OK, so it has taken me a long time to give in and join the growing group of developers who use 2 or more monitors. Some of my colleagues have been using them for years and touting the incredible convenience that it is to have 2 monitors. I don’t really have a good reason why I never did it other than the cost of the second monitor. Now that most video cards support dual monitors and the price of LCD panels has come down considerably, I decided to go for it. So I am late to the party. Now I keep my Visual Studio.NET code window up on 1 monitor and the properties, toolbox, task list, solution explorer, and other windows in the second monitor. It really is a huge convenience as I was always fighting for more real estate on my screen for my code windows.
But once you go to dual monitors, you start to notice some things that would really be great features to have. For example, when I switched I noticed that the Windows task bar was only on my primary monitor. I wanted it to be on the second monitor, as well so I could see what minimized windows were on which monitor. Also, to move a maximized window from one monitor to the other monitor I had to un-maximize it, drag it to the other monitor and then re-maximize it. Just a little inconvenient. Then I had some “wants” like having 2 different screen savers and 2 different desktop wallpapers (1 for each monitor). So I went looking for some of the dual monitor software offerings on the web. I found several and I won’t review all of them, but I will review what I felt were good choices in both the free and non-free categories.
First for the free tool, I downloaded and installed <A href="http://www.mediachance.com/free/multimon.htm" target=_blank>Oscar’s Multi-Monitor task bar. I found this at the MediaChance web site which also offers other applications. One really nice feature is that Multi-Mon will expand the desktop across 3 monitors. Pretty cool if you have 3. Its taken me this long to use 2 (read $$$)and my desk would just be covered if I went to 3, so I did not try this feature. But its nice to know that it supports it. The web site also discusses how you can use 2 video cards to set up a triple monitor setup. Anyway, back to the reason I downloaded it … having the task bar on both monitors. Download was quick, installation was easy, and it worked flawlessly in my trials. It puts a button at the upper right of your windows’ title bar that lets you move the window to the other monitor with a single click.
<P align=center></P> <P>The Multi-Mon task bar is gray, like the old Windows 2000 task bar. I did not see a setting to make it look like the Windows XP task bar. It also has a feature called the ClipBoard Extender which traps items that you saved to the clipboard. I wasn’t much for the feature other than that it also allows you to run application. For example, if you type calc in the Clipboard Extender and press the F5 key it will run the Windows Calculator application. Overall this tool worked well and since it is free, it isn’t a bad choice if you want something to extend your task bar across 2 or 3 monitors. However, it did not support having 2 different desktop wallpapers.</P> <P> </P> <P>UltraMon</P> <P>The best tool I have seen so far for extending the task bar across 2 or 3 monitors, supporting different screen savers, different desktop wallpapers is Realtime Soft UltraMon. This tool has a 30 day trial period and costs $39.95 for a single license. Again the download was quick and the installation was simple. The task bar loaded flawlessly and looks like the Windows XP blue task bar. It has several options that you can configure such as telling it which task bar to put the windows on. Just like Multi-Mon, it puts a button at the upper right of your windows’ title bar that lets you move the window to the other monitor with a single click. </P> <P></P> <P> </P> <P>It also adds another button to the title bar of a window that lets you maximize the windows across both monitors. It also support having a different wallpaper on each monitor (so I get to stare at 2 different photos of my kids). AN it supports having different screen savers on each monitor. Overall, I liked UltraMon better as the few extra features were interesting to me. I will probably buy UltraMon as opposed to using the free Multi-Mon, although both worked well for the basic task bar extension.</P> <P>I reviewed a few different tools and these were the best in each free and costly categories that I found. If any of you know of a better tool, please pass it on to me. </P>