You might think the picture below is showing a Windows PC
sitting beside my Mac. Actually it's not: that other monitor is
attached to the Mac and that's Parallels running Windows XP on the screen.
If you've never used dual monitors, you may not immediately see
the advantages - after all, you can quickly Apple-TAB to any application
or use Spaces to switch screens entirely. The dual monitor
does offer more screen real estate, but is that really all that useful?
Yes, it is. Even Microsoft says so, and we know they are always right. No, really:
it is useful. And it's even more useful on a Mac, though before
I leave PC's out entirely, let me mention this interesting use of dual monitors. That uses a VNC product
and Mac dual displays to bring up a PC screen on the extra monitor. That's
conceptually similar to what I do for remote support: when
I'm using VNC, Remote Desktop or even GoToMeeting or similar tools,
putting that support session into the other monitor is
So how do you set up dual monitors on your Mac? Pretty simple: plug
it in. On my MacBook Pro I have to use an adapter (make sure you
bring that adapter when you take your Mac out for a ride: you never know when
you'll need or want it) but it's really that easy.. well, not quite.
First, I'd suggest NOT having Parallels running when you hook up
the second monitor. It's not going to break anything, but it can
confuse things a bit, and this experience can be confusing enough
at first anyway. I'd also recommend disabling Spaces if you have
it enabled; again, there's nothing wrong with Spaces, and
it works perfectly with dual monitors - I love Spaces with dual monitors! - but it can be more confusing at first. Baby steps first, and once you
feel comfy, you can turn Spaces back on.
You'll want to open Displays in Preferences and tell it to "Detect
Displays". Unless there's something very strange about your monitor,
that's all you need to do: a desktop and a Display Preferences window
should pop up on the new monitor. If it does not, click "Gather Windows"
to bring that Preference dialog back onto your main screen - it will
probably be slightly behind your main monitor's preferences, but
it should be there. Adjust resolution, colors and Refresh Rate if
necessary. You'll notice a "Rotate" button also - I'd stay away from
that just now too unless you have put your monitor on its side or upside
Back on your main display's Preferences you'll see "Arrangement".
It makes sense to arrange the screens to match their physical
location. Your Mac doesn't know where the cable goes, so you need
to drag the screens so that they make sense - because it is moving
your mouse off your main screen that lets the cursor get to
the second monitor. If the Mac thinks the other screen is to the
right, you need to move the mouse to the right.. and just keep
going at the edge of the screen and your cursor suddenly will appear
on the other monitor. Neat, right?
But where is the menu bar? Hey, somebody forgot something, because
the Dock and the Menu Bar stayed on the main screen! Yes, that
is the way it works, and at first I thought that was really annoying,
but it only took me a few minutes to get used to that and now it
just seems natural.
If you feel comfortable, turn Spaces back on (and start up
Parallels too). Spaces is really neat with dual monitors because
the new monitor space is just part of the Spaces real estate: so
when you switch to a different Space, your other monitor switches
to whatever it displays in that Space. Confused? Play with it
and you'll see what I mean.
If your monitors don't use the same resolution you will find that
Spaces will annoyingly resize things - I don't know any way around that
other than matching resolutions. But even at that, dual monitors are
still great to have.
One more thing to watch out for: if you've left something in
the other monitor and disconnected it, it can be impossible to get
to that app's window until you click "Detect Displays" again. That's
all you need to do: everything will return to the main display
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© 2012-09-21 Anthony Lawrence