Do you suffer from phantom monitor pain?

Do you suffer from phantom monitor pain?

Summary: Do you suffer from phantom monitor pain when you only have one monitor in your work environment, compared to two or more at home?

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TOPICS: PCs, Hardware
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Every morning when I sit down at my ZDNet.com.au workstation, I feel totally discombobulated, like one of my limbs has been cut off without me noticing it. The reason, of course, is that I only have one monitor at work.

(Dual-Monitor Bluescreen image by Kim Scarborough, CC 2.0)

Not that I'm complaining; it's the best monitor I've ever had in a work environment. It's 22 inches of LCD goodness, and our helpful IT department has provided a beastly enough PC for me to be able to take advantage of the screen real estate; I can run all of my applications with no problems.

But it's still just one monitor.

At home I also have a 22-inch screen, but I've also recently added a discarded and ageing 17-inch screen that lost its primary use after our household bought an additional laptop.

This second screen has proven invaluable. I commonly drag a TweetDeck or instant messaging window onto it, just so I can keep an eye on what's happening in the real-time internet while I'm getting on with my main tasks; usually watching trailers of computer games, catching up on email, RSS feeds or just aimless surfing.

However, it's also useful whenever — which is often — I'm doing some serious writing at home. I often shift a browser window with source documents in separate tabs onto the secondary monitor and flick my eyes left to it whenever I need to refer to something.

This sort of set-up is easy to achieve in either Ubuntu or Windows (my primary home operating systems) with some minor tinkering. You can even find extended desktop wallpaper that will stretch across both monitors. The problem this creates for me in my work environment, though, is simply that I often automatically attempt to move a window across to the other monitor ... only to find there is no second monitor.

It's disconcerting, to say the least.

Do you suffer from phantom monitor pain? What can be done about this serious ailment? Do you encounter other hardware switching problems when moving between work and play?

Topics: PCs, Hardware

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36 comments
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  • I feel your pain

    Last year I had an operation which meant I had 12 stitches in my neck and couldn't turn it at all.

    With 2x24's on my desk I ended up turning one off. It was horrible...
    anonymous
  • Reverse situation

    I have 2 monitors at work and 1 CRT monster at home - this phantom monitor situation does not effect me with this setup, however if it was reversed things would definitely get problematic. Two screens at work is almost a necessity and my company has recognised this, every employee has 2 monitors. All the engineers have 3 screens (30" + 2x20") which I consider overkill, but I bet they disagree.

    Bottom line, convince IT to get you another monitor! The efficiency benefits far outweigh the minimal cost, and chances are good your PC will have dual outputs (most do these days).
    anonymous
  • Awful

    Jeez that sounds awful. I hope it's all healed up now etc. Would have made work hard!
    anonymous
  • Dual outputs

    30"?? Jeez that's fantastic. Where do you work Edward?

    Unfortunately my work PC (an off-the-shelf model) doesn't have dual monitor outputs. To support an additional monitor it would need an extra half-height graphics card to be inserted.

    I agree with you about the productivity benefits. It's hard to understand how great they are until you're really getting the advantage.
    anonymous
  • I suffer the reverse

    I have two monitors at work and use a laptop at home so I guess I have reverse phantom monitor pain.

    My only gripe at work is that the second monitor is 50mm smaller than the main one and it looks a little strange however it still does the job. It is used for monitoring security cameras.
    anonymous
  • More efficient at home with more monitors

    About a year ago, I started working form home more as I needed more power and more screen real estate than the 17" (late two).

    I have an i7 system with 3 x 30" and 1 x 24", as I usually have Access open in one 30" (multiple queries and tables open), two Word instances and sometimes XML Notepad in the second 30", a two (or three) Windows Explorers and a source file or few in Notepad++ in the third 30", and Outlook, several Gadgets and the Taskbar in the 24". And still wish I had more occasionally.

    Even my wife who was used to a 10" laptop for years, now has a quadcore, 30", 20" and a 27", and wouldn't look back!

    If you need to be able to quickly go between large apps windows, the more pixels the better.
    anonymous
  • phantom

    I lost a leg in a crash and suffer from phantom limb ... but your problem is much worse obviously!
    anonymous
  • dual = the norm !?!?

    Isn't dual monitor a norm in any IT environment? It has been proven time and again that such a setup does increase productivity! Or maybe I have been just lucky with the work places that I have been.
    anonymous
  • Too bad

    Your old desk over at Fairfax has two screens now Renai .... you should've stayed put ;-)
    anonymous
  • Maximum problems

    Our IT department (where I work) all have dual monitors, and it's wonderful: reference material on the left, program code or document on the right. We wanted to roll out the benefits to the rest of the admin staff but the cost was too high. So we compromised and went 22" wide-screens instead. Previously, everybody maximised their apps on their 17" 4:3 screens. AND THEY STILL DO! I can't believe!! How can you read text efficiently when each line is 22 inches wide?? It's ludicrous , but they continue do it even after being shown how to lay out their specifications and their work so they can see both. The productivity improvement is probably around negative 8%.
    anonymous
  • Nice!

    Nice! Now if you could only just ship one over here to me, that would be perfect :)
    anonymous
  • The norm

    It surely, surely is not the norm, I have to say :)

    I would say very few companies have dual monitor setups beyond a few select staff.
    anonymous
  • Uber

    Jeez that sounds fantastic! I only wish I could afford similar.

    Well, I guess I could buy them, but it would seriously eat into my savings ;)
    anonymous
  • Security cameras

    Now that is an idea Mel! Would be hilarious to put a security camera on the front of my house and watch passersby going by!

    Maybe also illegal ;)
    anonymous
  • Really?

    Really?

    I have found that a 22" is a good size for any application, but it's only a good size for more than one on-screen at the same time if it has limited requirements.

    For example, I prefer Firefox full-screen, but I can have a PDF document and a Word document I'm typing in open at the same time.
    anonymous
  • Originally for audio recording

    I gradually increased the sizes and numbers of monitors over time to handle audio recording, but working from home made getting the third 30" pay for itself.

    I must say that the Win7 window manipulation shortcuts have saved me hours over the last few months.
    anonymous
  • Can only fit twobusy web pages on 30"!

    For sites of articles like ZD-Net, I have the main page on the left and drag a hyperlink to a browser on the right to open an article. It saves back button time just to go to another article.

    However, such busy web pages take up so much space (1024 pixels minimum), I can only fit two on a 30" monitor (2560px wide).
    anonymous
  • ...

    slow news day renai?
    anonymous
  • The pain the pain

    At home I have a 24" and 22" widescreen monitors & its great.

    Going to work is horrible.
    I have one tiny crappy old 15" LCD monitor at work that I can hardly see. My suggestions that they get up-to-date with 20-22" widescreen monitors were met with looks of bemused horror.

    At home I have a 24" and 22" widescreen monitors & its great.
    anonymous
  • Actually it wasn't!

    We had a stack of stuff happening yesterday :) This wasn't a news story in any case, it was a blog post. Opinion and commentary :)
    anonymous