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Monday, June 4, 2007

Hi-Tech Studio: Dual-Monitor Setups

A second monitor makes digital imaging more productive

Dual-Monitor SetupsAdding a second monitor to your setup is an ideal way to get the extra working space you need. With today's lower-cost units and operating system software that allows us to add them easily, there's no reason to work in a cramped desktop environment anymore.

The extra screen real estate will change the way you work. You can leave all your palettes open so there won't be any more trips to the menu bar to turn individual palettes on and off, or any need to depress the tab key to toggle them in an all-or-nothing fashion. The big trick is to put all of your palettes and information windows, like the histogram, on one monitor, and save the other monitor for your images only. This has several immediate advantages.

You'll be able to leave all of your palettes in a consistent location, so you won't waste time looking for one that got moved, or turned off to make room, or that wound up behind two or three other palettes. A short while after you create your new setup, you'll know instinctively where to look for a certain piece of information, like your Info palette, and you'll get what you need with a quick glance instead of a long search. When you reach for a brush or a particular tool, your cursor will seem to glide directly there instead of making another search.

Because the extra screen is used just for tools, you don't have to worry about its color accuracy. It's okay to use a less-expensive flat-panel display for this purpose, saving you desktop space, too.

Since the calibrated monitor shows only your image, it's much easier to evaluate composition or the adjustments you've made when there aren't palettes surrounding (or on top of) your photograph. I love being able to get a readout from my eyedropper without having the Info palette anywhere near the image. Simply put, the uncluttered workspace minimizes your distractions as much as it reduces your workload.

Both the Mac and Windows XP operating systems support additional monitors, so adding a second one is simple. If you have a Mac G5 tower or a G4 laptop, you won't need much more than the additional monitor. The G5s have two video connectors, one for monitors using ADC connectors and one for monitors with DVI connections. If these don't match your monitors, a simple adapter cable will get you up and running.

All G4 laptops have a port for attaching an external monitor, with the latest models supporting a second monitor up to 2048 x 1536 pixels. Running a large CRT or Apple Cinema Display together with the laptop's built-in LCD monitor can transform your PowerBook into a formidable digital imaging system.

Although specifications vary widely by make and model, many Windows-based laptops have dual-monitor capability as well. Unless you've got a high-end machine for graphics, though, your Windows-using desktop machine's stock configuration may not run a second monitor without installing an add-on video card. Companies like Matrox offer a variety of these cards to suit your needs.

One you've got your second monitor hooked up, about the only task you'll have to do is tell your computer how the new screen's space relates to the other one. Just move a small graphic of your new monitor on a special setup dialog box until it's arranged in the same manner as your actual monitors. That way, your computer can create a continuous environment in which one screen's territory begins where the other one's territory ends.

Once you start using your new setup, you'll be amazed at how much more working space you have. With your images displayed over the full screen and every tool you need instantly at your fingertips, the big question will be how you ever got anything done before.



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