Dual/multiple monitors

Subject: Dual/multiple monitors
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 26 Sep 2009 10:24:11 +0300

To answer the first question--no, the study was internal and for
whatever reason considered proprietary.

There is a psycholgogical concept called "creative clutter"--where
many highly productive people surround themselves with walls full of
photos, signs, books, and various other things that many consider
clutter but which give a rich amount of (often subconscious)
stimulation for creativity. I remember seeing Earle Stanely Gardiner's
study (moved after his death to one of the library buildings at the
University of Texas), and it was just such a place.

Similarly, many software programs we work with are full of small menus
of various kinds that can get in the way on a single monitor--unless,
indeed, it is a very large one as some have these days--and opening
them and closing them takes time.

Also, we often work with source docs separate from the output doc.
Window switching is fine--although that too takes appreciable
time--but the simple fact remains that there is also time consumed in
orienting ourselves to the new widow or document--less as we are more
familiar with it, perhaps, but if there is a time lag between
accesses, as the lag grows longer the time for this orientation factor
increases, at some point somewhat exponentially.

Productivity studies over the years, too, have shown that
interruptions such as a telephone call, a co-worker asking questions
or sharing the latest joke, accessing email--the list goes on--result
in the loss of about fifteen minutes of additional time as we reorient
ourselves to a concentration-intensive task. Having everything
displayed at once seems to reduce this re-focus factor to a minimum as

Thus, if we can have the source doc, the doc we are working on, and
any associated floating menus and such all visible at one time, we are
better able to concentrate and move fluidly from task to task as we
are working.

The problem is compounded when we work not only with a composition
program such as Frame, but also perhaps with a graphics program for
illustrations or perhaps a spreadsheet program for tables and charts.

If I were setting up a tech writing platform today, I would seriously
look at monitors large enough to have the primary doc in full page
mode in portrait orientation at a size large enough to work with
comfortably for my somewhat tired old eyes. For that monitor, I would
prefer one that swivels. The source doc would be to its left (in my
preference), also large enough to read easily. to the right of the
output doc, I would have all the floating menus, palettes, and so
forth. If I had a monitor large enough for all of this on one screen,
fine. If not, two or more screens might be necessary. Considering the
separate functions, though, and considering how cheap decent screens
are these days, I see no real advantage to huge monitors considering
the price differential involved.

Furthermore, if I did much work with graphics, I would even consider a
fourth area for that purpose--but obviously with a very capable
machine to run all of it.

In a Windows environment, therefore, in setting up a new machine, I'd
be looking at setting up a 64 bit Windows 7 machine, probably with an
i7 series processor or perhaps one of the new i5s that will be out
shortly, six GB of RAM or more, and the best graphics card I could fit
into the budget...assuming there are no "gotchas" with the application
software in running on such a platform.

(You might consider a quad core this way: One core for Windows, one
for your authoring program, one for the source doc, and one for all
the *(&)&^)& security crap you must have in Windows systems!)

These days, my needs are far more modest and I have no real use for
such an elaborate platform...fortunately for my budget. However, for
someone doing doc creation as an independent contractor or for someone
with a choice of tools in a corporate docs department, that is the
sort of thing I would be aiming for. If working as a contract person
in my own office, too, I would also add one of the inexpensive NAS
devices now available for backup purposes--or, at the very minimum, an
external drive for routine backups.

I would also without question use both versioning software and create
frequent restore points as a routine matter as well as make project
backups on CD or DVD for offsite storage. Sooner or later, you will
appreciate such a process.

And yes, I have always been considered sort of a "tools buy" by my clients...


rom: Robert Lauriston <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 08:41:15 -0700
Subject: Re: Dual Monitors [WAS: RE: Approach and estimation for a
cleanup/conversion product - Word docs to FM and OLH]
You don't need dual monitors to work that way. I just alt-tab between
two windows.

My display is 1680 pixels / 17" wide, plenty wide enough to have two
windows open side by side when necessary--though I usually prefer to
alt-tab between maximized windows.

On Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 6:25 AM, Paul Hanson <phanson -at- quintrex -dot- com> wrote:
> David, is this study publicly available?
> Paul Hanson
> Technical Writer
> Quintrex Data Systems http://www.quintrex.com
> email: phanson at quintrex.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Neeley
> <snip>
> A slight variation on this might be if you are set up with dual monitors (which in my view you should be--a study I was part of some years ago found about a 12% productivity gain in a docs department), you might have the text doc open on one screen, the Frame doc in the
> other...and move the pieces section by section so you are sure you don't miss anything in the process.

Free Software Documentation Project Web Cast: Covers developing Table of
Contents, Context IDs, and Index, as well as Doc-To-Help
2009 tips, tricks, and best practices.

Help & Manual 5: The complete help authoring tool for individual
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