Windows 8 includes enhanced multi-monitor support

Windows 8 includes enhanced multi-monitor support

Summary: 14 percent of desktop PCs and 5 percent of notebooks run with multiple monitors.


Microsoft is finally acknowledging that some of us sit in front of than one monitor and plans to put new tools into Windows 8 to help us get more out of our extra screen real estate.

In a lengthy Building Windows 8 blog post, Mark Yalovsky, lead program manager on Microsoft's User Experience team, explains the changes.

There's quite a lot of information to digest, but here are some of the highlights.

First, there are more people using multiple monitors than you might expect. Data collected by Microsoft's Windows Feedback Program shows that some 14 percent of desktop PCs and 5 percent of notebooks run with multiple monitors.

Since this is an opt-in data set, Yalovsky cautions us that it is "enthusiast-leaning so represents the high end of usage". Nonetheless, this is quite a high figure and shows that multi-monitor setups are no longer niche.

Yalovsky spends a lot of time discussing how Windows 8 will allow multi-monitor systems will allow better background personalizations, including how the updated slide show application selects the best images for multi-monitor setups that that consists of different sized and/or oriented monitors.

If you're into displaying your photographic prowess on the desktop, then the new personalizations will be of interest to you. For me though, the important changes are in the way Windows 8 handles the taskbar across multiple screens. On Windows 8 there will be an option to display the taskbar on all of the displays. Not only that, but there will be three options as to how buttons on the taskbar are handled.

The three options are as follows:

Show taskbar buttons on all taskbars (default):

Show taskbar buttons on the taskbar where the window is open:

Show taskbar buttons on main taskbar and taskbar where window is open:

These settings allow you to personalize how the taskbar works to fit in with your workflow and needs. To have this sort of control over the taskbar under previous versions of Windows you would need to install third-party software.

Windows 8 makes extensive use of user interface elements such as the Start Menu, the Charms bar or a list of recently used apps that are triggered by moving the mouse to the corner of the screen. On a system with a single monitor it's no problem to take the mouse to an edge or a corner, but on a multi-monitor system this isn't easy because of the tendency to overshoot.

To help combat this, Microsoft has added what it calls "real corners" to the shared corners between screens that traps your cursor, helping you to find the edge or corner easier.

The protruding real corners are only six pixels in height, which that means you shouldn't run into them during normal mouse operations. However, to further limit any annoyance that such corners might cause, Microsoft has coded them to be intelligent in how they trap the mouse. For example, in the diagram below, the right corner on the top monitor will only trap the cursor if it is already on that screen and won't trap the cursor when moving it up from the second screen.

As someone who can't remember my main desktop PC not having multiple monitors attached to it, these changes come as welcome news. Having proper out-of-the-box multi-monitor support without the need to install third-party software will be a real benefit to me.

Image source: Microsoft.


Topics: Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • Very much looking forward to this.

    This is a huge selling point for my desktop PC right now. Can't wait to try it out on the Release Preview.

    Huge killer feature right here, that sadly, is a bit overdue.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • metro

    how does metro work on it?
    jan bLinQue
    • Basically...

      ... You can invoke the Start Screen on any monitor, you can invoke the hot corners on any monitor, and you can invoke the charms bar on any monitor.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Also...

      Metro apps can be moved from screen to screen. But, they're still fullscreen though.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Not in my experience

        I've been playing with the Consumer Preview and Metro Start Screen and applications are limited to the main monitor.

        Unless a change is coming to the Release Preview you are in error.
      • lepoete73

        In the consumer preview, yes, but this has been changed in the release preview. I suggest you go read the original B8 blog post, in it is a video which shows off the enhanced features in action.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • But

    There is no access to the icons of running programs in the taskbar on the non metro monitor side and no way to change that as far as I can tell. This needs to be fixed imo.
    • Check again

      You can.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Another mixed signal

    While multi-monitor suppert is nice for desktops; why has Microsoft apparently forfeited that marketplace with the absence of other Windows-8 features that do matter for desktops? In particular--no way to disable Metro, no Start button, etc., etc.
    • Metro is the new start button

      Seriously, the only difference is that the start window covers the entire screen.
      • But very limited

        Start Menu gave easy access to stuff like My Computer, Control Panel, recent documents, Logout, Shutdown, etc. Now all that stuff is scattered around if still available (where is recent documents list in Windows 8?)
      • lepoete73

        The start screen is better equipped for users needs, and a lot more customizable than the start menu ever was. You can now fit in everything and anything you could wish for from apps to specific folders.

        There is no recent documents list anymore, because no one has used that extensively since Windows 9x. I myself don't even have it active on my Windows 7 boxes.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • If Metro is the new start button...

        @ Aerowind, Why does Windows 8 boot into the Start Menu (or as you say the Metro Screen) and not the desktop ? - I can accept that it should do so on a tablet or phone, but on a desktop or laptop, at the very least there should be an option to boot into the interface of the user's choice !

        I understand that on multi-monitor setups (from what I've read), only one screen boots into Metro interface and the other into the desktop interface. If there was a choice to boot into the desktop interface by default on both screens or in the case of a single monitor system, to skip the Metro interface and boot straight into the Desktop interface, then I would actually agree with you. As it stands at the moment though this isn't the case (as far as I know). I also do like what windows 8 is doing with what is reported in the above article, i.e. the dead corner issue and selecting different backgrounds for different monitors, and having each produce a taskbar etc, but what use is it if Metro can't be bypassed as the default start-up screen on at least one of those monitors ?

        I tend to think most people would be far more happy if they could choose to boot straight into the desktop interface, on all their monitors, and then your statement would actually be 100% true, as Metro would act like you say it does. Also given the choice those that want to boot into Metro would also be free to do so. To me it's an oversight that MS doesn't allow that choice.
    • Start menu deprecation started with Win7 in favour of the taskbar

      Most users (from telemetry from millions of users) have taken the hint.

      It is the 'tech' know alls that seem to be stuck on the Start menu.

      The Start screen is an extension of the taskbar functionality.
  • Video

    This may answer some more questions:

    It's at the bottom of the entry.
  • Why would you need a start menu....

    I don't get why people keep hammering on start menu... the metro "start" ui is the SAME just better (not hidden behind a button) and more interactive ... but in essence the "tiles" are "hyperlinks"... just instead of a static "start menu item" or a static "desktop icon" it's a interactive tile...

    Open yourself for change people, I feel some of you are so linear thinking they can't see what they get is what they had all along ... just improved..
    • "(not hidden behind a button)"

      No... hidden behind a "hotspot"... kind of worst if you want my opinion!
      • Windows key

        Also brings up the start screen, the keyboard finally became usefull again, you can type right away.
  • This is the first W8 feature I'm interested in.

    Some of my multi-monitor issues come from Windows, and maybe this will make it more usable. But some of the issues come from the applications themselves. If W8 will help deal with misbehaved applications, all the better.
    terry flores
    • I am very happy

      With these changes, especially the ability to move metro apps freely. For instance the metro remote desktop client (I use it often, connected to multiple servers at any one time) has the ability to switch between sessions as "tabs" the same way as ie10 does. The only downside in the cp was that I couldn't drag the app to my other monitor, in the rp you can.