Tuesday, March 06, 2012

3 Free & Awesome Tools To Optimize Your Dual Monitor Setup [Windows]

3 Free & Awesome Tools To Optimize Your Dual Monitor Setup [Windows]:

As some of my more loyal readers may know, I’ve been using a dual-monitor setup for years. Over time, I tried dozens of different tools, both free and commercial, for making the best use of my screen real estate. I wanted tools that would let me move and resize my windows with ease, as well as a wallpaper switcher that would work well with multiple monitors.

In this post I am going to share my tried-and-true finds. These apps are field-tested and are exceptional at what they do. In fact, you can get a lot out of them even if you use just one monitor. Oh, and all three are entirely free.

Control Your Windows With WinSplit Revolution


This is really my #1 windows management application of all times. I’ve been using WinSplit Revolution for years now, and it is by far the most intuitive way to manage windows. It works by splitting your monitors into several predefined areas, such as “top”, “top-right”, etc. You can then instantly snap any window into any area on the screen using your keyboard’s numpad. For example, to snap a window to the top-right corner of the screen, I simply need to hit Alt+Ctrl+9 (the top-right key on my numpad).

But WinSplit Revolution takes this concept and runs with it. Each position can have variants, allowing for fine control over the layout. For example, the screenshot above shows the bottom-left position. Note the three variants: One is 50% wide, the next is 33.33%, and the last is 66.67%. So hitting Ctrl+Alt+1 (the bottom-left key on the numpad) will put the window on the bottom left corner of the screen, taking up half the screen width. Hitting Ctrl+Alt+1 again will make the window narrower, and hitting the same combo a third time will make it wide.

This means I can take numerous windows and instantly lay them out on both of my monitors, so that no pixel is wasted. WinSplit Revolution works very well with dual monitors. To push a window to the same position on my other monitor, I just need to hit Alt, Ctrl, and the corresponding arrow key (right for pushing the window to the right monitor, left for the left monitor). The window retains its relative position within the monitor. This is something you simply can’t do with Windows 7, and it’s plain addictive once you get used to it.

If you’re more of a mouse user, WinSplit Revolution also includes a feature called Drag’N’Go that lets you drag any window over one of the areas, and just drop it there to be resized accordingly. Out of all three applications in this roundup, WinSplit Revolution is the one I use most often. It’s free, features zero nags, and is very snappy. Also works well if you use just one large monitor.

Resize Windows Down To The Pixel with Sizer


When you use dual monitors, you have a lot of pixels at your disposal. Good for you! But not all users are so fortunate. If you are a Web developer (or any sort of developer, really), you may need to get a feel for what your work looks like on a smaller monitor. That means resizing your window down to a very accurate size that may not even be compatible with your screen’s aspect ratio. When I need to do something like this, I turn to Sizer, a free and awesome app that does exactly one thing – resizes windows to pixel-perfect sizes.

You configure Sizer by specifying window dimensions and names for the different presents. Then, when you want to resize a window, you just right-click its border and pick the preset you want. Bam – you’ve replicated the user experience of someone not using dual monitors. And as you can see from my screenshot above, Sizer is also very handy for maintaining a consistent window size for screenshots – that’s how I most often use it.

Like WinSplit Revolution, Sizer works very well with multiple monitors, but you can really get a lot out of it even if you use just one monitor.

Control Your Wallpapers With John’s Background Switcher


Now that we’ve looked at a couple of awesome window management tools, it’s time to think about what’s under those windows. We don’t always need all of those pixels: if you’re using a pair of 24” monitors, your wallpaper will often peek through, or maybe even occupy one entire monitor. John’s Background Switcher is an awesome wallpaper manager that can pull in wallpapers from many different sources, and most importantly for us, apply a different wallpaper to each screen (something Windows 7 can’t do).

John’s Background Switcher has lots of features besides being able to place a different wallpaper on each monitor. It can create collages on the fly, pull in images from Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, and any media RSS feed, and filter images according to any criteria or keywords you specify so that you always have fresh, beautiful wallpapers without having to actively seek them out all the time. A lovely application.

What Do You Use?

Do you use multiple monitors? If so, what tools do you use to make up for Windows’ lack of advanced window management features? I want to hear about tools you’ve been using for a while now – applications essential for your window management needs. Do share!

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