In my December 28th online newsletter, I wrote about using multiple monitors in order to have a larger "desktop." In last week’s newsletter, I included some of the feedback and tips from readers about using two monitors.
In last week’s newsletter, subscriber Ron had written that many of our computers are already capable of handling multiple monitors at the same time:
Multi-monitor is great. I just got a new HP laptop in November. It uses a ATI addon video card and came with a built in VGA plug. So I just plugged in my desktop monitor and bingo, 17″ laptop LCD at 1440×900 x 59hz and my desktop CRT at 1280×1024 x 85 hz. It worked immediately. The only quirk is that the video utility assumes that the laptop is on the left of the #2 monitor if I power on the CRT after the laptop is running. So the mouse only wraps from the RIGHT side of the laptop all the way over to the far LEFT side of the CRT until I can reset location of the #2 monitor.
So while tools like the one you mentioned are useful, people should first check that their video driver does not already support multiple monitors. They may be pleasantly surprised, especially with newer video cards that already have the second monitor connector built in. You may not realize that your PC is already setup to handle 2 monitors without additional effort.
I wrote back to Ron to say that it sounds like he’s got a great solution. I’d like to do something like that for my laptop, since it’s my main personal PC — but I keep it in the den on a roll-around laptop cart, so there’s not room for another monitor. On the other hand, I can do email, web surfing, write newsletters, and edit my web sites while watching TV or DVD’s.
Ron wrote back to tell me his solution to providing enough surface area to support two monnitors:
Bet you can make dual monitors work on a table like that.
I just happen to be working on a “crippled cousin” of your type of table.
Mine is static, no wheels, and the lift mechanism is broken, so I had to prop it up at the required height with a hacked off hockey stick. But the point is, my table is also designed for a single Desktop & Monitor or a laptop. But that wasn’t goo enough for me.
So I slapped a piece of plywood on top of the desk, about a foot wider than that desktop. That gives me enough room to put my 17inch CRT on one side and my Cannon 3-1 inkjet printer beside it. Before I got the laptop, the printer was a convenient bookstand.
Now that I’ve got the laptop, I just cleared off the printer and plunked the laptop on the printer (I rarely use the copier/scanner). I’ve got my full sized MS Wave keyboard plugged in to the laptop along with the CRT monitor.
I realize that the wheeled tables can be rather top heavy and tippy, but I think you can do the same sort of thing as I did. You will want to screw, clamp or bolt the extra board on to the existing tabletop. And if you want to get fancy you could add a small lip to help keep things from sliding off the top if the table starts to tip.
If you are using a CRT rather than a LCD monitor, it will be heavier than the laptop so you may want to attach the board a little off center so the whole weight of the monitor is on the table top, which would force your laptop to sit a little off center.
I’ve attached a couple of (crappy) photo’s. The “b” photo has red outlines added. The lower one is the normal size of the desk, and the upper one shows the enhanced width. (yes, the photo’s suck, it’s the middle of the night and my camera phone is nothing special and the lighting is the worst possible).
PS: Rather than hacking away at a piece of plywood, I actually used a piece of a bookshelf I salvaged from a dumpster. It happened to be roughly the right size, and it was already finished with a nice black plastic coating.
Wow! Thanks to Ron for the description and view of his setup. Looks like he’s come up with a very creative, low-cost solution to the space problem.