SEO rock star Danny Sullivan wrote about his monitor set up on his personal blog not too long ago. Danny recently joined the dark side and went Mac, purchasing a laptop after realizing he had the only PC laptop at a recent company meeting. He’s sold on the Mac now, but needed some MacBook Pro solutions for his multiple monitor set up in the post.
Since I don’t have a Mac, I didn’t really have any solutions for him, but it got me to thinking about my own computer and monitor arrangement and how well it works for me. And, I have to give a lot of the credit to free software. See the image below for a look at my monitors and the laptop in its stand. Danny’s got a cool three-monitor stand for his screens. I’ll get there.
Sorry for the image quality, but it’s the best my iPhone could do. 😉
Here’s quick rundown of my personal PC situation. My main work computer is an HP M9080N PC running Windows Vista. When I purchased it, I decided to max it out on hard drive space, so it’s got 1TB between the two hard drives along with a 700 GB personal media drive and a 160 GB pocket media drive.
My primary monitor includes speakers as you can see. I’m using a Tritton SEE2 USB 2.0 VGA Adapter to power a second monitor, which sits on the right of the main monitor. To the left, I have a Toshiba laptop that is provided by FramesDirect.com, who I work for as their SEO in residence. This laptop is connected to their servers by VPN for Exchange email, access to their control panels, VOIP system, etc. For a while, I had a separate wireless mouse and keyboard set up for the laptop, but as mentioned in my post Share a Mouse with Two or More PCs, using a free software tool by the name of Synergy, I am able to share the desktop PC mouse and keyboard across all three screens by way of IP addresses. It’s almost like having three monitors.
This has been lifesaver for me! No more bouncing between keyboards and, even better, cut and paste is supported. Yes, there is a Mac version. The only thing I can’t do with Synergy is drag something across screens between the desktop and laptop.
This gives me a lot of flexibility, but I needed more. I recently purchased this new desktop PC. It came with Vista Ultimate. If there has been anything that has made me consider going Mac, it’s Vista. Sorry, but I just hate it. Vista has been more unstable for me than XP ever was and all of the built in security warnings drive me nuts. Every time I try to open something, I’m warned about evil things that could happen. And, I’m constantly rebooting, which sometimes takes FOREVER!
I considered wiping Vista off the drive and installing XP, but opted to try some things first. So, considering the fact that I need to view sites in older versions of Internet Explorer for my work, I decided to download Microsoft’s free Virtual PC 2007 software and give it a try. Virtual PC 2007 lets you install different operating systems that you can run virtually. I installed my licensed version of Windows 98 SE and Internet Explorer 6 and it works like a charm – sound, Internet access, the works. It works so well that I plan to install Microsoft Office 2000, which Windows Vista spits out and tells me to fork over the bucks for Office 2007. Sorry, all I do is write letters and spreadsheets. I don’t need new software. I’ve got Office 2007 on the laptop and I despise the ribbon navigation. With Windows 98 onboard, I can run Office 2000 now.
The mouse and keyboard are shared. In other words, I can move between Vista on one screen over to Windows 98 on the other.
After a while, I found the two screens too limiting. I turned to yet another free download,VirtuaWin, which allows me to run virtual desktops (using both screens). What this does is allow me to boot up Vista as usual with my typical arrangement of applications running on the main screen and communications software like Outlook and Skype on the other. With VirtuaWin installed, I simply right click on the VirtuaWin icon in the bottom right of the screen (which indicates which desktop you are using by the position of the white square), select “Next” and I come to a fresh new desktop where I can run Windows 98 and any other software I need. So far I haven’t made use of more than two desktops, but the VirtuaWin download page indicates that you can have up to nine going at once and switch between them.
Let’s see, this gives me a virtual mouse across two PCs (three screens), two operating systems on the main PC (Vista and Windows 98 running virtually) and up to nine virtual desktops sharing two screens. Of course, XP is running on the laptop with cut and paste capability with the desktop PC.
Whew! Lots going on and all for free.
Here are these amazing utilities in easy to click order:
So, with the help of some freebies, I’m content to stay with a PC for now, despite Vista’s valiant effort to chase me away. I’m able to share my keyboard and mouse with my laptop and desktop, run other operating systems as I need them and even work from nine different desktops (If I put VirtuaWin on the laptop, I’d have nine more!).
Life is good.