Multiple-monitor woes
June 6, 2005 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I've been trying to use multiple monitors with my laptop and while it works, there are a couple of weird issues that make it not very usable. I can't tell if it's an issue with Windows, Office, or the hardware.

I wanted to be able to use two monitors (the built in laptop screen and an external CRT) at the same time with my so that I can edit a document in Word and read another document or webpage at the same time. So I connected my monitor to the VGA port of my laptop and used the "Display Settings -> Settings" tab to extend my desktop to the external monitor. It worked in that I could move the mouse cursor from one display to another and move windows back and forth but there are to issues that make the configuration less than usable.

The main issue is that when I right-click on any window in the secondary display, the context menu opens by itself on the primary display. This happens with both firefox and MS-Office.

The second problem is that embedded graphics in Word documents don't show up when the document is viewed on the secondary monitor. I just see a blank rectangle in the page with a little red 'x' in the corner. You can actually see the pictures in a document disappear as I drag Word from one screen to the other.

I'm running XPSP1 on a Thinkpad T41p and the external monitor is a seven year old Optiquest Q71
posted by octothorpe to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
I'm not familiar with these exact issues, but a lot of laptop dual monitor problems can be solved by turning hardware acceleration for your video card off. This option will likely be found in "Display Settings -> Settings -> Advanced -> Troubleshoot". You might also try turning off write combining here.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2005

I run dual monitors all the time (Actually, triple monitors if you include my TV), and I've seen issues like this.

Unfortunately, multiple monitors is one of the less-used features of Windows, so it's not as well bug-hunted as some other features.

Sometimes menus will open on the wrong screen. Not much you can do about it.

Likewise, many manufacturers release vid cards with poorly functioning secondary monitor ports. This may be your problem. Any chance other ThinkPad users are having similar issues?

I do recommend reserving the secondary monitor for rudimentary tasks, like working in Windows Explorer. I have a rather rambling tutorial at my blog.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:45 PM on June 6, 2005

My T40 has a ATI graphics adapter and comes with a utility called ATI Hydravision (You probably have the something similar). You can configure the options for the context menus etc using this. You can access it (if it is running) by right-clicking on the ATI icon in the sytem tray, and go to Hydravision - Hydravision Properties. You can look at the help to help you customize these to your requirements.
I have no guesses on the second issue !
posted by zergot at 6:54 PM on June 6, 2005

If you're using a Thinkpad, I recommend ignoring the built-in ability of Windows to use dual monitors in favor of IBM's application. It's called Presentation Director. If it's not pre-installed on your Thinkpad (activated by pressing Fn+F7), you can download it from IBM's website. I use it for my Thinkpad and it works perfectly for me; much better than Window's built-in version. Actually, I spent the time to look on IBM's website and found it here. I recommend trying it out.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 8:50 PM on June 6, 2005

Oh, and the problem you're experiencing likely has something to do with Windows's (inability) to handle primary versus secondary displays. As a result, only one monitor can be used for certain features such as video playback. Presentation Director doesn't seem to have these limitations.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 8:53 PM on June 6, 2005

Well, I seem to have found the problem with the menus and it was much simpler than either I or any respondents thought. It has to do with the whether you start the application before or after you extend the desktop. Simply restarting Firefox or Word after you extend the desktop fixes the menu problem. Lame but easy to fix.

The graphics in Word doc issue has gone away and I no longer can reproduce it. I hate issues like that.

I have the ATI drivers but no Hydravision and I can only seem to get the Presentation Director to show the same thing on both monitors which doesn't help if I'm not giving a presentation.
posted by octothorpe at 4:08 AM on June 7, 2005

Hmm, I have no problem getting Presentation Director to extend my desktop onto two monitors. But glad you solved your problem.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 7:23 PM on June 7, 2005

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