How Many Monitors Do You Need to Be Productive?

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At one point in the history of technology, we needed more than one monitor. But with the advancements of technology and modern operating systems, do we still need multiple monitors to carry out our work? We posed that question to our writers, asking them, “How many monitors do you need to be productive?”

Almost all our writers are usually using two monitors. Damien uses two for programming work as it allows him to open multiple applications and browsers without having a crowded screen. Derrik uses one monitor for what he’s working on and the secondary monitor for the side programs.

Phil finds that using two monitors really helps him with video editing, especially when he’s working on long-form pieces. It allows him to “keep better tabs on the assets like rushes and audio.” For writing and artwork, he uses smaller monitors, preferring 4:3 ratio monitors for text. He even misses the old green text and black screen monitors, noting that he’s old-fashioned.

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Judy and Charnita both use two monitors but use a tablet for a third display. Judy does this because she finds jumping around from typing to research annoying and likes to get messages on her tablet or smartphone. Charnita uses this method as she says she has so many things going at once. Her tablet is mostly used to check email and watch TV and videos while she’s working.

Christopher has never done “proper work” with multiple monitors. There was a brief period where he had two, but he didn’t “recognize much of an increase in productivity.” Yet, he notes the second monitor was a distance away, so he wonders if it had been closer if it would have made a difference. Nevertheless, he doesn’t “need” two or more to be productive.

I side more with Christopher on this. I do all my work on my iPad. I use apps that allow me multiple things at once. I have an app that allows me to write on one side and research on the Web on the other. My notifications let me know if there’s something else that needs my attention. However, when I film my entertainment news videos, I record them on my iPhone while I use my notes off my iPad, although I am looking forward to getting a newer iPad which can handle multi-tasking better.

Do you find the same thing with monitors? Do you use two or more monitors to accomplish your tasks? Or do you find you don’t need more than one? How many monitors do you need to be productive? Let us know in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Desk (October 2014), Three Monitor – Home Office

8 comments

  1. i can get by with just one 32″ tv monitor but i use 2…and can see the need for a 3rd! overkill? maybe but i have lots of things going on all the time and my poor desktop gets “abused” greatly since it rarely gets shut down cept for power outages and updates. on my days “off” i run 2 games at the same time….talk about stressing out a video card! seriously though…i am thinking about adding a 3rd 32″ tv monitor for even more things.

  2. I NEED 3 monitors to be comfortable, but usually have 4 in a row and then a 5th one overhead for Outlook.

  3. I *love* having two monitors – it not only increases my productivity but also cuts down on printing. Instead of printing out a manuscript I am reviewing, I can view it on one monitor and while working on my response on the other monitor. I can have multiple items visible at the same time, instead of flipping back and forth between them, which is a lot easier and also saves time. One thing I’ve learned is that it is better if the monitors are the same size. Mine aren’t, and occasionally that creates some minor problems (not enough to be worth spending $$ on replacing a perfectly good monitor, but if I was doing it again, I’d take size into account). I am considering a third monitor, since some of the work I do involves having quite a few files open simultaneously.

  4. In my department I was the first, using two monitors. But I had to commission a bunch of UNIX workstations and needed any extra inch of screen real estate. Meanwhile I could manage to get two 24″ at work and have 3 out-phased 19″ Monitors at home. Having used retina MacBooks and iPads, my eyes feel the difference to the 72dpi monitor resolution of the 24″ and 19″ devices.

  5. I have one monitor for my current setup (27-inch 1440p) and it has all the screen real estate I need. I will be adding a second monitor (vertical 22-inch 1080p) on the side for viewing documents or using text editors. The vertical space gives me more room to see different sections. It’s also great for using Tumblr and Facebook. Since the monitor stand I’ll be using allows it, I can even change the orientations between portrait and landscape for both monitors depending on what I’m doing.
    ..
    The tech support office I’ll be working at when the school year starts up (college student, employed by school) gives us 2-3 monitors depending on what we request. One monitor for managing tickets and one monitor for KB articles and google searches. We can manage our calls on the computers since we use IP phones which can easily be replaced by software, so most people in the office with a 3rd monitor dedicate it to telephony management.

  6. I manage a small support help desk for a college and need three screens. The first has the enterprise IM and IP phone windows along with the tracking system windows. Screen 2 has Outlook email and calendar windows open. Screen 3 has browser, systems admin, and other windows. When working with Office apps, I move them from screen to screen as needed.
    I wouldn’t need the 3rd screen in a normal office or programming job, though it does make it easy to keep info on top.

  7. Since I only have two eyes, and one brain, I can only REALLY focus on one thing at a time. I do use the function when I want to switch from one application to another. I also rarely have any application full screen.
    All this hoo-hah about multiple monitors is just hype to sell more monitors!

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