Monday, December 5, 2011


Technology: Cool Tips to Make Your Life Easier....
By: Eric Mitchellette

Everyone can benefit from using technology well. It is surprising to me how many people are missing easy and inexpensive techniques and tools. Below is an inexpensive and widely missed opportunity to gain 23% to over 34% productivity gains.

Video Displays: Multiple Monitors
Dual monitors should be a minimum in today's workplace and even for home use while Tri monitor configurations are gaining quickly. The reason to use multiple monitors is to reduce the need for windows management; reducing the need for window resizing and nearly eliminating the need for alt-tabs to get to the desired window as well as viewing a number of applications at once. Using a Tri monitor configuration will also result in even a much richer experience and larger productive gains - as much as 50% vs single monitor. Using multiple monitors on an Apple or Microsoft PC will be an amazing experience.

Also eliminating the need to manually write down information for data entry into another application – sometimes copy and paste will not work easily within an image or a PDF file. Copy and paste is far more productive using multiple monitors in all cases.

Most gamers, market analysts and engineers figured out long ago that dual, tri and quad monitor configurations provides a much better work experience when using computers. It is a shame that many other computer users have not figured it out…yet.

Multiple monitors are a simple and an amazing productivity enhancement; yet both businesses and individuals are resistant to even this simple and inexpensive improvement. Efficiency gains according to time studies that have been done and confirmed on my own will range from 23% - 34% for all types of computer users – search Google “dual monitors efficiency study”.

While data entry users post some significant productivity gains it is management and other professionals that really benefit the most. Even with modest productivity gains for a professional the billing rate or wage rate is magnified and quickly offsets any expenses with multiple monitor configurations.

Key Tips:
Monitors: Always use the same high quality brand of monitors, with the same screen size and aspect ratios (exactly identical monitors – no substitutions) for each computer. Purchasing cheap or small screens will not be of much value; a minimum actual screen size should be 20 inches. It does not help much if one goes overboard on screen size. The bigger display may result in windows management issues; actually oversized screens will be more complicated to use. Estimated cost more or less for each high quality monitor at 20 inches is approximately $125 to $175 – Google searches.

Video Cards:
In many cases laptops and PC’s already support Dual Monitor configurations and a new video card is NOT needed. Also many new PC's will support a Tri-Monitor configuration -especially Radeon Graphics cards. However, most video cards will have one DVI and one VGA port to available; VGA has a lower resolution than DVI; however, VGA is acceptable and an inexpensive way to use to see if you find dual monitors helpful.

Check with the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type of video card for your computer – best source is the manufactures' website. A mid-level video card will support dual DVI or HDMI ports. If possible upgrade your video card to avoid using VGA with the resulting lower quality resolution. VGA is common with lower quality video cards which will have one DVI and one VGA port. VGA does not provide in many cases the quality that DVI or HDMI ports offer so upgrading is usually worth the time and expense.

Tri Monitor supported video cards use dual DVI's and / or HDMI ports with the addition of a Display Port for the primary monitor. A tech note - HDMI and DVI ports use the same controller so that you may choose either DVI or HDMI but not both for multiple monitors. Display Port avoids the need for a controller and will someday become dominate for video connections; PC's and maybe even TV's.

Also never use video cards with one DVI port out with a dual monitor cable; this configuration does not accomplish what you need. Estimated cost for a mid-tier video card with above configuration is generally between $55 to $150. For a Tri Monitor configuration a Radeon Graphics card Dual HDMI / DVI + a Display Port runs about $150 or more – Google searches.

Depending on how tech savvy one is the video card can be installed in about 5 minutes; otherwise, have a tech friend or a service tech install for you. YouTube is an excellent source for “how to install…” videos as well as some manufacturer’s own sites. In any case PC service techs should not charge much for video card installations; always check around for service pricing.

Setup both monitors using the monitor’s control panel, video card and windows display controls assuring an identical configuration. Test a few different resolutions and other configuration settings for optimal use. Do not forget to check the refresh rate to avoid screen distortion from other light sources. Also in Windows 7 “TrueType font” calibration works very well and will assist with visual auto-configuration of both monitors to optimize text.

As with anything new some guided training and practice will drive productivity gains much quicker than muddling through. A reasonably savvy technology individual will make significant gains in only a few hours while someone else may take a day or two to see significant gains.

Gamers & Engineers:
For engineers, gamers and other power users with high video usage it an easy decision; buy the best display components the software and the PC supports. Buying the best display components means making a purchase that maybe one can’t afford but you should make the investment anyway; the experience and your time respectively are priceless.