Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Dual monitor

Until recently my wife was playing World of Warcraft on an old 17" 4:3 flatscreen monitor, while I had changed to a 22" 16:9 screen a year ago. Having seen how much nicer it is to play on a broader screen, she now also wanted one, so I got her a very nice HP 22" monitor. That left us with one excess screen, and I was wondering what to do with it. So I tried to connect the 17" screen as second screen on my computer, and that worked like a charm.

What you need for this is a graphics card with at least 2 exits, but most modern cards have that now. My card being a GeForce, I used Nvidia's nView software to set up the second screen, which was very easy. Then I just needed to switch World of Warcraft from fullscreen mode to windowed mode, with the WoW "window" taking up my main screen completely. And now I have WoW on the main screen and a second screen with a desktop on the side screen. Or, if WoW isn't running, I have two desktops.

When I move the mouse pointer to the right border of my main screen, he automatically jumps to the second screen now. I can even drag and drop windows that way. So my usual setup now is to have whatever game I'm playing on the main screen, and a browser window on the second screen. No more alt-tabbing and missing things happening in WoW while searching some WoW database for information. Very nice!

Theoretically I could even play World of Warcraft stretched over 2 monitors. In my case that might be a bit difficult, the two screens not having the same native resolution. In any case that setup has the huge disadvantage that your character is in "the middle" of your dual screen, so he kind of gets ripped into two halves with a gap between. It is, however, possible to use 3 screens, if you have for example two graphics cards linked. Then your character is in the middle, and you get an extremely broad 48:9 view for best possible spatial awareness. But then you need an addon to completely rearrange your user interface, or you end up with the chat on the left screen, your character on the middle screen, and your mini-map and right action bars on the right screen, which probably is unwieldy. I don't think I need that much space for WoW.
There used to be a mod called ct_viewport which you could use to resize the area which was drawn by the game to a specific area on the screen. Using this mod you could play on one monitor and leave the other monitor for the world map, chat windows, bags etc.

Having said that, I think that a browser on the other monitor is better than some wow chat windows.
I love playing on two screens until I bought my new 27" iMac. Now I have 2 screens worth of resolution on one :)
Bigger isn't always better. According to Fitt's Law, having too much space actually makes the user interface worse, because it takes more time to hit icons accurately. In addition, having something happen at the edge or just beyond your field of vision is highly distracting, because our eyesight is very good in detecting movement or other changes to avoid predators.
Welcome to the multiple monitor club! You may notice that because of the dual monitors your non-fullscreen graphics performance may drop slightly to significantly, depending on what's going on. That is normal.
Personally I have been running multiple monitors for many years now, a 17" CRT and 19" CRT to begin with, replacing the 17" CRT with a 19" 5:4 ratio (1280x1024 native) LCD a bit over three years ago. I have been looking at updating my setup for some time but I have yet to find the right monitors. I've found some great candidates but not quite the right ones yet. I may go with a large main (25-28") and one or two somewhat smaller (22-24") surrounding monitors. Finding 1920x1200 displays in those sizes aren't hard, but finding them with three digital inputs (a combination of HDCP compliant DVI and HDMI, preferably 2x HDMI/1x DVI/whatever else - for flexibility if I ever want to use a/the monitor(s) as a TV) is difficult. Sure I could buy "TVs" which meet the three digital inputs and size criteria, but not the resolution.
Check out eyefinity from ATI - one of the nicer features they've implemented is using extra screens to increase the field of vision. In a 3rd person game like WoW that really doesn't translate to much advantage, but... struck me that it may also be useful to have some sort of mod that allows you to set an axillary screen to show the live first-person viewpoint and/or actions of another player. See exactly who your tank is targeting, exactly what they're using on that target, how soon their cooldowns are up, etc.

However, I would likely set my second screen up much like you, Tobold. Often in WoW I've felt that there should be a skillbar for "Alt-Tab"
2 Screens are fantastic, 3 even better ;)

Great for pretending you are working whilst playing... proper multitasking, I keep an email application open watching track of orders but also the likes of wowhead open on the 3rd screen.

Dragging the cursor from one screen to the other isn't bad.

What I would like to see is a mod/addon that allows you to have all your non essential WoW bars, mini map, alpha map etc on a 2nd screen.
Having two screens takes some getting used to. But once you have them it changes the way you use your PC. At work that means having my e-mail client on my second screen. It's also useful to put the documentation while working. And for WoW that could mean putting your browser on the second screen for those breaks in raids.

Currently I have two screens at work and one at home. I'd love to have a second one at home but my PC room is limited in space.
You really have to try dual screen to see the benefits, I love having whatever game I currently play on my left screen and Firefox on my right screen. ^^ Makes slow parts go quicker for sure.
I've been using the dual monitor for awhile, having a browser or movie in the second window while gaming is such an improved experience; it's amazing.
Dood. Welcome to 10 years ago. Dual monitors are such a huge increase in performance. I run 4 both at work and home.
I've been doing this for years. I really like how WOW was set up with a full screen windowed mode so we can avoid ALT-tabbing.

I have a pretty fast computer but I find it mandatory to switch back to full screen mode for 25 man raids. My frame rate drops to about 5fps in 25 man AOE with windowed mode. I get around 30 fps in full screen 25 man AOE so that is a BIG difference. 10 man, and regular play my frame rate is also lower but it's still high enough so that I don't really notice a loss.

When questing I normally watch movies on the second screen.
I use two screens as well (TV as my mainscreen). I've been looking for a mod that lets you pull the misc junk into another window, but haven't found one. It'd be nice to pull the map, action bars, dialog, and party members into the 2nd window (which would be on the 2nd screen). That would leave me with a verry pretty, clean screen. :)

Anyone heard of anything that'll let me do that?
My guild leader had his setup so that wow spanned across both monitors, but his avatar and the background was on one monitor, and he could put many addons on the other one. Here is a link to how he set it up. This was for an older client I'm not sure if it still works since I havne't been online in a long time:
this is a start, not really 2 separate windows, but it works for dual-screening
One thing I had always thought of doing was triple screens, with chats and raid frames (HUGE raid frames) on the left, action and a HUD in the middle, and then a full screen map like Carbonite or (the late) Cartographer on the right.
There are other ways to take advantage of multiple monitors with WoW. I know several people who used to move most of the user interface that they didn't need to look at constantly (for instance damage meters, chat windows, even action bars if they were binders) into a second monitor so that the main view was as uncluttered as possible. I always liked the idea, but never had a spare monitor to play with.
I recently made this switch too, I use my second monitor for web browsing/armory/vent information/strategy. Works like a charm and I would recommend anyone give it a whirl even if the "off" monitor is a bit older and less dynamic.
I love having two monitors as well, and indeed, in WoW it's perfect for having a browser open on the second screen. In many other games the second screen is mostly used for the little clock on the desktop though.

@Hirvox: Fitt's Law doesn't really apply to WoW. Unless you *ewww* click abilities.
I highly recommend getting a second screen for work also, if you're on the computer for any length of time.
Oddly, I was just saying to Mrs Bhagpuss the other day how I really preferred it back when Everquest wouldn't run in a window at all (unless you used a bannable 3rd party app).

Nowadays I spend more time tabbed out of games I am supposedly playing than I do playing them. If I actually had a web browser up on a second screen, chances are I wouldn't play at all.

As it happens, I have a spare flat screen sat not 3 feet from my desktop...
@Hirvox: Fitt's Law doesn't really apply to WoW. Unless you *ewww* click abilities.
Don't get me wrong, I use hotkeys whenever I can. But there's plenty of stuff that you have to click. Playing whack-a-mole with health bars, targeting, buffing, inventory management, looting, talking to NPCs, using vendors and the AH..

My current game is Eve, where 99% of gameplay is clicking and hotkeys are generally used only to activate modules. And to make things worse, most of the menus are multi-level context menus with tiny fonts, so Fitts' Law is in effect with full force.
I've been running two screens for awhile. The majority of the time my 2nd screen has Steam and Vent open. Sometimes I use it to watch movies or Hulu.
I used duel screens at home and work and couldn't live without it.
Can cause add like issues though because there is always something going on, on the 2nd screen when sometimes you should be concentrating on one.
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