Multiple monitors expand your screen real estate, boost your productivity, and give you tons of extra room to spread out your work. Boost the benefit of your multiple monitors with these great tools.
Photo by jonnypage, from featured workspace Office Makeover: Multiple Monitors and Middle Earth.
Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite tool for getting the most out of your multi-monitor environment. You responded, and we tallied up the nominations. Now we're back with the top five tools Lifehacker readers use to maximize their multi-monitor enjoyment.
DisplayFusion (Windows, Basic: Free/Pro: $25)
DisplayFusion is a multi-monitor management suite. It adds a taskbar—complete with Aero peek—to every monitor, supports spanned or monitor-dependent wallpaper with position fine-tuning and integration with Flickr and Vladstudios, and customizable titlebar buttons for window management. In addition, you can configure hot keys for everything from randomizing wallpaper to moving, spanning, and tiling windows. The free version covers almost all the major features sans the multi-monitor taskbar—which is polished enough for a lot of folks to completely merit the $25 upgrade to Pro. Click on the image above to take a closer look at a multi-monitor setup running DisplayFusion Pro.
Synergy (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Synergy takes a different tact than the other entrants in today's Hive Five. While all the other entries are concerned with making the multi-monitor experience awesome on one operating system, Synergy focuses on bridging your multi-monitor experience across systems. If you routinely use your multi-monitor setup to display output from different computers—one for your Windows machine, one for your Linux machine, and one for your Mac, for example—installing Synergy on all three systems will allow you to use the same keyboard and mouse to control all three systems seamlessly. Pushing the mouse against the edge of the Windows monitor towards the Mac monitor will slide it right across to the other OS as though they were all running in parallel virtual machines on the same operating system. Check out our guide to setting up Synergy for an in depth look at configuring Synergy on your systems, or take a look at recently mentioned QSynergy for a nice new interface.
Windows 7 (Operating System, Starting at $70)
Earlier versions of Windows practically acted like multi-monitor setups were so fringe as to not be worth considering. With Windows 7, the support for multiple monitors has grown to the point that many people find they no longer need to use 3rd-party software to power up their multi-monitor setup. If you just need simple, multi-monitor support without any bells and whistles, you'll find Windows 7, right out of the box, gets the job done. Little things—like extending the taskbar across multiple monitors—are still overlooked in Win7, so if you want a unified look and the convenience of a taskbar on each monitor, you'll probably want to check out other tools in this top five, like DisplayFusion Pro, UltraMon, or MultiMon.
UltraMon (Windows, $39.95)
UltraMon, like DisplayFusion, is more of a suite of tools and modifications than a simple fix. Ultramon extends your taskbar across all your monitors—click on the screenshot above for a closer look—adds extra windows management buttons to application title bars for easy screen-to-screen movement, and even handles multi-monitor wallpaper and screensaver management. In addition to the tweaking the primary interface, UltraMon also has a powerful mirroring tool to mirror all or part of a screen to another monitor—great for giving a presentation where you want to control the output going to the projector or what a client will see on the other side of the desk. You can try UltraMon out for free, but after the trial a license is $39.95.
MultiMon (Windows, Basic: Free/Pro: $28)
MulitMon is a multi-monitor tool focused on spanning the taskbar across multiple monitors. It supports up to 3 monitors with the primary monitor in the center. The freeware version doesn't support system themes—the screenshot above is of the free version, note the very generic looking left-hand taskbar. The Pro version supports themes and will mirror the appearance of your main taskbar. In addition to the taskbar functionality, MultiMon has a clipboard extender built into the secondary taskbar and better integration with the Windows shell.
Now that you've had a chance to look over the top five contenders for the best multi-monitor tool, it's time to cast a vote for your favorite:
Have a favorite tool, trick, or tip to share? Let's hear about it in the comments. As always, if you have a great idea for the next Hive Five we want to hear about it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Hive Five" in the subject line and we'll see what we can do to get your idea some screen time.