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Multiple Computer Monitors Help You Multi Task - Boston

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Workers today can feel at times as if they are playing a video game, battling the barrage of e-mails and instant messages, juggling documents, Web sites and online calendars. To cope, people have become swift with the mouse, toggling among dozens of overlapping windows on a single monitor.

But there is a growing new tactic for countering the data assault: the addition of a second computer screen. Or a third.
Multiple computer monitors is the latest workplace upgrade, and it is responsible for the new look at companies and home offices — they are starting to resemble mission control.

For multiscreen multi-taskers, a single monitor can seem as outdated as dial-up Internet. “You go back to one, and you feel slow,” said Jackie Cohen, 42, who uses three 17-inch monitors in her home office in San Francisco, where she edits a blog about Facebook.

The center screen shows what your writing or editing, along with e-mail and instant messages; the left and right monitors display news sites, blogs and Twitter feeds, and you can keep 3 to 10 tabs open on each.

Certainly more people are trying. Tech firms sold 179 million monitors worldwide last year and only 130 million desktop computers — meaning “more screens per desk. Monitors are bigger, too. The average monitor sold worldwide is 21 inches, up from 18 inches five years ago, according to iSuppli.

A major supplier of monitors said 30-40% of the employees of its corporate customers now used more than one monitor, up from 1% four years ago.

There are many reasons for the spike in sales: monitors are much cheaper; they are slimmer, too, so desks can accommodate more of them; and there are more communication tools — instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook — that workers have to keep an eye on.

Companies will pitch it” to job candidates. They know real estate is important. It shows they are serious about their engineers. And the engineers do care about the screens

The main rationale for a multimonitor setup is that it increases productivity. But that notion is not simple to prove or measure, partly because it depends on the kind of work people do and whether they really need to be constantly looking at multiple data streams. Another theory holds that people have just grown so addicted to juggling that having more monitors simply creates a compulsion to check them.

One study, by the University of Utah, found that productivity among people working on editing tasks was higher with two monitors than with one.

The author of the study said he uses three monitors himself, but also said that it was hard to generalize about whether more monitors are better.

At the very least, more monitors cut down on toggling time among windows on a single screen, which can save about 10 seconds for every five minutes of work. If you have more than one monitor, “You don’t have to toggle back and forth. You can take in everything with the sweep of an eye.”

David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan whose research has found that multitasking can take a serious toll on productivity, said he buys the logic about toggling.

For assistance in setting up extra monitors, contact Sudbury Computer.

NY Times

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