With today’s programs, a dual monitor setup is almost a necessity — if you’ve used a dual monitor setup, you know how hard it is to be stuck with a single screen.
But not everyone has the cash, or the space, for two monitors. And if you have a laptop, carrying around an external monitor sort of defeats the advantage of a portable computer.
Fortunately, there’s a really clever solution for Windows called “DoubleDesktop” (from Fat Free Software, fatfreesoft.com). It’s even free for non-commercial use with home computers. (If you do use it in your business, do the right thing and pay the modest license fee.) It works great with Windows XP, 2K and NT; the company claims it works with Windows 98, but I’ve had mixed results with 98SE and don’t recommend it. Then again, if you’re using Windows 98SE for serious music work, we need to have a talk. . . .
WHAT IT DOES
DoubleDesktop basically creates another desktop and places it side by side with your standard one; you switch between the two halves of the “mondo virtual desktop” with a user-definable hot key, or by clicking on an arrow in the taskbar. A typical use would be to show a DAW’s virtual mixer in one half, and the track view in the other half. Or, you can stick your virtual instruments in one half, and jump over to them when you want to tweak ’em.
The one thing you can’t do is stretch a single window to cover the doubled desktop width. You can move a window anywhere you want in your new virtual desktop, but a window’s maximum size will always be limited to the normal desktop size.
Another consideration is that if you have icons on your desktop, they’ll appear in both halves (although toolbars and any other floating windows are associated with only one desktop). Actually, I think this is an advantage, because you can access your important shortcuts from either desktop. Furthermore, you can set the title and background color independently for the desktop icons in the two halves. So, it’s easy to tell at a glance which desktop you’re on just by looking at the desktop icons. And it’s even easier if you choose the option to display a different wallpaper for the other desktop.
Note that the taskbar shows only those programs you can see on the current desktop. However, if a window straddles the two desktops, both taskbars show the associated program’s name.
IT GETS BETTER . . .
If you already have a dual monitor setup, you’re probably thinking “okay, that’s clever, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.” However, I’ve saved the best until last: With dual monitor setups, DoubleDesktop doubles the desktop on each monitor — you essentially have a quad desktop display. Is that way cool, or what? Yeah, it’s cool.
For example, with Sonar 4, I usually have the track view in one monitor, the mixer in the other monitor, and the loop construction window stretched across both of them. But with DoubleDesktop, I stick all the soft synths and processor plug-in interfaces in the other halves of the two desktops. In some ways, this is better than having four monitors because you don’t have to keep swiveling your neck from side to side.
WHERE TO GET IT
Of course you are. Surf on over to fatfreesoft.com/2desk.php and download the program. Installation is simple, and you can enable/disable it at any time. To place a window in the other desktop, just drag it over partway, switch over to the other desktop, then drag the window the rest of the way and position it where you want it.
You gotta love computers. But you gotta love the brainiacs who came up with this kind of utility even more.