Whether you’re working hard or playing hard, multiple monitors can give you a lot more space to get things done. You can write a document on one screen while referencing web pages on your other screen, or game on one while chatting in Discord on the other. But don’t just plug in a second display and call it a day—here are a few tips to making that multi-monitor setup work for you.
Make the Displays Match
If your monitors are the same make and model, you can probably skip this section—once you plug them both in, Windows should automatically extend your desktop horizontally. Just adjust each monitor’s stand so they line up perfectly, and you’re off to the races.
If you have two different monitors, however, you may need to do a bit more work to make them play nicely with each other. For example, maybe you’re plugging your laptop into an external display and using them side-by-side, or maybe you have one 4K monitor next to a 1080p monitor. This will produce some weird behaviors, but they’re easy to fix: just right-click the desktop and choose Display Settings.
Under Select and rearrange displays, you can click and drag the rectangles around so they match the monitors’ orientation on your desktop—say, if one is slightly lower than the other. That way, when you move your cursor to the left, it’ll appear in the same spot on the left monitor, rather than jump up or down on the screen. You may have to do a little trial and error to get them lined up properly.
Scroll down to the Scale and layout section, and you can adjust the resolution of each monitor and its scaling. So, if one monitor is 4K and the other is 1080p, you can set each monitor to its native resolution but increase the scaling on the higher-resolution one, so your windows appear the same size on each. (If you want to set up a monitor in portrait mode, you can do that here too).
If you want to go even further, you can use each monitors’ built-in settings to adjust brightness and color to make them match as closely as possible. (An app like ScreenBright can make this a little easier, if your monitor supports software controls). Once you’re done tweaking all these settings, your monitors should match up much more closely, making it easier and more pleasant to move windows between them.
Tweak Your Taskbar
By default, Windows 10 will extend your taskbar onto both monitors, which can be handy—though you can customize it a bit further to your liking. Right-click on the taskbar and choose Taskbar Settings. There are a lot of useful options here, but if you scroll down to the Multiple Displays section, you’ll see what we’re interested in.
The first switch removes the taskbar from your secondary display—this is how I personally choose to use multiple monitors, since it puts all my shortcuts in one place.
If you choose to keep it extended across both displays, though, you can decide where you want individual icons to appear: on both monitors, on the main taskbar and the taskbar where that app’s window is open, or on only the app’s active monitor. You can also choose if you want the taskbar buttons to have labels, Windows XP-style.
Seek Out Super-Wide Wallpapers
While fancy wallpapers aren’t going to increase your productivity, they are one of the coolest parts of having multiple monitors, so we have to include it here. While most wallpaper sites will have some multi-monitor options, there are a few places that specialize in super wide wallpapers, including Dual Monitor Backgrounds, WallpaperFusion, and subreddits like /r/multiwall.
Once you have a wallpaper (or collection of wallpapers) you like, right-click the desktop and choose Personalize. Browse to the image or folder in question and choose Span to fill the space across all your displays.
Study Your Shortcuts
The beauty of multiple monitors—especially when compared with ultrawide and superwide monitors—is the ability to “dock” windows to the edges of each display, making it easy to view tons of windows at once. And while you can always drag your windows around and resize them with the mouse, that’s arduous and time consuming. That’s why Windows 10 has a few shortcuts that can help, including:
Win+Left and Win+Right: snap the active window to the left or right side of the current monitor. You can press the keys again to move it between monitors, or snap it back to its original location.
Win+Up and Win+Down: maximize or minimize the current window. If the window is currently snapped, this will also resize the window from its snapped position.
Shift+Win+Left and Shift+Win+Right: move the active window to the next monitor, without snapping it to the edge.
Shift+Win+Up: Maximize the window vertically—particularly useful if you don’t have a taskbar on your secondary display.
Win+Home: Minimize all windows except the one you’re working on, to banish distractions. You can press it again to bring all the windows back.
Most of these shortcuts work when you only have one monitor, too, but the more monitors you add, the more useful they become.
Curse You, Wandering Cursor!
While triple monitors allow you to span the game across all your displays—using the Nvidia Surround or AMD Eyefininity settings—dual monitors don’t work as well for super-wide gaming, since your crosshair would be right on the monitor bezels. You can, however, game on one monitor while having a walkthrough, chat window, or GPU monitor up on the other, which is quite useful.
Most games can work this way without hiccups, but you may find that in some cases, your cursor can “drift” onto the other monitor while you’re still in-game. I’ve had this happen with multiple titles, including The Witcher, Doom, and Metro: Last Light.
Thankfully, one enterprising developer set out to fix this problem with a tool called Cursor Lock, and in my experience, it works beautifully. Start the program, check the Open Program box, and then enter the path to the game’s EXE file. It’ll create a new shortcut for you—when you launch the game from that shortcut, your cursor should stay “locked” to the game window unless you Alt+Tab out of it.
If that doesn’t work, the game in question may need a few extra options, which you can learn about in Cursor Lock’s video tutorial.
Do Even More with DisplayFusion
If, after all that, you’re still left wanting more, a third-party tool called DisplayFusion was designed with multiple monitors in mind. With DisplayFusion running in your system tray, you can gain more control over your wallpapers, create custom keyboard shortcuts, align windows to the edges of any display, or automatically dim the inactive monitor so you don’t get distracted.
Seriously, this program is chock full of useful options, so download the free version to try it out for yourself. It’s a bit more limited in its features than the paid version, but if you like what you see, you can buy a license for $ 30—I purchased it seven years ago and haven’t regretted it for a second.
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