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I'm putting together a business case for the developers in my company to get a second monitor. After my own experiences and research, this seems a no-brainer to me in terms of increasing productivity and morale/happiness. One question which has niggled me is if I should be pushing to get all developers onto a second monitor or let folk opt-in (i.e. they get one if they want one). Thoughts on this are welcome, but my specific question relates to a snippet on this site:

But when the IT manager at Thibeault's company asked other employees if they wanted dual monitors last year, few jumped at the offer.

Blinded by my own pre-judgement, this surprised me. Has anyone else experienced this?

I fully appreciate that some people prefer a single larger monitor, but my general experience of researching the web suggests that most programmers prefer a dual (or more) setup. I'm guessing this should be tempered with the thought that those developers who contribute to such discussions might not be considered your average developer who might not care one way or the other.

Anyway, if you have experienced the above have you tried to sell the concept of dual monitors to the masses? If everyone just got 2 monitors regardless if they wanted it or not, were there adverse reactions or negative effects?

UPDATE: The developers are on a mixture of 17", 22", or 24" single monitors. The desks should be able to accommodate dual 22" monitors as I am proposing, though this will take some getting used to I imagine.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, GlenH7, Kilian Foth, MichaelT, Joris Timmermans May 6 '13 at 13:39

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

If your developers don't want them, please send the monitors to me. –  Brant Bobby Feb 22 '11 at 16:53
I asked for a second monitor at my hiring interview. And I got one. :) –  greyfade Feb 22 '11 at 18:45
I fell in love with Windows 7 just because of how window docking worked with my dual monitors. –  zzzzBov Feb 22 '11 at 20:59
Well, I give my developers a choice of 2 x 24" monitors or 1 x 30" monitor. Some like to have stuff split up by screens and some love just having a ton of screen real estate. I personally, would rather have 2 30" monitors but I can't justify the graphics card upgrade right now! –  Nodey The Node Guy Feb 23 '11 at 3:32

17 Answers 17

We've got one guy on our team who refuses a first monitor, let alone a second. We're all forced to develop on terrible Dell laptops; most of us have two LCD screens, but this one guy insists on only using the 15" laptop display.

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It isn't obvious that you need the second one until you have one so they don't see the need. Showing them how you use it might be more convincing in a couple of minutes than anything. Also some people would rather have a single large high-resolution one, e.g., Apple 27" rather than two smaller ones.

Windows 7 has a snap-to-screen feature which makes using large monitors easier. For earlier version I recommend WinSplit revolution.

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Yes, yes, I traded two smaller monitors for one bigger, and found it more convenient, for you don't have that split line near the center of your FOV and generally need to move your eyes less. But I'm a programmer; should I need to edit hi-res video or even develop a full-screen app (e.g. a game), I'd attach a second monitor. –  9000 Feb 22 '11 at 18:20

I can honestly say that after having worked extensively with both single and dual monitor setups, I don't really care much for extra monitors. It can be marginally positive, but only if it's the exact same models. When the pixel density or colors differ I absolutely hate working with it and disconnect all but one.

I like the ability to have two or more windows side by side, but I would much rather have one big (2560x1440) monitor than two regular sized (1920x1080). The most important factor for me, however, is image quality - colors, sharpness, flicker-free.

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See the logo of this web-site. It has a coffee, and 3 monitors. That proves, programmers need more than one monitor. I'm gonna get my second one soon. Working on a 23' now.

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A 23 foot monitor?! ;) –  prelic Feb 23 '11 at 3:50

I currently work with two 21" 4:3 ratio LCD monitors, and love it. Couldn't possibly go back to just one of them, no sir.

However, I have noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy 4:3 ratio monitors, to the extent that many retailers don't stock any of them at all, only 16:9 widescreens.

I really don't think I'd like to have two 16:9 monitors. The combination of them side by side would be soooo low and wide, it wouldn't even remotely fit my field of vision.

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I used to feel the same way, but I've found some ways I like to take advantage of that extra bit of width, like running the start bar vertically. I often have 15-30 app windows open at once, and with a vertical start bar they all get displayed with titles, making it much quicker to find and switch between them (yes, even with 3 monitors I still have to switch windows frequently). –  qes Feb 23 '11 at 2:27

I'm a huge fan of having at least two monitors.

My company has a policy where you can either get a very large (30") monitor or two smaller monitors (might be 27" or 24"). I ended up getting a 30" and then asking for a small leftover 22" from somewhere.

I am not sure what the reason behind this is, though I suspect that the small size of the workstations in some offices (and the fact that people want to keep a laptop around as well) makes it a tight fit.

Quite a few of my coworkers opted for a single large monitor. However, many of them tend to use command line tools so they just open a lot of smaller windows on the large screen. A two-monitor combo seems more common among those who use an IDE, where it makes sense to devote an entire screen to an IDE.

Another reason that I've seen is that some people use a remote desktop tool to connect to a different machine, and the solution being used doesn't support two monitors well. As a result, if you use two monitors, one is connected to your local machine which ends up being awkward.

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I've got to admit, I don't really get the idea of having multiple monitors unless you're stuck on Windows. I work on a 17" laptop running Ubuntu, no external monitor. I run 4 workspaces, that is, 4 different desktops. It's like having 4 different monitors, but only one can display on my laptop screen at a time. But, with a simple key sequence, I can switch from desktop to desktop. Having 4 different monitors for these workspaces/desktops would be no more convenient. If I had multiple monitors, I could only look at one at a time anyway. And, I can hit the key sequence at least as fast as I can turn my head from monitor to monitor. Plus, whatever desktop/workspace I select is right in front of me; I don't have to turn my head to the side and strain my neck (or my 41 year-old eyes) to see something off to the side. Finally, I get an incredible amount of mobility because of my simple setup. I can kick my feet up on the desk and work with my laptop in my lap, I can work from a library, I can work from bed or on the couch, I can go out on my deck... No matter where I go, I still have easy access to my 4 different desktops.

Honestly, I've used multiple monitors in the past, and I find my current setup much better.

(Of course, if you're on Windows, there is no concept of multiple desktops or workspaces. The only way to emulate this is to use multiple monitors. You have my sympathies.)

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"I can hit the key sequence at least as fast as I can turn my head from monitor to monitor". No. You cannot. –  qes Feb 23 '11 at 2:25
There are programs (such as VirtuaWin) that provide virtual desktops on Windows. I've used it for a while... and went back to two monitors. I think the main appeal of multiple monitors isn't the extra space. It's the ability to have different things visible side by side at the same time, without switching between windows or desktops. –  Anna Lear Feb 23 '11 at 5:51
This might have been a reasonable answer if it wasn't also filled with so much elitism and Windows bashing. –  Cameron MacFarland Feb 23 '11 at 8:27

I refused a second moniter at a job after spending so much time with my 24inch Dell. Work said they didn't have the budget for two 24s so I figured one 24 would be less annoying than a 24 and a 19 at different resolutions.

Now, two 24s, that I wouldn't turn down.

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People's tastes vary. At work most people have either two monitors or a large one (larger than when we first started, anyway). But some use a monitor and a laptop (using the laptop for email and things) which probably works out much the same.

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I've never seen a developer refuse a second monitor, never.

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I have a second monitor sitting in an unopened box right behind me. I just couldn't be bothered to set it up, but our department had money to spend. –  jhocking Jun 16 '11 at 19:45

In our team out of 5 of us everyone but one guy has at least 2. I'm not sure why he doesn't want a 2nd, but he could have one if he wanted.

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I was given two about 6 months ago and I still haven't gotten used to it. I hated having the crease between the two monitors in the centre of my field of vision so I move one of them off to the side. Now I have a primary in front of me and a secondary off to the side. I don't use the secondary much because I don't like having my head turned for prolonged periods of time.

It also depends on what they had before. One of the analysts here had a single super-wide monitor (it was one monitor but about as wide as 1.5 of the other monitors we have). They switched her to two monitors but this has made her less happy because the spreadsheets she set up to be read on the single super-wide and now split down the middle on two smaller monitors.

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We gave dual monitors to every employee in a company with 100s of desk workers. It saves a lot of printing (especially for accountants and hr). And all those that thought they wouldn't need/use it, find it a must have now. I personally have three, along with a few others. And there is one guy with six.

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I can honestly say that before I was given a dual monitor set up, I never thought I needed it. Now that I work with dual monitors, I can't go back. I even bought a second monitor for my home use.

I have a feeling the same can be said for the people who were asked if they wanted a second monitor. If they are busy and they don't think they need it, it's not going to be something they jump at. Low priority to no priority on a mile long todo list.

That being said, I'd say make it mandatory that when a new hire is given their computer, that dual monitors be in the set up. Once that's in place, offer the dual monitors to people who want them. After that's done, walk around to the people who haven't adapted and give the monitor to them.

At the end of the day, if someone decides they don't want it, give them the option to send IT an email to come pick it up so it can be used by someone else.

But, I think it should be an opt out item, not an opt in one.

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Definitely one of those things that you don't know what you're missing until you have it. And then you can never go back. –  BBlake Feb 22 '11 at 17:27
@prelic - I don't think so. If you phase in the process, first asking who wants one and buying some extra. Making sure you have enough for new hires. If someone opts out, then it goes into your stock. When you start giving them to people, if they decide they don't want it that means you don't have to buy as many as more people come on the team...or for when they change their mind ;) –  Tyanna Feb 23 '11 at 14:25

I think you should let each developer decide whether they want a second monitor or not. Describe some of the advantages to them and even let them try using a second monitor for a bit to see if they would like it, but I don't think this should be forced upon them.

By talking with those developers that are adverse to getting a second monitor, you may learn about some of the disadvantages of having a second monitor (e.g. more desk space is used). They may have reasonable reasons for not having a second monitor that you haven't considered.

I myself find a second monitor very helpful and would argue that it definitely does increase productivity, but others may simply not see it that way.

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Keep in mind that article is 4 years old. That was still the time when CRT monitors were still prevalent in the workplace. 2 large CRT monitors would eat up most of your desk's area. If they were LCD monitors, most workers would go for them.

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A single statement says nothing. What were the conditions under which they'd get that second screen for example? What are they using now? Was it a second old clunker of a 15" CRT instead of a shiny new 20" TFT for example.

Are they sat on tiny desks where a 2nd screen of any size would hardly fit?

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