It might sound like an extravagance, but adding a second monitor is one of the best possible ways to make your computer easier to use. If you have the space on your desk or worktable, two medium-sized (15-inch or 17-inch) monitors, or one large screen and one smaller one, can make you much more productive than a single large screen.
With two or more monitor screens, you can expand one program window to fill a screen, and still view other programs at the same time; you don't have to stack one active program on top of another and constantly click on the taskbar to switch programs.
Multiple monitors let you do many things that aren't possible on a single screen. Once you start to experiment, you may discover lots of ways to make working with Windows more convenient. For example:
You can concentrate on a project in a word processor, spreadsheet, or other office program on one screen, while other programs, such as e-mail, an instant messenger, and a streaming Web site or a TV tuner are visible in the other screen.
You can open documents, data files, or Web pages in one screen and take notes in the other.
You can drag and drop text or artwork from a document, data file, or Web page in one screen to a new document in the other screen.
You can edit a document or a Web page and automatically see what the changes look like as you work.
You can expand the image in a graphics program or the text in a word processor to a full screen, and move the toolbars and other controls to the other screen where they don't get in the way of the image or document itself.
You can extend an image beyond the limits of a single monitor for special presentations.
You can take advantage of the multiple monitor features of games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator to display two or more views at the same time.
Adding a second monitor to your desktop system is not difficult. If your existing graphics controller doesn't include a dual output, simply buy and install a PCI video card (not PCI Express) into a vacant expansion slot and use the Display Properties window to configure it.
Chapter 28 contains detailed instructions for installing and using multiple monitors in both desktop and laptop systems.
If you're on a tight budget and you don't have a spare monitor, look for an inexpensive secondhand monitor-I've found completely functional, used, 15-inch CRTs for as little as $5 apiece in used-computer stores and places like Goodwill, where people have donated their old glass monitors after they replaced them with new flat-panel units. At that price, you can use the monitor until it dies (or the image goes out of focus), send it to the recycler, and get another one without a major investment.