Setting Up Multiple Screens with Windows 7
Today I’m going to show you how to setup multiple screens using Windows 7. If you’re already a Windows 7 user, then you’re in luck, because no other version of Windows has worked quite as well as Windows 7 does for using multiple screens. We’re also going to show you how to use some additional tools and get sweet backgrounds for your new multi-screen setup.
In case you weren’t sure why it’s a good idea to setup multiple monitors, here are some of the most popular reasons:
• You can spread out your work
• You can divide our workspace however you would like.
• You no longer have to contend with the restraints imposed by having only one monitor.
This article is going to show you how to setup your multiple screens with just the Windows 7 native too (no special software needed.) We’ll also highlight some additional tools that you can use if you’d like to go beyond what Windows 7 is capable of doing.
To get started there are a few things that you’ll want to have on hand:
1. Extra monitors (DUH!)
2. Extra cables
3. Video outputs for each of your monitors (we’ll go in depth later)
For dual screens, the easiest solution is to either buy a video card with multiple outputs or to buy an adapter like the Matrox DualHead2Go (or the TripleHead2Go if you want 3 monitors.) Above 3 monitors and the smart decision is to get multiple video cards that support at least 2 monitors each. Depending on what you’re going to be using the computer for, the quality of your video cards (i.e. how much you spend) may vary. For my particular system I have a an onboard video card that is attached to the motherboard for one monitor, then I purchased a NVidia Quadro that has 4 outputs. This works great by the way and was just under $500 at multi-monitors.com. Important side note: some onboard video cards won’t work if the system detects an external card as well. So you need to make sure it will work if you are counting on using the onboard card with an extra graphics card. Adding a graphics card is pretty common sense, and we won’t go into the details of the install in this article. That said, just make sure you discharge any static electricity you may be carrying around by touch something metal BEFORE you start tampering the inside of your computer!
Now, as I mentioned above, more and more people have started using multiple screens and so Windows and video card companies have taken notice. The result is that Windows 7 makes setting up your extra monitors a breeze. When I tried to setup up multiple screens back in 1999 with Windows 98 the driver support was extremely poor because the demand simply wasn’t there. Windows XP improved, but it still was quite a shot in the dark. To be honest with you, I have no idea how I was eventually able to get my multiple screens working under Windows XP- I just know that it somehow worked. And let me tell you, there was plenty of cussing, throwing things, uninstalling and reinstalling to be had during the whole process. I’m pretty sure there may have even been some human sacrifice (SHHHHHHH!!!!!- kidding.)
However, Windows 7 is different- quite different. When I first setup my multiple screens with Windows 7 I was actually running mismatched monitors, both had completely different resolutions and I was using two different types of video cards- one was NVidia and the other was ATI! Windows 7 detected everything just fine and there was very little trouble getting these multiple screens to work correctly.
The one thing that you will have to place with are the orders that monitors are in. So for example, I’m using 5 total monitors and I want Windows to know:
a) Which monitor is my “home” monitor or primary monitor.
b) Starting from left to right, how the monitors are arranged.
These two things allow me to easily switch from one to the other with my mouse, without having to figure out where they are at. If you click on the start menu and type screen resolution in the box you’ll get to the resolution settings. In the event that the newly hooked up displays weren’t auto detected, this is where you can make Windows find them. You’ll know it detected them because monitor will have a large white number displayed (only momentarily). Now you can setup the orientation however you like and mix the placement up to your liking as well. Before you leave the display settings window, make sure that all the monitors say extend these displays. If they say duplicate or show desktop only then you’ll want to correct that. Basically, you want windows to think that all of your screens are a giant extension of your desktop.
Now, if you’re like me and you originally tried to setup monitors in the 90s, guess what? You’re probably thinking, “WOW, that was EASY!” Mostly because you no longer have to search for drivers, you don’t have to keep a messy box full of 100 3.25 inch floppy disks. Thankfully Windows can detect most drivers, and even if it can’t, we’ve got the internet- the greatest invention in the history of mankind.
Here are some tips to help make sure you using your multiple screens aren’t a drag:
1. Increase the mouse sensitivity. You’ll notice almost immediately that having multiple screens (especially if you use more than 2) is an extremely big area and your mouse pointer is absolutely tiny. This is a setting you’ll have to play with to get right and then probably get use to, but trust me when I say you don’t want it to take 10 swipes of the mouse to get from screen A to screen Z. If you hit the start menu button and type mouse, you open the mouse settings. Under the pointer options you should see an option for mouse speed. You can also enhance the pointer precision here as well.
2. Using the CTRL visibility feature can be a huge help as well. With multiple screens, you’ll often find yourself wonder, “Where did my mouse go?” Fortunately with the CTRL visibility feature you just just click Control ) CTRL and when you do a large flicker will guide you to your pointer. This is a huge help, BELIEVE ME!
3. Using master keyboard shortcuts will help you speed up your workflow. You’ll want to save time by learning shortcuts so that you don’t have to drag your mouse so far to do every little task. Time is money and if you’ve installed multi-screens you likely wanted to improve your productivity. Using master keyboard shortcuts can help! A few of my favorites are:
• Windows Key + Spacebar – this temporarily enable Aero desktop peek that works in a similar fashion to the little peek button in the system tray taskbar.
• Windows Key + Home – This will minimize all of the Windows open except for the active one.
• Windows Key + Up or Down Arrow – This will minimize or maximize the active window.
• Windows Key + Left or Right Arrow – This activates the docking feature of Windows 7 which will move windows that are centered or on another side to any placement you’d like on your monitor. Try it out, this is a cool feature.
• Shift + Windows Key + Left or Right Arrow – This is similar to the docking feature, but is faster- it takes a window all the way to the left or right without stopping in at another “docking station.”
• Windows Key + P – Shifts between various display modes.
Unfortunately, Windows did forget to include a few really cool features, despite the overall ease of their install. For example- there is no way to span the task bar across multiple screens. So, despite having multiple monitors, all of your applications have to stay on the home monitor. This is the opposite of what you would expect- that each screen would have a taskbar and icons that includes the programs we’re using. Some paid programs that help with this are Ultramon, Actual Multiple Monitors and Display Fusion.
We’ll start with Ultramon: It will set you back about $40, but it has been around for a long time and there are a lot of people that still use it. It includes features such as the spanning taskbar, display profiles and title bar buttons for easily moving and stretching windows. This is an awesome program and well worth the 40 bucks you’ll shell out for it.
Display Fusion Pro: This program ROCKS! It costs $25 and does all of the things that Ultramon does, and includes specialized keyboard shortcuts for moving windows between monitors and a multi-screen taskbar that features Aero Peak. You can try a free version of this program for 30 days before you pay too!
Last and not least is Actual Multiple Monitors (AMM): It’s not quite a well known as the above mentioned programs, but it is an excellent program. It supports multi-screen screensavers and wallpaper and has a fantastic spanning taskbar that has many extra features, such as being able to put a start button on all of the monitors, group similar icons, see download progress across the toolbar and more! This program is certainly worth a gander if you’re looking for those extra features.
Now that you’ve got everything hooked up and your secondary programs running isn’t it time to put the pedal to the metal and really customize this baby. You can do this with some awesome multiple monitor wallpapers. There are a ton of sites out there that specialize in this, so I won’t name drop. Some of my favorite image sites are imgur.com and flickr.com- both feature some truly awesome HD multi-screen wallpapers that you’re going to love!
Screen savers for your multiple screen computer are really dependent on how your system is setup. That said, using some of the above mentioned software, you should be able to find screen savers that will run on your computer. If you’re cheating the system with the original graphics card + an additional be forewarned that you may have some issues.
Now, for those of you that may not have bought your multi-screen computer yet, have no fear. I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will be sure to help you get the right system for you. There is a company called multi-monitors.com that provides custom computer systems that are incredible. If you head on over to the website when you finish this article and check out what they have to offer you won’t be disappointed. Most important is that they staff and owners over at multi-monitors.com are experts in the field of multiple screen computers, so regardless of what type of project you’re trying to get setup; these guys will have the right system for you. They can help you get all setup. They started building custom multiple monitor computers around the turn of the century- so they are the true originals when it comes to multiple monitors. There are other companies around, but none have the reputation for quality and service like multi-monitors.com.
Hopefully this article has explained how you can not only setup a multi-screen computer system with Windows 7, but also how to customize that PC, so that you have not only a multi-screen computer, but an amazing multiple screen computer that functions exactly how you want it to function. Using Windows 7 has fortunately made it much easier for those of us that want to be more productive with our computer system, and now that you know what additional tools you can use, you are set to complete rock your work environment on as many screens as your heart desires.
Comments are currently closed.