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How do I get my two monitors to run different programs?

I’m using a laptop with the Windows 7 Home edition to which I have
connected two external screens via an adapter. Everything works well except
that the two external monitors simply copy each other and I want to run
different programs on each. How can I organize this?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #16
, I look at the various settings available for configuring
additional monitors. However, the configuration will ultimately depend on that adapter.

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Multiple Monitors

In general, if you’ve got multiple monitors on your machine, there are two
things I would have you do.

1) Hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press
P.

That enables what Windows calls Presentation mode in Windows 7. It’s a
standard way to configure what gets shown on the laptop screen versus what gets
shown on an externally connected screen. It is for exactly that reason – for
presentations.

The concept is: you’ve got a laptop, you’re going to give a presentation, [and]
you’re hooked up to a projector. Now all of a sudden, you either want to have
both screens showing the same things or you want your PowerPoint presentation
up on the projector and you want your notes on your laptop screen.

You can set all that up.

It depends on the adaptor

Now, what I don’t know here is that you’ve indicated you’ve “got two external
screens via an adapter.” I don’t know what kind of an adapter you have. The
adapter may only support sending the same signal out to both screens: in which
case, there is nothing that can be done.

In that scenario, as far as Windows is concerned, those two screens look like
they are one screen and there is no software change that can be made to send
different images to each of those two things. It’s a limitation of your
adapter.

On the other hand, there are adapters that will allow you to present those
two monitors, those two screens, as two separate screens to Windows.

In which case, presentation mode may allow you to control what gets shown
where.

Screen resolution settings

If not, the other approach that I would take is:

2) Right-click on an empty area on your desktop and click on
Screen Resolution.

Screen resolution actually does more than just let you control your screen
resolution. It also lets you control how external monitors, multiple
monitors, are controlled and used by your system. In that interface, you can
specify whether or not the screen you see on your laptop is mirrored to your
external screens or if the two screens comprise a larger
virtual desktop: a single virtual desktop that just happens to be broken apart
into two or more physical screens.

You can then arrange how they logically appear: right to left, left to
right. You can also change the resolution on each of them. That is
still there. But that’s the primary interface for tweaking and modifying the
arrangement of multiple monitors on a system that supports multiple
monitors.

Ultimately, it’s the adapter

I’ll go back to my fundamental concern, though, and say that depending on the
adapter, as far as Windows is concerned, you may or may not have multiple
monitors on that adapter. Windows may only see one, in which case there’s
nothing you can do.

If Windows sees two, then you’re great, but you’ll have to
check out exactly what the capabilities of that adapter really are.

Next from Answercast #16 – Can
I turn off my modem when I am gone?

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2 comments on “How do I get my two monitors to run different programs?”

  1. I’m using Windows XP SP3; i have two monitors and one computer. I connected two monitors to my computer using VGA splitter.

    Now I’m asking: How to view two separate programs in each monitor?

    Reply

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