Work on two screens - increase productivity or dispersal of attention?

Published on March 05, 2010

Work on two screens - increase productivity or dispersal of attention?

    Recently at work, I got a 17-inch monitor that stood idle on my desktop. I decided to try and connect it to the laptop, and since it was a little small as the main screen, naturally I began to use it as an extension of the desktop. First, the second screen showed a beautiful photo, i.e. served as a large photo frame, but gradually I managed to adapt the work style to two screens, approximately as follows.



    I use a laptop as the main screen - it’s what I work with the most - Outlook, a web browser (IE8), Explorer and sometimes Far Commander (yes, I'm from that generation of people who caught “the Norton commander” ”, And since then they prefer to use similar tools for file management). The second screen is turned slightly sideways (see the picture below), and it primarily performs a communication-inspiring function : it has Twitter ( Seesmic for Windows ), a gadget with photos, Office Communicator (which, after implementation, Enterprise Voice performs the function phone - from here and almost always worn headphones with a microphone) and Windows Live Messenger .

    In addition to communications, a second screen is used toconcentration of local focus of attention . For example, if I need to focus on writing one letter, it is dragged to the second screen (closing the twitter). Now, even if I am distracted by some urgent matters and I start to open many windows and folders, it is always easy to return to the “main” case - the eye itself reaches for Twitter and finds the corresponding window. And when the main business is completed and the window closes - I immediately want to write about it on the twitter that opens!

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    This unequal use of screens is partly due to the fact that the screens are of different sizes, and the eye experiences some discomfort when moving from one to another. In the case when the same monitors are used, you can consider the extended desktop just like a large desktop - in this case, a different work style may probably develop. However, since for all owners of laptops + external monitors such a situation with screen ambiguity will be the norm, it seemed to me useful to describe here my experience in the effective use of such a configuration. It turns out that I'm not the only one at Microsoft using this configuration - that’s Yana Frolova, my colleague, too! And others just use the monitor as the main one, without using a laptop panel at all.

    Friends, did you have experience in a multi-monitor configuration?Share your experience of how you use the workspace in this case! Notebook users - do you think an external monitor helps you work more efficiently, or rather scatters your attention? Is there anyone who worked with three monitors? And with four? I would be grateful for your experience - I am sure we all have something to learn from each other!

    PS I'm not sure I chose the right blog for publication - if you know where it is better to publish this kind of notes - advise!