Did you know… How to optimize Visual Studio for Multi-Monitor setups

Update 7/20 @ 11:53pm: We have a bug:  Please vote and leave your suggestions / feedback at http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/ProductFeedback/viewFeedback.aspx?FeedbackId=cf3597fc-2acf-43c7-b09f-a7e1dd7474f5  Many thanks ShadowChaser!

Update 7/20 @ 9:20pm:  As i mentioned below in the comments, i think the best course of action is to have one of y’all (our customers) report a suggestion via MSDN Product Feedback and let me know what the bug ID is, so everyone can vote.  (if i were to raid it, you wouldn’t be able to see it to vote on it).  Please either email me and/or leave a comment below with the Bug ID, so i can let everyone know how and where to vote.  A big thank you from us multi-mon users!

Last year, I did a very informal survey on how many people out there use Visual Studio on Multi-Monitor displays.  Now that we, the blog authors, have control again over how long comments are open, I’ve reopened the comments so you can still leave your feedback.  But for now, here are some tips on how we use VS on multi-mon setups in house.

Stretching the VS across dual monitors

Go to a restore state, and stretch VS across dual monitors.

One of the benefits of doing this is to be able to view code in each monitor.  You can do a vertical split (Window – New Vertical Tab Group) down the center of the dual monitors.  Now you can have code windows on each monitor.

You can also customize the toolbars to place them on which ever monitor you prefer as your primary.  Just grab the grip control for the toolbars and drag them over to whichever monitor.

Viewing Debugging Tool Windows on secondary monitor

Whenever I’m debugging, I prefer to have the following tool windows like the Watch Window and Output Window on the secondary monitor, with VS occupying the primary monitor.  These tool windows have to be either dockable or floating (floating is what you probably want).  Resize these windows to occupy half of the screen.  Remember, you can use Tools – Import / Export Settings to save your favorite window layouts.  And since these windows only appear during debugging, you don’t have to worry about them occupying your secondary monitor when not in use.

Place External Help on secondary monitor

Dexplore, the Help Viewer, can be placed on the second monitor for a pleasurable help experience.

What other tips should I include in this entry?

Leave a tip as a comment and I’ll update this entry.

Happy Visual Studio’ing!

Comments (34)
  1. Todd Spatafore says:

    Do you mean that there aren’t any new enhancements in VS 2005 for dual monitor support? Or are you only listing out the things that we can do today with VS 2003?

  2. I usually pull the properties tool window over to a secondary monitor, and have help open on a separate monitor as well.

    My monitors are set up on different planes (the desk has a monitor stand, but the second monitor is on the desk a few inches below, and the tertiary one is a few inches higher on a shelf and of a different resolution) so I can’t stretch VS across the monitors. It would be great if you could actually drag code windows to another monitor, or maybe a "tab group" if necessary.

  3. Paul Holden says:

    I was one of the people who left a comment on the original article. I thought it might be useful to comment on how my use of multiple monitors has changed over the last year (when I originally posted I’d just been using multiple monitors for a month or so). I’m probably going to ramble on a bit, because I’ve just got back from the free bar at the London Xfest event 🙂

    I now have a 1280×1024 flatpanel showing the solution explorer (down the left edge) and a single code pane (to the right, filling the rest of the screen). I find the TFT much nicer for viewing code than the CRT (especially with replacement proportional fonts from proggyfonts.com). My secondary monitor is a 1600×1200 CRT which I now use for the Output/Find in Files/Pending Checkins windows etc (covering the bottom half of the screen). Incidentally, I’ve continued to find a really annoying bug which leaves a spurious non-interactive window plastered over my second monitor when I run devstudio Maximised. I’ve found it works fine if I leave it in the restored state and stretch it to fit the flatpanel. Hopefully this will be fixed in 2005 🙂

    For help and documentation I usually use IE (with a Google search) and display the results on the second monitor. Almost all the other apps I use are on the CRT, so the TFT is used exclusively for Dev Studio.

    When I’m debugging I usually have all the debug windows docked in the main Dev Studio window on the flatpanel, with our game running on the CRT. It’s really handy to be able to refer to the state of our game when I hit a breakpoint or whatever – this wasn’t possible with a single monitor.

    It would definitely be useful to be able to drag code windows outside of the dev studio MDI and onto the second monitor. I recently got a 24" 1920×1200 flatpanel at home and it’s really useful to be able to show 2 code panes (I can’t easily do that at work because my two monitors are at different resolutions). It would be nice to be able to specify for .h files to open in one pane, and .cpp files in another. Even nicer would be for the IDE to remember which pane a file was opened in previously, and to restore it there when reopened!

  4. saraford says:

    Todd: These tips are for both Visual Studio .NET 2003 and Visual Studio 2005.


  5. I have a Vertical Tab Group that is split so that I see 1 tab group on 1 screen and the other one on the other screen. That way I can put the ASMX.CS files on the right hand monitor and the ASMX files on the left. Much easier to code side by side.

    It would be helpful to be able to categorize the files so that I can say this category should open on the left monitor, and the other category should open on the right monitor and something else on the center monitor.

    BTW! I’m running my dev machine at 1920 * 1440. Thats two 22 inch monitors each at 1920 * 1440. Believe me when I say the desktop is HUGE! I wanted to take a screen capture. Funny thing is that all I could get from the PrtScn capture is this black screen. There is some white text from my VS.NET IDE but on the whole, its black.

    IS THIS A WINDOWS ERROR? Can screen capture work at such high resolutions?

  6. saraford says:

    Todd and everyone else:

    For those of you who have been wishing for Multi-Mon support in VS, could someone please report a bug via MSDN Product Feedback center and let me know what the bug number is, so i can get people to vote on it.

    We had almost 100 people comment on my blog post last year that they wanted VS to support Multi-Mon. Now, using MSDN Product Feedback Center, we can track the frequently of the requests and make sure your comments are in our bug tracking database.

    Please leave a comment with the bug ID on this entry. Thanks!

  7. MSDNArchive says:

    You’ll get my vote on the bug.

  8. Matthew W. Jackson says:

    I don’t know about a suggestion requesting more features, but I do remember a bug/suggestion that was shot down COLD with some response that according to their studies "Multi Monitor usage was in decline" (paraphrased). That didn’t help my perception of the product in regards to multi-monitor support, especially when I’m pretty sure quite a few Microsoft developers use multi-monitor setups.

    I don’t know what studies they were doing, because it seems contrary to the market demand. It wasn’t until recently that you could easily find a good video card with two VGA/DVI ports (three on a few cards), and getting two different cards to work together was never easy until the major vendors unified their drivers. Also, with flat panels, it’s easier to fit a lot of monitors on your desk.

    Almost every serious developer I know uses multile monitors. During an internship I ran into an engineer with three PCs and ten monitors on his desk.

  9. Sara, from the VSCore team, is looking for people to report and vote on feature suggestions via the product…

  10. ShadowChaser says:

    I’ve posted a multi-monitor suggestion at:


    Nothing fancy, just a request for better floating /SDI window support and a "drag to float" ability.

    Speaking of the document list/tab bar, does it infuriate anyone else how VS2005 automatically reorders the tabs?

    Just when I think I remember where my open windows are they get reordered. Many of my code files look similar – I can’t even *begin* to count the number of times started programming in the wrong document as a result when using C# Express. Has anyone else had this problem as well?

    Personally I think the automatic window tab reordering is a usability nightmare. 🙁

  11. I tried to do a Suggestion on the Product Feedback site but it is the WORST design ever. It keeps sending me in circles. I click on Make A Suggestion and it tells me to "Step 1: Search for a duplicate suggestion" which I enter. Then it brings up a page with no search results and no way for me to enter a new suggestion.

    What kind of useless system is that? So to any Product Feedback people reading this….your site is poorly designed! A good design means that even an idiot like myself should be able to use it properly. SO FIX IT!

    I want to report the screen capture bug for Windows XP as well and I can’t do that either.

    Can someone let me know where I can suggest things and report bugs ‘PROPERLY’. Thanks.

  12. Jeff Parker says:

    Whoops well looks like Shadowchaser and I had the same idea. But I also added another one.

    Similar to Shadow Chaser let get some dragable tab windows for all things in there. Let me drag out a form designer view to one monitor and work on the code on another monitor.


    Also since I am working on that code on one monitor and have a deigner off in another monitor I want a quick way to loose all those tool bars and be like in full screen mode, however current full screen maximized the IDE across all monitors. Give me a full screen mode that doesn’t maximize everywhere and everything.


  13. Mike Dunn says:

    The "dead non-painting window" bug that Paul Holden mentioned really bugs me too. I haven’t used VC7.1 in a while, but IIRC if you maximize VS then hit Logo+D then click the VS taskbar button, you’ll see it. Or with the IDE maximized, do some slow operation with SourceSafe to made the OS think that VS is hung.

  14. Daniel Moth says:

    To be honest, I am not bothered about multi-monitor support.

    On one monitor I have Visual Studio and nothing else.

    On the other monitor I have e-mail client, IM client, browser, rss reader, newsgroup reader, explorer, word/excel/notepad, reflector, cmd, activesync etc.

    In other words, a day at the office involves using a plethora of applications and a multi-monitor setup simply serves as a mechanism for having the most important one always visible on one screen and all the rest on the other.

    My £0.02

  15. Chris Menegay – Am I off my rocker?

    Chris discusses his vision of VSTS, in response to Jeremy Miller’s…

  16. Mark Levison says:

    I would love to leave a notes in ladybug – but it won’t let me log in today – it keeps sending me back to the "MSDN Profile Center"

    As for the question – Multi-monitor support would be very helpful. Sometimes I’m need to look at two files side by side. Today I have to open the second file in another editor.

  17. Today’s tip comes from “some cool dev” who wrote the new Window Management features for Visual Studio…

  18. David Wurmfeld says:

    I am new to VS (just got 2005) and am faced with either geting a huge monitor or linking two XGA flat panels (I have one now). Any recommendations for a dual head graphics card? Any preference between dual monitors vs a huge CRT (can’t afford a mondo LCD)


  19. Właśnie przeglądałem sieć w celu znalezienia sposobu na podział Visual Studio 2005 na wiele monitorów….

  20. Hi!

    I’m using tips which you described here, but I have one question:

    – is it possible to save different VS 2005 settings?

     WHY?: I need this because I’m using external LCD only in work, at home I’m using just laptop, so I must every time change VS Settings

    I’m also using this cool programm: http://www.mediachance.com/free/multimon.htm – multimonitor task bar.

    Kind regards from Poland

  21. saraford says:

    Go to Tools – Import / Export Settings.  Select to export your settings and check the "General Settings – Window Layouts" category.

    Let me know how this goes.



  22. kierepka says:

    Yes – this is what I needed. Thx!

  23. Dev Emporium says:

    Microsoft’s Sara Ford celebrated her 100th "Tip of the Week" a couple of weeks ago by publishing a list…

  24. Giles says:

    Its a pretty lame work around. Would be good to see this done properly as a multi-MDI windows, a bit like the way Firefox or IE7 works.

    I’ve done the same thing with my apps and it works great, can’t see why MS can’t do it for VS.

    The users for my app typically have about 6 screens. Would be sad to tell them to use the above fudge.

  25. cj says:

    i have an annoying bug with vs2003 in xp.

    i have 2 lcd monitors setup, 1280 each, streched, using matrox dual head card.

    this is the only app that doesnt open/resize properly!

    a small toolbar appears on the top, thats !

    any advice?

    bigluzer @  [[[[[gmail]]]]

  26. Guido says:

    Just a quick bug check, when I use VS.Net 2003 on a multi monitor setup, sometimes a second VS window appears partially on the 2nd monitor. This window behaves the same wrt focus but does not draw its contents. trying to drag that window drags the VS main window; its a bit of a nuisance. Do you know of any fixes for that?

  27. .NET Geek says:

    For some time I have been subscribing to Sara Ford's blog where she shares useful tips for Visual

  28. I seem to remember this particular issue making some ground in terms of verbal noise a year or so ago

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