Work Faster With Two Computer Monitors
Using two computer monitors instead of one lets you work more quickly and accurately with Microsoft Office programs, research finds.
A study at the University of Utah compared the speed and precision of people editing files with Microsoft Word and Excel on one, two and three computer displays.
All monitors were 18-inch standard LCDs at 1280 x 1024 resolution connected to a PC operating Windows XP. The multiple-monitor stations had screens arranged horizontally, placed together at a slight angle.
One hundred volunteers were tasked with revising reports and spreadsheets in an assignment that mimicked typical office work. They needed to refer to multiple sources of information, which involved using six open windows.
Tracking of how fast and accurately the volunteers completed the work showed that they consistently performed better with multiple monitors. With more than one monitor, volunteers started tasks sooner and worked 16 percent faster. They also made 33 percent fewer errors on two versus one monitor.
While both the two and three-monitor work stations out-performed a single monitor. This study found that working on three 18-inch monitors gave no advantages in productivity over two displays.
People Prefer Dual Displays
The transition from one computer monitor to two was an easy one. All but a few of the volunteers normally used a single computer screen in daily life. Yet they adapted to working on multiple monitors within minutes. And their improvements in productivity were immediate.
Participants in the study felt more comfortable and effective with the multi-screen configurations. They found it substantially easier to move around different sources of information and keep track of what they were doing on dual monitors. They also noticed the increase in speed and productivity and found it easier to correct mistakes.
Janet Colvin, Nancy Tobler and James A. Anderson. 2004. Productivity and Multi-Screen Computer Displays. Rocky Mountain Communication Review. 2(1): 31-53.