I’ve been using multiple monitors since my days at BondNet in 1995. There are lots of documented productivity improvements with multi monitors and I say with certainty that once you go multi-head you won’t go back. I am able to keep my Outlook tasks and calendar open all day long on the second screen. I keep MSN Messenger and Winamp open there too. This way I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to look over at my calendar and interrupt, click, click to get back to what I’m working on. I keep these things in the same place all the time. I foresee a future where we’ll have many application specific displays all around our desk area. Think about your telephone, you always know where it is, it never moves, and you don’t have to move your email aside to get to it. Same thing here.
At work I just purchased a dual-head ATI video card and grabbed a second 19″ CRT (3200 x 2400 effective resolution), but there are many other alternate ways to get to multiple monitors. You can buy a second PCI video card which I’ve done before. One of the cooler options is MaxiVista. It creates a virtual display adapter which connects a second networked machine running the client software. Windows handles it from there.
I had a old Dell Pentium II laptop with a beautiful 14″ LCD that had been collecting dust. Well, not anymore… For the $49 registration fee I have 786,432 more pixels to work with. The performance is completely fine for what I use it for, but I wouldn’t try anything super fancy without gigabit networking and/or until the product matures further.
And if you are going to be going the multi-head route you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of UltraMon. It fills in all sorts of features such as allowing different wallpaper, screensavers and taskbars for each window. When you run it you’ll see why the separate taskbar is a must have.
Bonus tip: I originally had an animated gif for the MaxiVista graphic, but it just got too annoying. In IE, you can stop animated gifs from animating by hitting the stop button after the page has loaded.