view, the extra work covers the Outlook Window.

    It’s particularly useful for web coding since you can keep a live preview open and crucial for debugging development work. I wouldn’t put a developer or designer on a single monitor ever again, no matter how large it was. And I’ve moved almost our whole financial staff to a dual monitor setup also – they’re always working on multiple documents simultaneously.

  23. Marco Bezoet de Bie on the 5th August

    I use a dual setup and i can’t live without it anymore. It is especially handy when watching tutorials such as on Lynda.com. I use my second monitor also as a reference monitor (to place sample material, inspirational images, bugfixes, etc).

  24. Andy Stoica on the 5th August

    Used to be on a triple head display (20 – 24 – 20) but downgraded to dual screen (24 front – 24 left).

    On the left I usually keep secondary applications like finder, safari or mail while main work is done on the main screen.

    Just like everyone else here, productivity has dramatically increased. I don’t have to worry where is that resource folder or how many times to CMD+TAB to bring back the browser.

  25. Jacek Dominiak on the 5th August

    I’ve been using multi display for years. Started with two. As the profession developed I’ve ended up with 4 24″ vertical screens which I think it’s the best setup for me, since I work mostly with charts and terminal.

  26. Laura on the 5th August

    I run two laptops (I’m not savvy enough to connect/operate two monitors). This has so improved my productivity. I’m able to write on one and perform research on another.

    Occasionally, I work at other locations and, just for ease of transport, I only lug one laptop. I’m telling you, there’s a major difference.

  27. Martin S. on the 5th August

    Dual monitor setup is a win. Improved productivity + it feels good.

    I work as a web developer and it really is great writing code on one monitor and test on the other one, without switching windows and such stuff. I’d even consider a third monitor too.

    Monitors are cheap gear compared to what you get back from a such investment.

  28. Well I use a single monitor. I see many people using dual monitors.

    I guess I won’t know until I try.

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  29. HonShi on the 6th August

    I’m using 3 monitors. 15.4″ MBP hooked up with 24″ widescreen LCD and sharing common keyboard and mouse using Synergy to ah 24″ widescreen LCD Win7 and I’m utilizing the “Space” app on Mac OS X to get more screen space. Web development is definitely better using multiple screens to test out codes on different browsers/OS.

    Spaces used for different usage such as social media, movie, music, calendar will all be on separate spaces, opened for fast easy access using shortkey to swap screens.

  30. Rene Mayer on the 6th August

    I’m using my Dell Latitude in the dock with 2 monitors, a 26″ and a 19″. Most of the time this is the best choice, but it can be a distraction too.

    So for really focused work, I sometimes take the notebook out of the dock and make my current window full screen and close all other things.

  31. Grant on the 6th August

    Definitely dual monitors, it’s make such a difference to my productivity.

    One 24″ widescreen for normal stuff and a 19″ for outlook / twitter. I sometimes have a KVM setup on the 19″ for when I’m building other machines, makes life much easier than taking everything apart.

    Good times!

  32. James on the 6th August

    I always prefer two 30 inch monitors! Best of both worlds!

  33. Spencer Westwood on the 6th August

    Once you’ve tried Dual monitors you don’t want to go back.

    It’s nothing to do with screen size. Keeping different apps on different screen resets your focus but doesn’t break ‘flow’ when you physically move your head which to many people is much more relaxing.

    Even with huge hi-resolution monitors, I find myself running out of space on the desktop when doing development or web design. Many applications are designed to run maximised and this makes life difficult when you need to swap between say Photoshop, Firefox and Deamweaver repeatedly when tweaking website designs – switching between apps breaks the flow.

    Spen.

  34. Tom on the 6th August

    I’ve been using two 30-inch Dells on my Mac Pro for a couple of years now and I would never go back to a single monitor. The sheer size is a big plus, but also having a secondary screen for certain things has proven to be indispensible.

    The secondary screen needn’t necessarily be a 30-inch, a 20-inch rotated by 90 degress would probably work just as well, as I have to crane my neck a bit too far to see my Twitter client in the bottom right corner 😉

    As for setup: Browser, editor, graphics apps etc. go on the primary screen, email, task management, Twitter, iTunes, tool palettes and anything else I don’t use more than a minute or two at a time goes on the secondary. I have also set Apple Mail to open individual email windows on the primary screen so I don’t have to constantly turn my head when I’m writing an email.

  35. Kuswanto on the 6th August

    I was dual monitor person. Now I am back to single monitor setup. Having dual monitor exhausted. It was too much things to see. The reason I am back to single monitor also to keep my workflow simple and also I am using pomodoro technique to manage my workload. One monitor makes me to focus more on my tasks.

  36. Ashley Hill on the 6th August

    Dual, definitely. After 5 months of doing design on ONLY my laptop screen (and on the couch) having a second monitor is awesome, just gives me a lot more real estate to work with, and it allows me to spread out a bit.

  37. Jonas Brauer on the 6th August

    I’m using a 19 inch monitor as main display and the display of my macbook pro 17 as extra. Also I’m using two spaces in OS X.
    I am really looking forward to Apples new cinema display though. http://www.apple.com/displays/

  38. Chris Risse on the 6th August

    I have gone back and forth on this many times.

    I had a dual 4:3 monitor setup for quite awhile before including a third. I felt my desktop was too cluttered and opted for an extra large 16:10. Now I am back at three monitors with my largest on landscape and two smaller screens on portrait on either side. I am seeking a fourth monitor to go above to extend my main workspace.

    I’m sure in the not-so-distant future I will be back to one screen or whatever new technology is available.

  39. Jacob Smith on the 6th August

    I was in the camp that would “never go back” to one monitor, but I have and I now would “never go back” to two monitors.

    Which means I will at some point.

    I think it depends on the kind of work you do. If it was my job to monitor a number of things during all my working hours, or if I was coding a lot and wanted documentation on one screen and the dev app on the other I might go back.

    But for what I’m doing forcing me to focus on just one thing is better.

    • David on the 8th August

      Any chance, did you have any neck/shoulder pain that went away after going back to one? I have 2 now, so I have this theory…

  40. Simon MacDonald on the 6th August

    As a software developer it has been conclusively proven that the two monitor setup is more productive than a single monitor. At my old company we used to scrounge old monitors that we’d setup at our desks to act as our emai/IM screen while doing our real work on the main screen. Two monitors are definitely the way to go.

  41. Bill on the 6th August

    Dual monitors all the way! I’ve got (2) 24″ LG Full HD monitors on my desk at work, and it’s definitely a huge productivity boost. As an IT admin, I’m constantly logged into multiple systems, have many management consoles open, plus email and our trouble ticketing system, so having access to many windows without having to move them all around is excellent!

  42. Jussi Roine on the 6th August

    I’m using a 30″ as my main, and two 24″ on both sides. It’s pretty good but lately I’ve been pondering if using just two 30″ monitors would be better to avoid much scrolling between the screens.

  43. Bret Juliano on the 6th August

    I’ve been using dual monitors at work but only have my laptop at home. When I have the money, I’m going to get dual monitors (at least). It makes it so much easier to utilize software as a web developer. Separate monitors for the browsers, coding software, file folders/email, etc. I think that 3-4 would be optimal for me.

  44. Mike Vardy on the 6th August

    I may just have to use that Air Sharing app to make my iPad a second screen now. Been using one monitor forever and an additional one may need to be added to my setup.

  45. Pablo Valerio on the 6th August

    Always dual… I started to use it working for Appian Graphics several years ago. They pioneered multi monitor configurations, mostly for the trading rooms (Now their software Hydravision comes with ATI cards).

    I can have my email on one monitor and work mostly on the second one. Of course I’d like to have a giant 32″ screen, but a 24″ with 2550 resolution is great.

  46. M.E. Baz on the 6th August

    I have 3 full screen monitors. Multi-tasking has become multi-distractions. Currently looking for a coworker to give one away to. :)

  47. Aamnah Akram on the 7th August

    I use one screen usually, but plug my laptop to a bigger screen whenever i get the chance.
    Never tried it for productivity, but i played games with dual screens and its awesome! =D
    I’ll definitely get a dual system the 1st chance i get.

  48. Aamnah Akram on the 7th August

    For productivity purposes, im of the opinion that it’ll be multi-distractions, and less focus.

  49. Octavian Damiean on the 7th August

    Definitely a dual monitor setup. I’ve been using one for many years now and I wouldn’t want to miss it.

    It just speeds up your workflow as you don’t have to constantly switch between open applications.

  50. Jared on the 7th August

    I can’t image not using a dual monitor setup. I think it mostly depends if you have a bunch of apps open or not – but in any case, I think 2 screens is always better than one.

    For instance, even if all I do is type word documents all day, I like to run my music app or have my email open on the other screen.

    More often then not, I am using one screen to browse files to drag to my other screen with Photoshop or Illustrator. Or I am editing a website in dreamweaver on one page, and refreshing the browser in the other.

  51. Piry on the 7th August

    I have a dual monitor system and like everyone said above, you can’t go back to one.

    So clearly I prefer the dual monitor setup.

    I would really like to replace them with 3 monitors though.

  52. Luce on the 9th August

    Two monitors too!
    One’s always reserved for photoshop and the other for web browsing, going through folders, illustrator,…
    it just saves time and helps reducing the chances to go crazy with all theses applications opened. 😉

  53. Ken WDS on the 10th August

    I’m using 2 LCD Monitors (24inch and 17 inch square). I can work more effective using 2 monitors.

    Designing in Photoshop and coding in Dreamweaver using 24 inch monitor then looking the result in browser with my 17 inch monitor so I can get real picture how my design looked in 1024 pixel monitor.

    Same like everyone who already use 2 monitors, it’s hard to go back using only one monitor.

  54. Chris on the 17th August

    Yeh, I agree – so much better using two. Spaces or virtual desktops don’t come close.

    I’d also say that two 19″ is better than one 30″ – just much easier task seperation, less time spent resizing and moving windows to display side by side

  55. Denise Lechner on the 25th August

    I just own a 13″ and 17″ Screen but for me its easier to keep focused with one screen. Moreover its really easy to work with when you are using Exposé, at least for me :)

  56. Nathan on the 3rd September

    It does very much depend on how you intend to use your monitors. Personally, I like to have one for active documents with the other dedicated to research. I found that using them that way really helped as far as productivity goes, as it’s amazing how much time is wasted just by flicking between windows.

    It used to be practicality that was the problem but there are any number of multi screen support systems available now.

  57. Paul on the 11th September

    I could never go back to using a single monitor setup at work. It’s perfect – one monitor has the web browsers, FTP, and database client open, and the other has my IDE and SSH sessions.

    At home, I use my 42″ TV as my monitor, so it’s big enough that I don’t need a second display. I mostly do my serious programming just at work, anyway.

  58. Michael on the 27th November

    I’ve worked on Single, Dual, and currently Triple Monitors.
    I grew up working on a single monitor from Win 3.1 up until three years ago.
    I tried Dual monitors in win XP and Vista but found it extremely distracting. Why? because you either have no ‘center’ monitor, where you’re head naturally rests, or you have an uneven display which runs to one side or another.
    However, when you make the switch to an odd number of monitors such as 3 or 5 the distraction disappears and productivity skyrockets. with a 3 monitor setup, You can work with your head at rest looking at the center, while simultaneously having references, web pages, or even entertainment on the side monitors.
    As a side note, as a Programmer / Graphic designer, Widescreen is a must, even in triplehead.

    • Michael on the 27th November

      Another thing I forgot to mention about having multiple monitors, Its Great to run Virtual machines on the side monitors. And side by side comparison of different clients (think web developers (IE compatability))

  59. Andy on the 25th March

    Really depends on what I am doing. If it is just browsing single is better but if I am working… Oh no wait I only ever use one monitor because I am poor!

  60. jdidzl on the 10th April

    I’m back to a single setup since I went over to OSX and do not miss having an extra. I prefer a large monitor i.e. a 27″ or 30″ @ high resolution 2550 and expose. I am more productive on it, than say windows at work where I have 2 dual 22″s. I think a lot is actually the operating system (not to get into a war about it) but it’s true.

  61. jdidzl on the 10th April

    oh and I do think Michael could be onto something with the 3… the 2 is kind of annoying and never quite comfortable, especially there for 8 hours.

  62. sanji on the 22nd April

    I wish I have two monitors so I can do multi task, planning to get one. A PC with dual monitor and my laptop. Hopefully this will make my workload a lot better.

  63. michael on the 21st August

    triple. 15″ laptop to 22″ screen, then mac mini to another 22″ screen. I need to test on both, and like the ability to undock the laptop and keep working in a different place.

  64. Terrance on the 9th November

    I am go against the grain here and say… Single. And not a desktop at that… Just the laptop.
    Why? I can work anywhere and everywhere. I do not like sitting at a desk, I can lay on the couch and get work done, go to a coffee shop and get work done (where I do most of my work) etc.
    I guess if I was forced to work a 9-5 and sit at a desk, then sure I would want more. But as a freelance developer? No way. That was one of my biggest pet peeves of going freelance is so I could be mobile and NOT at a desk all day. Sorry, I just hate working like that. For every 10% or so of productivity you have, I’ll gain that back in being able to work anywhere and everywhere at a moments notice from my laptop and be much more comfortable.
    Sure there are times when I’d like a huge high res monitor…but I’m pretty good with switching windows fast and have a high resolution laptop so… I’ll stick with this. I couldn’t ever go back to sitting at a desk with 2, 3 or 20 monitors. Doesn’t matter, the freedom and mobility of working on a laptop

  65. jahala on the 12th November

    At work I have two external monitors plugged into my laptop so I use three screens. For the kind of work I do, it really enhances productivity. At home, I have a 24″ monitor and a 32″ TV that I can plug into my laptop, but I usually just use one screen at a time. For watching movies, I plug in the 32″ TV and close the laptop lid. Otherwise, I am just browsing the web and doing personal communication, so I usually just use the laptop alone. I plug in the 24″ monitor if I am working at home or doing something that requires reference material to be available at the same time.

  66. pranav on the 16th January

    For productivity dual is good option, but I would prefer single for leisure purpose

  67. Victor on the 15th July

    I prefer a single large screen than dual monitor. I used to use dual monitor in the past but seems didn’t work well for me. I was less focus and got more distractions on arranging windows.

  68. Marco Berrocal on the 14th December

    I have been using two dual monitors lately but I feel I am getting a lot of neck pain (specially on the left side) and I think it has to do with it. It isn’t pain per se, but it’s like as if my neck is stiffer and stiffer and I have a tough time with flexibility around it. Could this be due to the monitors?

    It is to be noted that they aren’t next to each other per se, they are but at an angle that isn’t 180 degrees one next to the other but more or less they form a vertex of 20-30 degrees.

  69. More2Wish on the 25th November

    Good Article… I prefer dual but sometime single setup required

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