The more monitors the merrier

I have been using multi-monitor configurations for quite a while and I can now hardly deal with only having the real estate of one monitor.

Previously I had a dual-monitor setup with my home PC and now that I have an iMac I have three monitors on my desk. The inner (and outer) geek in me rejoices at having so much screen real estate, though when I am doing my work I really gets tons of use out of such a setup and can get things done much more quickly that way.

I soon found that working with my iMac I really missed not having another monitor to work with. But even I draw the line at having four monitors on my desk as being a way too excessive. Just the energy requirements can seem extravagant. Though after seeing Al Gore’s three large monitor setup and a wide screen tv I don’t feel as bad.

My main working monitor is a 22 inch HP widescreen and I thought about maybe getting a switch so that I could go between using it with my PC and my iMac. I found a much better solution. This monitor had both a DVI and VGA display adapters which and a button in the front to switch between the two inputs. This was perfect since some monitor switches have a problem with ghosting if their is not enough shield around the VGA side.

This though is one thing annoying about Apple and sometimes their willingness to choose aesthetics over functionality. Their newer machines instead of using a standard DVI port, uses a mini-DVI port – an Apple only standard. Now this can make sense on a laptop where space is limited, but there is plenty of room on the back of an iMac. Now I have to admit the arrangement of USB, firewire, ethernet connector, and the mini-DVI port is quite aesthetically pleasing since every port looks roughly the same. So since this is not included with the computer you have to buy a mini-DVI adapter to be able to connect it to an external monitor. In my case instead of just buying one DVI cable I had to add the short adapter (which at 19 bucks is about the same as the much longer DVI cable.) Regardless though this is a much better solution than a monitor switch, which would have probably cost much more to get one that wouldn’t have ghosting problems.

I have to admit how pleased and happy I was in the how simple it was to setup. After I hooked up the new cable to my monitor with the adapter, the iMac recognized that an external monitor was being used and started to use it immediately. With Windows I always had to set it up first to start using the new monitor and to stretch the desktop onto it.

OSX System Preferences does allow you to set the screen resolutions for both monitors or if you want to mirror them. You can also set the arrangement of the displays depending on whether the external monitor is the left or the right and to also set which monitor has the menu bar. The preferences for the dock allow you to move the dock, but the options are only left, right, and bottom. It would have been nice to have a little more control of this since the bottom position refers to only the first monitor.

I did have one glitch at first where the context menu would come up on the first monitor even when you had right clicked something on the 2nd monitor. But a reboot cured this.

I do love how rock solid video is in OSX. On Windows if I moved a screen with video from one monitor to another you would often get glitches until you had dropped it in place.

Another thing I love about OSX is that you can easily set the wallpaper for either monitor independently. In Windows this is not supported directly, though there is a recent freeware program called Display Fusion that allows you to do this. In OSX just right click the display and select Display Desktop Background and you get two dialog boxes (one on each monitor) where you simply select the background you want to use.

So now when I am doing Windows intensive work I can switch my monitor to work with the PC and still have access to one Mac screen and when I am doing mainly Mac stuff I can switch the monitor source to the Mac and still have one Windows screen. This works great.

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