Thursday, November 10, 2005


Get more productive with a bigger screen

Great news! This excellent article on NY Times covers a lot of different ways to improve the human interaction with computers. Some of them are pretty obvious:

Hit an astronaut with a textual interruption, and he was likely to ignore it, because it would simply fade into the text-filled screens he was already staring at. Blast a horn and he would definitely notice it - but at the cost of jangling his nerves. Czerwinski proposed a third way: a visual graphic, like a pentagram whose sides changed color based on the type of problem at hand, a solution different enough from the screens of text to break through the clutter

What may not be obvious to most people is that the size of the screen plays an important factor in productivity.

The researchers took 15 volunteers, sat each one in front of a regular-size 15-inch monitor and had them complete a variety of tasks designed to challenge their powers of concentration - like a Web search, some cutting and pasting and memorizing a seven-digit phone number. Then the volunteers repeated these same tasks, this time using a computer with a massive 42-inch screen, as big as a plasma TV.

The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains.
In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity. The clearer your screen, she found, the calmer your mind.

I have never had the pleasure of using a 42inch display with my PC but I can confirm that larger screens help. I upgraded to a 17" screen on my laptop last year and I love it, especially for:

  • Multi tasking. In the past I  used VirtuaWin for managing multiple virtual desktops. With the larger monitor I can fit it all on screen at the same time without having to swap between windows using arcane shortcuts
  • Visual Studio and other programming environments. They are packed with useful information but you need to big screen to display it all. Otherwise you end up spending most of your time hiding windows you do not need to free up some precious screen estate.
  • Terminal Server: Using the Microsoft Management Console I can have the list of servers on the left and still have a 1024x768 session to each server to the right

Check out the 20" computer monitors at

1 comment:

  1. I think that the best working evironment is multiple monitors no matter how large they are. The main limitation in a windows environment with very lare monitor is the lack of some kind of sticky guidelines to which a window can be stuck.

    Having only 2 "position" (freestyle and full screen), it's very difficult to make a window behave like you want.

    How many time after minutes of setting and tuning windows size and position a single click ruins all the work done (Sob!).

    At least with 2 monitor I can have 2 windows in full screen mode and in a monitor ratio...