Five Free Tools for Multi-Monitor Computer Set-Ups

Sep 16 2009 by John Urban | 48 Comments

As a developer or designer, it is often helpful to have multiple monitors to increase the amount of screen real estate you have, which in turn can lead to higher productivity. For instance, you may have one screen as your primary monitor where you perform your work, and another one that has your email client, Skype, IM client, Twitter client, and other communication apps that you can easily monitor and switch to.

We’d like to share several freeware and open source tools available for download to help you harness the power of multi-display set ups and get you up and running quickly. We hope that you might find the perfect application for you!

Synergy

Synergy

Synergy is an open source software application that lets users of multi-monitor workstations share a mouse and keyboard between several displays. All you have to do is move the mouse cursor off the edge of one display to have it on another adjacent display. It also creates a single virtual clipboard to allow the copy and pasting across the many displays. With Synergy comes a handy module for synchronizing your screensavers across multiple displays so that they run in tandem. If there is a password required after screensaver mode, you only have to type in the password into one monitor to activate all the others. There is also a fork of Synergy called Synergy+ that you can check out on Google Code.

Input Director

Input Director

Input Director grants you the ability to use a single keyboard and mouse on a multi-computer set up, making it the ideal solution for networked computers, a common situation where professionals have more than one computer (such as a desktop and laptop). All you have to do is move the pointer off the edge of the display and it appears on the adjacent monitor on that side, making it the active monitor.

UltraMon

UltraMon

UltraMon is a great tool for multi-display computer configurations that can support up to 10 monitors. It allows you to set custom features for each monitor such as resolution, wallpaper, and taskbar settings. UltraMon allows for the moving of running programs from the primary display to the secondary (and vice versa). Each of the monitors will have their own taskbar showing you the applications running on them. You can predefine and save monitor settings, as well as position where a program opens from the shortcut menu to help speed up your workflow. It also has a feature for easily turning off secondary monitors to conserve electricity consumption when you don’t need them and to reduce distraction when they’re not in use.

Multi Monitor Mouse (M3)

Multi Monitor Mouse

This app saves you from the hassle of having to drag your mouse off the desk as you try to get to the farthest monitor in a multi monitor environment. It immediately warps your cursor across the borders of the display on demand and runs in the background to avoid taxing the systems resources. It is accessible from the system tray where you can change the settings at will. It also speeds up mouse targeting by an estimated 30%.

MultiMon Taskbar

MultiMon Taskbar

MultiMon Taskbar lets you have unique taskbars for each monitor, helping you to easily organize your applications across multiple computer screens. It has a move-to-monitor button accessible from all Windows programs for convenience and ease of movement from one monitor to another. In addition, MultiMon has a clipboard extender module for synchronizing your clipboards across multiple displays, making copy and pasting between networked computers a breeze.

Do you use multiple monitors? Are you looking into using multiple monitors? Do you hate multi-monitor setups? Share your thoughts, opinions, and advice in the comments.

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About the Author

John Urban is a sophmore at UCLA and currently majoring in computer science. He is a writer for an online magazine StyleCeo, which deals with fashion. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, being with his girl, or just doing some freelance work. If you like his work on here and you’d like for him to work as a freelancer for you, you can contact him on Twitter.

48 Comments

Pariah Burke

September 16th, 2009

Interesting list, though it’s better titled “Five Free Tools for Multiple-Computer Setups.” Many of us run multiple monitors off a single computer (I use 4), and these tools aren’t very helpful for that type of setup.

You might also want to add Stardock’s Multiplicity to the list. It’s much like the other act-as-one-multiple-computer tools.

SLaks

September 16th, 2009

UltraMon is not free.

There is also http://www.binaryfortress.com/displayfusion/.

Matt

September 16th, 2009

Teleport for mac is sweet too. Painless install, painless operation, and drag and drop file support. http://abyssoft.com/software/teleport/

Mars

September 17th, 2009

nice tools you got here

Kobi

September 17th, 2009

I think i’ll go with ‘UltraMon’.

Thanks for this list.

Erik

September 17th, 2009

In Windows 7 you can use the Windows logo key +Shift+Left/Right arrows to move windows to your different monitors.

Craig

September 17th, 2009

Yeah this is a pretty mislabeled title for this post

Carl van Tonder

September 17th, 2009

Another brilliant, free tool for multiple-monitor setup is disper[0], a command-line tool to easily extend a linux desktop to an attached monitor or projector, with the advantage that it works well with the binary nvidia driver as well (xrandr-based solutions don’t). A launcher can be made for `disper -e` (extend) and `disper -s` (single monitor) to easily switcch between the two.

[0] http://willem.engen.nl/projects/disper/

QBrushes

September 17th, 2009

This is excellent! using ultramon right now! thanks.

sisa

September 17th, 2009

wow this is great. my life is much easier now. thank you

Loque

September 17th, 2009

Ye been using ultramon for years now and love it, something else I use which is not specific to multi monitors (but to be honest I would only use it with multi monitor setups) is gridmove:

http://jgpaiva.dcmembers.com/gridmove.html

thx for the list!

Tim Dalton

September 17th, 2009

Just wanted to add a vote for Synergy. Set it up a little while ago at home, bit of a pain getting it all setup on Mac but now it’s running moving between desktop and laptop with the one keyboard/mouse is fantastic.

David Ferguson

September 17th, 2009

Synergy is awesome, especially for different OS’s. I haven’t tried it on Linux, but have used it plenty in the past for Windows + Mac systems. I wish there was a better config tool for it, but otherwise, its pretty slick. I’ve swapped over to Mac exclusively at home so I’m looking forward to trying Teleport when I get home.

sean

September 17th, 2009

One tool I’d love is something that confines the mouse to the screen I’m in unless I “try again” to escape it.

So, if my second monitor is to the right, and i push the cursor up against the right edge of the main screen, it acts as if it’s a single monitor setup unless i stop moving the mouse and then push the mouse right again.

SOme mouse drivers allow you to do this within software windows – confine the mouse to the active window unless you “try again” to escape it, but it would be great to have the option for the actual screen.

This would make it much easier to hit scroll bars and close buttons.

I have searched high and low and it simply does not exist. Some programs to confine the mouse are scripts that jump the mouse back when you hit the edge, and must be turned on and off. They are clunky and not at all seamless.

Hopefully someone will write it one day!

Zafar

September 17th, 2009

Excellent.I like it very much. It can really facilitate my work.

Bryan Rowe

September 17th, 2009

Ultramon is awesome but not free.

Sam

September 17th, 2009

I use synergy all the time. I run Windows and Mac at work and it’s a breeze to test different websites across all systems.

Sam

September 17th, 2009

Forgot, for Synergy on a Mac SynergyKM integrates it nicely into System Preferences.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/synergykm/

Jacob Gube

September 17th, 2009

Thanks to @SLaks, @Matt, @Carl van Tonder, @Loque for adding more tools to this article.

@Sam: Thanks for the note on SynergyKM – looks like there’s several forks on Synergy which probably means it’s pretty popular.

I’ll put my vote to Synergy since I use it for my desktop/laptop combo.

Redstage Magento

September 17th, 2009

Great read! I myself use UltraMon at the office. Thanks for this article.

JP

September 17th, 2009

Synergy+ works is platform-independent. Works great on my setup of WinXP (synergy+ server) and Fedora 11 (synergy+ client). Synergy (without the +) looks abandoned.

Jacob Gube

September 17th, 2009

@JP: I was following the thread in SourceForge and the last time the author said anything, he was claiming that the project wasn’t abandoned. A few months go by and he releases an update. Ever since then, no word – and I think it’s safe to say that this project’s either abandoned or not going to be supported often. But hey, that’s what open source is for, people can take on the project and create their own like Synergy+.

Brian

September 17th, 2009

Does anyone know of a tool that will allow multiple users to simultaneously interact with a single machine via multiple monitors and keyboards/mice?

I’d really like to avoid a server/thin-client setup.

Jacob Gube

September 18th, 2009

@Brian: If you find out, I’d like to know. I know you can remote desktop on Windows-based machines, but I don’t know if you can do so with multiple input points simultaneously.

George Coghill

September 18th, 2009

Another vote for Teleport for Mac.

FKeeL

September 18th, 2009

Synergy & Input directer seem to be geared towards a multimonitor/molticomputer set up, the other programes are for multi screen setup, with one computer – right?

I have a setup with two computers and two screens, I use them for editing audio.

Im looking for some software like synergy that will additionally let me drag&drop itams from one screen/computer to a secondary screen/computer and will also let me use the secondary computer for displaying programmes that are run on the primary computer.

Any ideas?

Marc Brooks

September 18th, 2009

Once again, people have missed out on the best FREE multimonitor tool. WinSplit Revolution is perfect, lightweight and does everything you need for WinXP-Win7. http://www.winsplit-revolution.com/

FKeeL

September 19th, 2009

The baby I have been looking for is MaxiVista. Its not free, but its an impressive tool… it still feels a bit beta though (or maybe thats just the limitations of the demo?) I have to use it in combination with Synergy for the perfect workflow.

For anyone interested in MultiPC/Multi Monitor Audio Solutions: Combine Reaper Reamote, MultiVista, & Synergy
and you have the perfect workstation.

Frank

September 19th, 2009

Brian, there is definitely a piece of hardware that does that. I have worked on it and was just fine.

David Ruzicka

September 20th, 2009

@FKeeL Yes only Input Director and Synergy in this list can be used in a multi-computer environnment.

I want to add to this list MaxiVista http://www.maxivista.com/ .
It’s also multi-computers AND multi-screens. It is not free. The Pro and the Mirror versions allow you to have the screen of you other computer behave either like an extention of the desktop of the main computer or you can switch it to be like in Synergy controlled by mouse and keyboard of the main computer with copy/paste facilities.

Cheers

David Ruzicka

September 20th, 2009

On Win7:

- with Synergy I had problems with the screensavers not working
- with Input Director I had problems with the copy/paste functionality from the client to the server.

Capital P

September 20th, 2009

@Brian, @ Jacob Gube:

HP’s product, RGS ( Remote Graphics Software ) has a collaborate function that will allow multiple view and multiple interactions to a centrol console from remote consoles at the same time.

Mike

March 29th, 2010

My personal recommendation is Actual Multiple Monitors (http://www.actualtools.com/multiplemonitors/). It is a most powerful utility among others and it works fine under Windows 7.

Nicholas

June 17th, 2010

I agree with Mike. Actual’s version included a system tray and a start button. Only downfall is the 30$ to pay for it, after the 30 day trial. Still looking for an open-source or free solution.

Rob

July 13th, 2010

@sean:

“One tool I’d love is something that confines the mouse to the screen I’m in unless I “try again” to escape it.”

InputDirector has several ways to do this. You can enable/disable screen transitions with a hotkey (keys to switch between screens), only when a certain key is pressed (“don’t switch screens unless I have pressed”), only when double-tapping a screen edge (within n milliseconds), or only when letting the cursor linger on the edge (for n milliseconds).

Jess

August 2nd, 2010

I don’t think I could get on with more than one screen. It could just be that I’m a creature of habit but it just sounds like an ergonomic nightmare. I know there are multi screen support systems available and it may just be a case of getting used to it but I think I would get too easily distracted with different things on different monitors.

Alex

January 17th, 2011

another new multi monitor software http://www.murgee.com/MurGeeMon/ that works

boogle

January 26th, 2011

@Alex – had a look at murgeemon. its not entirely free.

Grigsby

January 29th, 2011

I couldn’t agree more…all five of these utilities are fantastic….however one that didn’t get the nod is maxivista…this software allows you to use the monitor or monitors from a separate computer as third and fourth monitors to you’re current desktop..Im currently running a 5 monitor desktop using Maxivista,Ultramon, and display fusion leading the way..I sometimes link my dual monitor laptop setup as well using synergy..both these screens can also be added to my current 5 screen setup using Maxivista…The free version i believe is like a 15 day evaluation…$40-$50 bones will take u all the way!

Don

February 14th, 2011

Awesome information…it has taken me years of research and experimentation that this thread gave out in just a few comments. Nice job! I have 4 computers and 12 monitors. Installed programs are : maxivist, synergy, ultramon and eyefinity. I coudln’t live without them. FYI daytrader.

Jared

April 14th, 2011

Comparison Table of multi-monitor software here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_multi-monitor_software

Jared

August 3rd, 2011

Actual Multiple Monitors has freeware edition now – http://actualtools.com/multiplemonitors

William

August 14th, 2011

Excellent article! Now if I could only find software that lets me switch between multiple PCs with multiple monitors by just dragging my mouse to the edge of the monitor.

Does anything like that exist? I don’t want to go the dual monitor KVM switch route.

Sorbi

September 15th, 2011

Hi, my question is how to connect all these monitors to computer ? I have DELL XPS 8300 , on the back I have 2 DVI, one Display and HDMI out put, only 2 DVI works, when I connect third monitor to HDMI, nothing will happen ?

do you think if I nstall UltraMon, HDMI will work and my 3rd monitor will work ?
do I need to buy any gadget ?

Thanks in advance,
Sorbi

MisterB

September 23rd, 2011

Hi, cause I have a multi-monitor solution with one monitor in another room. With mirroring no problem, but extendeding the desktop is a problem. Does someone knows a tool to have an overview of all programs in the desktop?
thanks in advance
misterB

Booster

October 9th, 2011

Actual Multiple Monitors is freeware from V. 3.3

Jennifer_P

November 7th, 2011

The free version of Actual Multiple Monitors has eliminated the essential button to make a window move from one monitor to another. Display fusion’s freeware version doesn’t include a second taskbar. If you want both of these must-have features, and you want them free, then go for Multimon. It also includes a pretty nice virtual clipboard feature that can remember and recover the text you’ve copied recently.

Sumo

November 12th, 2011

Try Multi-Wall for wallpaper.
Superior than most other tools with regards to wallpaper.
http://windowbox.me/multiwall/

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