Triple Monitors Increase Productivity

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Source: VR-Zone Photo

Years ago I began using two monitors. In 2010 I posted a blog that extolled the advantages of two monitors. See Optimize Productivity At Your Work Station. I like to track the state of one piece of software while working on other software. I like to have refernce material on a third monitor. I purchased two additional 24 inch monitors for $100 each on Black Friday near the end of last November 2013. Given the small marginal cost of extra monitors after purchasing a full blown desktop system, I am puzzled why power users such as CSE teachers and students don’t also use three or more monitors.

Depending upon where I am working at the moment, I use one of three different computer systems, each with three monitors. In each of the following mp4 videos, I illustrate a different use of three monitors.

The vidos files are large, so you may have to wait a moment while the video files download to your browser. Alternatively, you can right mouse click and select “Save link as…” to download the video file directly to your system.

  • MOOC Time (116 MB, 91 secs)

    I found myself working on a MOOC in the summer of 2013: Intro to Programming: Problem Solving with Java. On the left monitor I displayed the directions and presentation how long does it take for cialis to work of the MOOC itself. In the middle monitor I displayed Eclipse, the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that I used to enter and execute Java program code that I copied cialis for a 20 year old from the MOOC or created myself while working on exercises. On the right monitor I displayed a “dictionary of Java” called the Java API Specifications. I followed the MOOC’s video tutorials on the left monitor … starting, stopping, rewinding and proceeding … while I developed and tested my programming code in the Eclipse IDE on the center monitor. When stuck on the precise syntax of some Java code that I was using, I could select explanation and illustration displayed on my right monitor while continuing to follow the MOOC on my left monitor and generate code on the middle monitor. I loved the advantage of hopping from one monitor to another according to my needs as I progressed through the MOOC.

  • Learning SPSS Statistics (70.3 MB, 60 secs)

    During Christmas break of 2013 I found myself studying the use of a popular statistical software package called IBM SPSS Statistics (Statistical Product and Service Solutions). Historically, before IBM bought it in 2009, the software was known as Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. I was learning to use SPSS from a great book by Andy Field entitled Discovering Statiscs Using IBM SPSS Statistics 4th Edition. On the left monitor is a screencast video of a tutorial posted by Andy. On the middle monitor I displayed the SPSS software itself where I can mimic what I observe in the screencast running on the left monitor. On the right monitor I have the extensive SPSS help system running in a browser so that I can readily search and access it without losing sight of the screencast.

  • Transferring Data To Excel (181 MB, 45 secs)

    In the spring of 2014 I found myself transferring data from trials of a study where I collected data from hard copy, paper questionnaires. I had previously scanned and transferred the images of the hard copy to a single pdf file for each participant. The original questionnaires are stored safely in a locked filing cabinet at the University of Caglary. Now I had to transfer that data from the pdf files to an Excel spreadsheet for subsequent electronic analysis. On the right monitor I displayed the directory of all the pdf files. I would click (open) one pdf file at a time to an Adobe Reader page on my left monitor. I would then visually inspect the pdf file on my left monitor and mechanically transfer (type) the data to an Excel spreadsheet on my middle monitor. The last pdf file that I

    accessed from my right monitor remained highlighted, so I didn’t lose my place in the sequence of pdf files as I proceeded opening them one at a time. I could view the pdf data on the left monitor while I entered it into the Excel spreadsheet on the middle monitor. I whizzed through the transcription of data of 58 participants without once losing my place or copying the wrong participant’s data into the spreadsheet. I attribute that little feat to the judicious use of three monitors.


About the Author:

Gerry Donaldson was Calgary’s first high school teacher to use a lab of personal computers. Born and raised in Calgary, Gerry taught Computer Science, including AP and IB Computer Science, for 30 years before consulting and teaching with the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary.
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  1. Philip Uren  December 29, 2014

    I like your promo of using 3 monitors at once, What program do you use to view 3 monitors simultaneously? My windows 7 and 8 only has the option to extend to one extra monitor, am I missing something? Then I viewed your first video file and started drooling into my coffee. Your desk size is enormous. As a secondary school teacher (Queensland, Australia), my staffroom work-station is a desk 1200mm wide by 600mm deep. on the right-hand side of my desk (sitting on my desk) is a bookcase 250mm by 600mm, leaving me with a workable space of 950 by 600. All of my students’ assessment pieces, records & notes, lesson plans, unit plans and technical references have to be contained within the table, bookshelf and single filing cabinet under the desk. It is a daily discipline just to keep a space on the desk for my laptop. Now, if I could just get administration to hear my case for efficiency with technology… I notice that all Heads of Departments have the luxury of multiple monitors.


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