Multiple Monitors to Organize a Project’s Tasks
Projects typically have multiple tasks that use different types of software applications, such as a word processor for writing and a spreadsheet for calculating. Working on these related tasks is simpler when the application windows are spread across different monitors.
For example, when I write "stories" that describe how a user interacts with my software's interface, I would use:
- Microsoft's OneNote application for hand-sketching graphical interface designs on a Wacom digitizing monitor
- Firefox web browser open to my Dokuwiki documentation wiki for reference to my software's error codes and return values
- Sparx Systems' Enterprise Architect for activity modeling
- Firefox web browser open to my Redmine or Mingle project planning tool for writing and managing user stories
Navigating between these applications is fast and easy when they are spread across four separate monitors. Development speed is high because, for example, any change in the hand-sketched interface mockup can quickly be incorporated into the activity model and development story. I do not need to switch between or re-arrange windows to make such changes. Everything required for the project is always in front of me and always has my attention.
Attempting to manage these tasks on fewer than four monitors is possible, but at a loss of efficiency. Switching between applications wastes time and saps energy because it requires searching for the right window. Applications hidden behind windows introduce errors or omissions in other tasks because an application that is out of my sight is also out of my mind.
Optimal Number of Monitors
Most computer users need just one monitor. Depending on the profession, multiple monitors can improve productivity. For example:
- Office workers can simultaneously view spreadsheets and word documents on two monitors
- Attorneys can simultaneously conduct Lexis research, draft documents and refer to existing agreements on three monitors
- Entrepreneurs, design and development professionals can lay out their design, reference, documentation and development tools across four monitors
Multiple Desktops on Multiple Monitors
A higher level of productivity can be achieved by introducing multiple desktops, where each desktop is dedicated to a specific project or activity. This is the topic of my next article.