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One of the best presents you can buy your PC is a second monitor. There have been a few ToW’s past that have explored the delights of running a second screen, where even just plugging your laptop into a desk monitor can make a really noticeable difference to the way you work.

The basics are all there – use WindowsKey + SHIFT + Left / Right to move the current window between monitors (though do try to remember that most desktop monitors don’t have touch input, or you might look like you’re from the Far Side). Windows 8.1 adds extra functionality though, including using the same key combo to move the main Start Screen around.

Andrew Warriner has a neat tip to maximise real estate on the 2nd screen -

Remove the task bar on a second screen.

How often do you use a second screen for presenting or running a demo and the task bar uses up valuable space along the bottom of the screen?  To remove it, simply right click on your taskbar and select Properties then toggle “Show taskbar on all displays”.

clip_image003Obviously, you can drag windows between monitors, and if you right-click on the desktop and select Screen Resolution then you can even position the two monitor icons in such a way that they reflect the physical arrangement of the screens, to make it easier to move the mouse around, and even position windows spanning the two (if you like to be really perverse).

Windows 8.1 adds some further goodness, such as the ability to adjust the scaling on individual screens – if you have a new laptop with a full HD quality screen then you may already be familiar with the fact that the pixels are really tiny so therefore everything looks small – but if you plugged your machine into an old fashioned 4:3 ratio 17” monitor, the screen resolution and pixel density would be a lot less, so windows will look larger in comparison.

If the mix is wrong, then a window that moves from one screen to another will be small on one and dis-proportionately huuuge on another – an effect akin to Billy Connolly’s Prescription Windscreen. The other side of the scaling tweak is that as we get higher resolution monitors (with 4K monitors on the horizon, even if the technology is still a little on the expensive side just now), then this will be more of an issue going the other way – an app that takes half the physical screen on a 17” widescreen laptop, would be postage stamp sized on a large high res external display.

To change the scaling on an individual monitor, go into the Screen Resolution settings, and look under Make text and other items larger or smaller – by selecting the monitor first, you can change the scaling for each individual screen, to get something a little more even.

clip_image005Windows 8.1 also allows the running of “Modern” (aka M***o) apps on multiple screens too, even combining them with the desktop environment, so you can mix & match. This fellow’s got interesting taste in apps, combining Python development with looking at puppies, alongside food, maps and pictures. Riiiight. There’s more detail on how, here.