Working with Multiple Monitors

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March 2001

by Gregory Shultz

Operating Systems: Windows 98/2000

When you configure a dual-monitor setup, you must learn to adapt many of the window management techniques you previously used on a system with a single monitor to a system with two monitors. Some of the techniques are obvious, such as opening Internet Explorer on one monitor while you work in a document on the other monitor. However, some of them are a little trickier. In this article, we'll help you along by sharing a couple of the trickier multiple-monitor tips and techniques we've discovered.

Managing files

If you're like most computer users, you spend a great deal of time transferring files from one disk drive or folder to another. Windows' disk navigation tools--My Computer and Windows Explorer--provide you with a variety of ways to perform this common file operation. But sometimes it seems that nothing works better than opening two side-by-side windows and then dragging the files from one window to the other.

This technique works fine on a single monitor, but it really shines in a dual-monitor environment. On a single monitor, positioning two windows side-by-side so that you can easily access both takes some time. However, with a dual-monitor setup you can open two windows--one on each monitor--and easily drag files from one window to the other.

To make this task even easier with a dual-monitor setup, we've developed a VBScript file that automates the procedure by opening two My Computer windows--one on each monitor. To create this VBScript, launch Notepad and type the commands

Set App = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
App.Run "C:\Winfolder\Explorer.exe 
	/n,/e,drive\folder", 1, False
App.Run "C:\Winfolder\Explorer.exe 
	/n,/e,drive\folder", 1, False

where Winfolder is the Windows system folder specific to your operating system (Winnt for Windows 2000 and Windows for Windows 98)and where drive/folder is the drive letter or folder name that you want to display in the window. When you've finished, save the file as TwoWin.vbs. For example, if you have two disk drives on a Windows 2000 system, you might use the following commands

App.Run "C:\Winnt\Explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\", 1, False
App.Run "C:\Winnt\Explorer.exe /n,/e,D:\", 1, False

If you have a single disk drive, you might use the commands

App.Run "C:\Winnt\Explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\", 1, False
App.Run "C:\Winnt\Explorer.exe 
	/n,/e,C:\My Documents", 1, False

Keep in mind that you don't want to open two windows displaying the same drive or folder. For example, the commands

App.Run "C:\Winnt\Explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\", 1, False
App.Run "C:\Winnt\Explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\", 1, False

open two windows right on top of one another and on the same monitor. Now double-click on the new shortcut. When the two windows appear, position one on each monitor and maximize each window. Once you do, close both windows. From now on, each time you launch your new shortcut, you'll have a maximized My Computer window on each monitor. (However, keep in mind that if you don't use the TwoWin.bat batch file regularly, Windows forgets the window placement, and you'll have to reposition and maximize each window.)

Putting different wallpaper on each desktop

When you place wallpaper on your desktop with a dual-monitor setup, you end up with the same wallpaper on both desktops. However, this can get monotonous. You'll be glad to know that we've discovered a way that you can place different wallpaper on each desktop by creating a huge image and stretching it across both desktops. Keep in mind that this technique assumes that you're running the same resolution on both your monitors.

To begin, you'll need to create or locate two graphic images that you want to use to wallpaper your desktops. Ideally, each image should be the same size as your screen resolution. For example, if the screen resolution on both desktops is 800 x 600, each image should also be 800 x 600. However, if the image is smaller, you can launch Paint, create an 800 x 600 image, use the Paste From command to copy your image into the larger file, and then simply center it in a larger image.

Once you've created or located your images, launch Paint. Then pull down the Image menu and select the Attributes command. When you see the Attributes dialog box, double the width of your screen resolution and type that value in the Width text box. For example, if your screen resolution is 800 x 600, type 1600 in the Width text box, as shown in Figure A. To continue, click OK.

Figure A: You can double the width of your desktop in the Attributes dialog box.
[ Figure A ]

Now pull down the Edit menu and select the Paste From command. When the Paste From dialog box appears, select the 800 x 600 image that you want to appear on the left monitor and click Open. Once you've pasted the image into the 1600 x 600 image, use the bottom scrollbar to scroll all the way to the right side of the image. Now use the Paste From command to paste the second 800 x 600 image in the 1600 x 600 image. You may have to reposition the left edge of the second image so that it meets the right edge of the first image. To complete the operation and reduce the image's filesize, save your new wallpaper as a GIF file rather than a BMP file, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B: You should save your new large wallpaper image as a GIF file to reduce its size.
[ Figure B ]

Once you've saved the file, close Paint, right-click on the desktop, and select Properties from the shortcut menu. When the Display Properties dialog box appears, click on the Background tab. Then click the Browse button and locate your large wallpaper image. Once you do, chances are good that you won't see your image in the preview monitor as you normally would. To continue, select Tile in the Display dropdown list and click OK. When you do, you'll see a separate wallpaper image on each desktop.

Get the most out of your setup

Once you begin using a dual-monitor setup, you'll learn to adapt many of the window management techniques you previously used on a system with a single monitor to a system with two monitors. However, some techniques aren't so obvious. To learn more about how to set up and configure two monitors, see the April 1999 article "Setting up a multiple monitor configuration." Keep in mind that while Windows 2000 didn't exist at the time, the basic steps presented in that article and this one apply to both the Windows 98 and Windows 2000 operating systems.

Copyright © 2001 Element K Content LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Element K Content LLC is prohibited. Element K is a service mark of Element K LLC.