Shortly after I started using a digital takeoff program, I got frustrated with having to constantly switch between the takeoff software and the estimating program. My screen was not big enough to show both at the same time. A call to my computer guru got me an unexpectedly easy answer. The ability to connect two screens to your computer is built into Windows. No software to install, and often no additional hardware to buy.
For hardware, you do not need an extremely fast machine. My CPU is a dual core Intel running at 1.86 mhz with 4 GB of memory. Of course, this is based on the software I am using. You should always check the vendors recommendations and minimum requirements. I did spend $85.00 on a new video card that was faster and had more outputs. You will need to look at your video card to see if it has the outputs you need. Most newer computers I’ve seen have a variety of SVGA, DVI and HDMI outputs. Make sure that the video card outputs match your monitors inputs. For instance, My video card has two HDMI, one DVI and one SVGA output, and my monitors have HDMI and DVI inputs.
Since I am still using XP, I can’t give you specific instructions for the monitor setup in Windows Vista or 7. I would imagine it is similar to XP. After your 2nd monitor is set up and plugged in, turn on the computer. When it is finished booting, right-click a blank area of the screen and select Properties. When Display Properties comes up, select the Settings tab. There will be a graphic representation of your monitors. You can drag around the icons to represent the way yours are set up. For instance, my big monitor is on the left and my small one is on the right.
XP assumes a “clone” mode when you first plug-in a 2nd monitor, so both monitors show the same thing. In the settings screen, click on your 2nd monitor in the graphic representation, and then click on “Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor”. Now you can drag programs from one screen to the other. Note that the programs must be in a window, or not full screen, to be dragged.
You can also use the settings screen to pick which monitor is your primary. The primary monitor is where the start button, taskbar and system tray will be. Click on the monitor you want to be primary and then click on “Use this device as the primary monitor”. If it is grayed out, then it already is your primary monitor.
Like many technology advancements, this is one of those I wonder how I did without. Well…, I do know. It was harder. I always have multiple programs running, and with two screens, I can usually see three to four of them at the same time. One of the digital takeoff progams I use takes advantage of multiple screens in a big way. You can move program elements and plan pages to the 2nd screen. I often setup with a plan page on the big screen, with the symbol list and takeoff summary on the smaller screen. I also put the estimating software on the second screen.
If any of you have experience with setting up two screens in Windows Vista or 7, let me know if there are any differences. I would also like to hear about your multi screen setups and how you use them.