Some time ago I started to do quite some work from my home office. I had a screen on my desk at home from my home PC, and I really wanted to use it for work too (for the size and convenience). Here is what I found to be the best hardware and software to help out a home office set up like this.
It can be difficult to get the screen positioned to the correct height. They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that you should have the top of the screen about level with your eyes. Well my screen was much lower than this. My tips for getting the screen height correct are to use the telephone white pages as a platform. If you have already thrown them out, then just use a couple of reams of paper. You can always add or remove more or less paper to get the right height.
Using the laptop screen too
So once I got the external screen working at the right height, it seemed a bit of a waste to not be using the laptop screen as well. I really like the idea of having my todo list and diary on my laptop screen all day where I can see it, and then use the external monitor for what ever I am working on. There are a few ways you can use your laptop screen along with your external screen, but this is the best way I found to do it. I bought a 3m Vertical Notebook Riser from Amazon but I know there are similar products available from other retailers. Of course you will need an external keyboard and mouse as well, but once you are set up you won’t know yourself.
Improving the dual screen experience
Once I started to use dual screens, there were a few things that really started to annoy me. Firstly, if your external screen is on the left and your laptop on the right, then when you go to use the scroll bar on the external screen, your mouse always seems to fall off the external screen and onto the laptop screen. Well luckily I found just the thing to fix this. It is a small piece of software called Dual Display Mouse Manager (DDMM) and best of all it is free.
The second product that I found really useful is called UltraMon. It is a very powerful tool but unfortunately this one is not free. Check out the features and see if it makes sense to you.
Swap between 2 PCs
Lastly, at one time I was running a home PC and a work PC in my home office. I was using my external screen from my home PC for my extended work PC screen as described above. I decided to lash out and buy a cable that allows you to switch your keyboard, mouse and monitor between 2 PCs. Now this wasn’t the exact brand I purchased, but the concept is identical. When I first looked into this, I baulked at the price and nearly didn’t do it. All I can say to you know (with the benefit of hindsight) is that this was well worth the money. If you have a set up like the one I describe here, fork out the money and buy one of these – you will never regret it.
Alas, my Mac won’t play
Earlier this year I purchased a new iMac 27″ (that’s 68.5 cm for the advanced nations) on the strength that it could share its display with my PC. But unfortunately I was given mis-information by the salesman (x 2 different occasions) – you actually cannot use your iMac screen as an external screen with a PC. So now I am back to having a work PC with a laptop monitor, and a massive iMac screen that sits on my desk not being used most of the day. Hopefully time will heal the pain.