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The Dual-Monitor Workspace: Twice the Views, Half the Work

written by: Duffie•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/1/2009

While a dual-monitor workspace may not exactly cut your work in half, the reorganization of the developer's workflow between two monitors can significantly boost efficiency and help the busy web designer mentally negotiate tasks.

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    Changing it up

    Web developers grow keenly aware of their work rhythm, and, over time, get used to a routine when they develop projects. However, as a developer begins looking for ways to increase his or her income, he/she looks to become more efficient. At this point, with such an established routine, it can be difficult to adopt new approaches to the workflow. With a multiple monitor configuration, though, the average web developer can become significantly more efficient without completely disrupting the work rhythm.

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    The one-man stage show

    The dual-monitor configuration can best be characterized as a stage show, in which you can see what's going on behind the scenes and on stage at the same time. In one designer’s case, monitor 1 is devoted to Dreamweaver and their docked Winamp playlist. Monitor 2 is for a multiple browser preview and the outline of the client's needs. Psychologically, it's important to break up the long list of open programs in order to not feel burdened. With the dual-monitor setup, a developer can become more efficient at managing his workflow.

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    The viewing frontage

    CNN tech analyst and seasoned web developer Chris Pirillo has blogged more than once about his adherence to the dual-monitor workspace. “I couldn’t live with a single monitor," said Pirillo of his workflow. “If you haven’t gone dual, you’re not ready to rule." The web developer’s dual monitor Mac setup has vastly improved his efficiency. It's more than feeling like you're in CTU on 24; when you have all of your design cards available for the viewing, you no longer spend time going back and forth from design and preview modes.

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    Why do I have this open?

    When we increase our viewing frontage, we can begin to look objectively at our established routines. With the second or third monitor, we rethink how we use photoshop and browser windows. Ask yourself the following questions when you switch to a dual monitor setup?

    How often do I switch between X and X?

    At what point in the process do I have X open?

    How much time do I waste negotiating between programs on my task bar?

    Let’s face it. If we can at least push the youtube playlist onto another monitor, wouldn’t we feel less guilty about having it open all the time?

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    Guess-and-check, or, flipping back and forth causes seizures

    In my design routine, which is usually heavy on the coding, the guess-and-check tactic has gained significant weight within my routine. Before converting over to a dual monitor configuration, I would write small bits of code I was certain about, flip to my browser, test, assess errors, and return back to my code program as needed. With my test server, all I must do now is save the file, hit refresh in an open browser on monitor #2, and I have my answer. For the developers buried in lines of code, though our work doesn’t put as much weight on aesthetic appeal as a typographer's, the guess-and-check system is an unavoidable tactic that merits at least an efficiency upgrade.

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    Two Heads Are Better Than One

    At the end of the day, the seconds shaved off of the development process can be significant, and being able to negotiate your workflow among twice the viewing frontage can drastically help improve efficiency. If anything, it's one step closer to converting the desk to a battle station.