Extend the Taskbar across all displays, find a lost cursor and save time with keyboard shortcuts
One downside to multiple-monitor setups is having to push the mouse that bit further to get around the extended Desktop. Thankfully, Windows can help. Click Start (followed by Run in XP), type main.cpl and press Enter. Select the Pointer Options tab then drag the Motion slider to the right to speed up how quickly your cursor travels across your screen. Also, tick the ‘Enhance pointer precision’ box, as this will ensure the fastest movement only when Windows detects you’re trying to move the cursor over a long distance.
Followed the tip above? Well, while you’re on the Pointer Options tab you might want to tick the ‘Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key’. Next time you lose track of your cursor on your multi-monitored Windows Desktop, tap Control (Ctrl) and it will be fleetingly highlighted by a cross-hairs symbol.
Setting up a second (or even a third) monitor is pretty easy but did you know that you can fine-tune Windows’ display settings to better suit your screens’ setup? This is really useful if your monitors aren’t perfectly adjacent. Using multiple displays feels more natural when you aren’t moving your cursor off an edge into a space where no screen ‘exists’. Click Start (followed by Run in XP), then type desk.cpl and press Enter. Under ‘Change the appearance of your display’, drag and drop the display thumbnails to mirror their physical arrangement. If you need help figuring out which is which, click Identify.
If you’re using Windows 8.1 or 10, you can stretch the Windows Desktop’s Taskbar so that it spans all your displays. Right-click the Taskbar, choose Properties and then, in the ‘Multiple displays’ section, tick ‘Show taskbar on all displays’. Use the dropdown menu below to set how and where Taskbar buttons appear. For those using Windows 7 or XP, read the box below to find out how to extend your Taskbar.
Committing a couple of much-used keyboard shortcuts to memory will dramatically speed up how you work across your extended Desktop. The most useful shortcut is Windows key+Shift+left or right arrow (cursor) key. This will instantly transport the current program window to the same position on the monitor to the left or right.
The second useful shortcut is Windows key+P, which lets you duplicate or extend the Windows Desktop, or disable one or other screen by tapping to cycle through to the option you want. This is designed primarily for people using a projector or connecting a PC to an HDMI TV. However, it also works with any combination of displays.
When you have more than one display connected, your graphics card and Windows have to work that little bit harder, so things might slow down a tad. If you notice this, you can inject a bit of speed by reducing the colour depth.
Click Start (followed by Run in XP), type desk.cpl and press Enter. Next, click ‘Advanced settings’ and select the Monitor tab. Open the Colors dropdown menu and choose ‘High Color (16 bit)’. Unless you’re editing photos, you probably won’t even notice the reduction in colours (from a billion to just under 17 million).