There’ve been several posts lately about monitors. Ben Brooks ditched his extra monitor, but that only worked a few days. Brett Terpstra had a similar experience. Al Gore’s desk has so many monitors that it feels like his office should be on a secret island. Eddie Smith summed it up nicely. I really don’t think there is a right or wrong way about this. Like many things, it depends.
In my case, I’ve worked with multiple monitor setups in the past and it’s never stuck with me. My problem is that multiple monitors just feel noisy with information everywhere. Also, I don’t like the way that looking straight ahead, you don’t seen the center of a screen but instead a seam between two different screens. (I get that there is a way to avoid this but don’t like that option either.) All of my computers, ranging from a 27” iMac down to a 13” MacBook Air are single monitor machines. So how far do I go with this? I do most of my computing at the day job at a standing desk with nothing but 13 inches of computer screen to work with. From there, I am tunneled into a PC with Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection and have several other screens (Safari, OmniFocus, PDFpen Pro) running all day in their own spaces. Lion makes this easier than ever before. One of the advantages of working this way is that when I am working with dead tree paper, I can just close the lid on my MacBook and stick it in a drawer. I love doing that.
I think the ability to work with fewer monitors is a function of what I do on a computer: Mainly, research and writing. It seems web designers and programmers have a genuine need for the additional real estate that I don’t find necessary. I also cheat on occaision. For example, when dictating to my Mac I use my iPad to reference research, PDFs, and e-mails so, in that regard, the iPad does occaisionally serve duty as a sort of second screen.