Are two screens better than one?

I was at an independent Higher Education user group recently and a Raiser’s Edge user said this: “The single most cost-effective thing for improving efficiency is two monitors rather than one.” Loads of people around the room agreed and that got me thinking (a) is there any evidence to support the statement and (b) how much more productive does this make me.

This Microsoft article  from years ago suggests that there is evidence to support the case that a second monitor adds between 9% and 50% to productivity. A question they ask is “If you’re able to squeeze 10 percent more productivity out, do you know how much money that will save?” However, even if you’re not 10 percent more productive, and instead are 10 percent happier when working maybe you still get a return on investment for a second monitor….?

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times says that “your brain will thank you.” He does warn that a video card upgrade might be required for older PCs, but as that article is from a couple years ago I hope that you don’t have to buy a video card.

Reading around, I’ve seen a stat of 35% performance increase being used a lot. My personal experience is nothing like that, and indeed via Patrick Duboy’s blog, I found that the academic paper for Microsoft points to nearer 9%…  Still, for the cost of one extra monitor (much cheaper now than any time previously) this could be well worth.

As to my personal experience, both when working for charities and for a software company, I’d seen some of the more technie people use two screens for a while. It’s long been a coder’s thing to have two monitors but when I saw consultants and designers doing the same I finally decided to give it a go. I wouldn’t go back now! Rather than two monitors, I add a monitor to my laptop’s one. My laptop is on a little shelf, and my monitor to the right:

I love it! The example in the picture (coffee stains on my desk cleaned up for public view) shows email ticking away on the laptop, and The Raiser’s Edge on my monitor. This way I can swap between the two easily, or sometimes drag a constituent record onto a screen by itself for clear viewing.  I played with some different configurations: contact management on my laptop; email on the screen further away from me; monitor turned to portrait view so that I could work on Word docs more effectively.

Generally though, I find keep everything on my laptop screen and use the monitor as my “concentration space” – emails I need to concentrate to respond to are put on there, or I throw up a document to read without “Outlook Toast” popping up to distract me.

If you don’t recognise the Raiser’s Edge screen on view, it’s the new Resource Centre in version 7.92. It’s where we’ve collected the best support resources like the forums, user voice and chat support into one easy-to-find, easy-to-use space.

To find out more and download it: go to http://bit.ly/792WhatsNew

The other big benefit I get of a second monitor that has space to swivel is I can use it as a mini presentation space for walking colleagues through PowerPoint slides on a one-on-one basis.

I spoke with a couple Blackbaud customers about dual screens and (in a very small straw poll) found that they had been trialling large screens. This might be good thing for you too, but for me, the ability to maximise onto another screen with a defined barrier in between is what aids me most in focusing on my tasks.

Day-to-day Raiser’s Edge-perspective ideas for use include:

  • Excel sheet on one screen for information being entered; Raiser’s Edge on another.
  • Query results on one screen, Raiser’s Edge record for review on another.
  • When merging records, one constituent on each screen for easier comparison.
  • Use one screen for action reminders, and open up The Raiser’s Edge in a separate window for regular tasks/ record review.
  • For those who build Crystal Reports, keep the Raiser’s Edge Export control report on one screen as a reference to the available fields while building the report on the other. You’ll also have more space to move your floating panels around.

Do you use two screens? If so, do comment below if and how it helps you! If not – let us know your thoughts!! Tweet me @AzadiSheridan if you want to chat off-topic!

One Comment

Susie Fothergill

Its not just our techie RE folk that feel the benefit of 2 screens. Our major gift fundraisers have them too, and that way its much easier to record their actions – and much less of a chore for them.  

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