Did you know… How to optimize Visual Studio for multi-monitors? – #381

This is really a repost from 3 (and even 4) years ago when Tip of the Day was just a weekly series. I’m really glad to hear that Visual Studio 2010 will have multi-monitor support. Really, really glad, as you can tell from the original blog post. Of course, there’s a story behind this which should be told at another time…

Here are some ideas for optimizing Visual Studio (non-2010 versions). Ironically, I don’t use multi-monitors anymore (neck strain) so hopefully I haven’t forgotten to find someone’s machine to take some screenshots.

  1. Stretching the VS across dual monitors

    Put Visual Studio into a restore state, where you can resize it. Then stretch VS across both 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.

  2. Viewing Debugging Tool Windows on secondary monitor

    Whenever I’m debugging, I prefer to have 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.

  3. Place External Help on secondary monitor

    Put DExplore (Documentation Explorer) on the second monitor, but most of you probably already do this instinctively.

For more ideas, or to read the original blog post, go to http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford/archive/2005/07/20/441126.aspx

Comments (9)

  1. chris says:

    I’m sorry but this isn’t much of a tip. However, it is nice to know that multi-monitor support will be added in 2010.

  2. If you’re debugging anything to do with a repaint, it is a great idea to have a window layout with all your debug windows on one monitor, and the application running on a second, completely other-application-free monitor, to avoid unnecessary redraws triggered by the switch to/from VS.

  3. Catto says:

    Hey Now Sara,

    I can’t believe I never tried to steach my VS over two monitors. Often us of VS on one monitor & SQL Server or IE on the other.

    That is a great tip to use VS on multi monitors.

    Thx 4 the info,


  4. David Nguyen says:

    The UltraMon tool can stretch the IDE across all monitors quite nice.  I combine it with the Vertical Split feature to get a cool layout.

  5. larmccoy says:

    I used to use multiple monitors with VS2005 and VS2008.  However, since I’ve "upgraded" to a new quad-core machine with Vista 64 Business, I’ve found that VS2008 crashes after I have moved any VS-related window into the second monitor.  I’ve tried moving just tool windows and even stretching the entire VS window into the second monitor.  In either case, I eventually get a crash (usually after I stop a debugging session).  Frankly, I was initially puzzled as to why VS was crashing, until I found a bug report reported for VS2005 that was related to multiple monitors.  Since I’ve stopped moving VS stuff into the second monitor I have not seen a single crash by Visual Studio.  I hope VS2010 fixes this…

  6. Jeff Odell says:

    larmccoy – I have this problem too – reported it through a couple different avenues – invluding sending detailled dumps – but it has not been fixed.  

    I think it is a problem with certain video drivers and not others.  For example, with 2005 I had the problem at a customer site until we upgraded their video drivers.  Then the problem disappeared.  

    Unfortunately, with 2008 and my laptop, the problem is back and I have the absolute latest drivers.

    It seems to just be luck!  

  7. Geminorus says:

    larmccoy, I have discovered a bug in Visual Studio 2008 where if you dock several tool windows together regardless of multi-monitor, VS will crash. I have the bug reported here in more detail: https://connect.microsoft.com/VisualStudio/feedback/ViewFeedback.aspx?FeedbackID=376251

    Microsoft left a comment saying it will be fixed in the next VS release (VS2010).

  8. Mafu Josh says:

    I personally use the "Viewing Debugging Tool Windows on secondary monitor" method, with one difference:

    I keep all of the debugging tool windows in the main window like it is normally, except when the Full Screen button is pressed, then the debugging windows move to a floating window on the 2nd monitor.  So all you have to do is click "Full Screen" to turn it on or off on the 2nd monitor.

  9. Nick Williams says:

    I use three monitors: left one for the app running/documentation/foobar/etc, middle one for the code window/menu/toolbars, the right for tool windows (docked to each other as a single large window).

    When stretching across monitors, sure, you can move the toolbar but I’ve yet to find any way to move the menu along with it.

    I have never found document splitting to be useful beyond a design/source split-view for an html document.  I can’t imagine a situation that I’d be consulting a file in my own solution while concurrently editing another file of my own solution.  Far more common is consulting MSDN in FF or an external project contained in a separate instance of VS and thus on a different monitor to begin with.

    One improvement would be independent focus for given windows.  I only find VS useful when it’s taking up 2 monitors, never 3 or else debugging gets in the way of the app’s interface when focus is given to VS.  It would be nice to be able to give focus to my code window and have another application sitting on top of my tool windows or similar.  If you’re dealing with winforms you could set the window style to keep it above, but that’s not acceptable when dealing with web projects as the browser is open even when not debugging.

    I would say VS2008 is about as multi-monitor friendly as it can get.  I just hope they don’t and screw things up in VS2010.