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Do Big Screens Make Employees More Productive? 472

prostoalex writes "If your company uses 17" or 19" monitors, 30" monitors will make the employees more productive, Apple-sponsored research says. MacWorld reports: "Pfeiffer's testing showed time savings of 13.63 seconds when moving files between folders using the larger screen — 15.7 seconds compared to 29.3 seconds on the 17-in. monitor — for a productivity gain of 46.45 percent. The testing showed a 65.09 percent productivity gain when dragging and dropping between images — a task that took 6.4 seconds on the larger monitor compared to 18.3 seconds using the smaller screen. And cutting and pasting cells from Excel spreadsheets resulted in a 51.31 percent productivity gain — a task that took 20.7 seconds on the larger monitor versus 42.6 seconds on the smaller screen."" Calling such task-specific speed jolts "productivity gains" seems optimistic unless some measure of overall producivity backs up that claim, but don't mention that on the purchase order request.
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Do Big Screens Make Employees More Productive?

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  • by Digitus1337 ( 671442 ) <> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @08:56AM (#16406779) Homepage
    30" screens will also make Apple a lot more money. Funny how that works out.
  • by evilduckie ( 854758 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:00AM (#16406847) Homepage
    One of my clients, involved in cartography (making maps), showed me his brand new 30" screen and said he had upgraded from 20" because on one single project, he was losing about 25% of his time scrolling around. So I'd have to say it not only made him more productive, but it also eventually paid for itself.
  • Re:Answer is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:07AM (#16406905)
    It isn't really so concrete, though, is it? I'm perfectly happy with my 19". Would a 30" really help? Maybe... If I had a 30", would a 50"? What about a 100"?

    Maybe 30" isn't the magic number, either. Maybe 30" is really TOO big and would cut my productivity because I have to constantly move my whole head to view the screen, instead of just my eyes.

    I have a 37" LCD HDTV as a monitor at home. (Mainly for games.) I find I have to sit all the way across the room (Like 8' away) in order to properly view the screen. I'd get the same benefit from a ~ 22" screen that is much closer, and there wouldn't be all that wasted room space.

    At work, I'm not even sure a 30" screen would fit on my desk... I seriously doubt it would make me more productive.

    Also, it's worth noting that the upgrade from 15" to 19" didn't do much for my productivity at work.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:07AM (#16406907)
    moving files between folders ... 15.7 seconds compared to 29.3 seconds on the 17-in. monitor

    A GUI is not a suitable environment for everything guys - I've seen so many people stuff about clicking everywhere and sorting by extension when they could just use a very simple command to move things in up to one tenth of the time. Computers are there to do the heavy lifting for us if we just tell them the rules. There are a lot of good uses for big screens and multiple screens - but a glass typewriter version of a filing cabinet is given as the example?

  • by Mr. McD ( 166893 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:08AM (#16406933) Homepage
    when you maximize a window, it fills the whole screen, which still puts you back to alt-tabbing

    You can correct this problem if you're running Mac OS X ;)
  • by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:11AM (#16406977)
    >cartography (making maps),
    Please say that didn't really need explaining.
  • That depends... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:28AM (#16407199) Journal
    ...on the work your doing, and if it can be partitioned into multiple spaces efficiently. CAD work, it turned out for me, wasn't any more efficient on two screens, but was more efficient on a large widescreen. Since the tools take up a small portion of the screen, a second monitor was mostly unused (unless you count a calendar and email program constantly viewable as useful). A single, large monitor means more drawing data available / more detail shown on the screen, and reduces zooming and panning for operations. If I could drive a 30" from my laptop, I might buy one. I use a 24" WS 'cause it matches my current laptop resolution (seamless transition from work to road use), and it wasn't insanely expensive (30"ers were over $2.5k when I got the 24).
  • by ben there... ( 946946 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:55AM (#16407571) Journal
    He said "higher resolution". So characters would be smaller. Work area would be larger.

    You said "higher DPI". So characters would be larger. Work area would be mostly the same, just with big characters that take up some extra space.

    Higher resolution != higher DPI. ;-)
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:55AM (#16407581) Journal
    How many times have you seen a computer user who is constantly picking and clicking with their mouse to do the simplest of tasks? I've seen veteran users select text from where the cursor is to the end of the line with the mouse, then click Edit then Cut, then click the point in the document where they want to paste the text, then click Edit then Paste. Shift-End, Ctrl-X, Click at insertion, Ctrl-V would have saved even the fastest mouse-jockey 15-20 seconds on a very common action. There are hundreds of shortcuts - just learning a dozen will save several minutes in a typical day.

    Different tasks require different screen real estate, and sometimes bigger is better. But for office app productivity, the low hanging fruit is training.
  • Re:Answer is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:04AM (#16407697) Homepage
    It only helps to have 2 monitors rather than 1 large monitor because the window managers handle 2 monitors much better than 1 large monitor. The maximize feature becomes useless if you're using a 30 inch monitor. Maybe we need new window managers to take advantage of the larger screens. I think the fact that they used Macintosh machines definitely changes the results, because the maximize button doesn't really maximize. WHich makes a lot of sense if you have a 23 inch apple cinema display, but doesn't make much sense if you use a 17 4:3 resolution monitor.
  • Re:Answer is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:09AM (#16407763) Homepage
    I think it all depends on what you do with it.

    When doing graphics, you'd probably work better on the largest single monitor you can find.

    When programming, two monitors will probably be quite convenient.

    Playing a movie on two separate screens wouldn't even compare to a single big screen.

    A game will just look enlarged on a larger display, whereas you'd probably get a wider view, and thus more information, on two separate monitors.

    And, according to Apple's research, a big screen is pretty good for basic OS/offics tasks.

    I'm sure there's more examples that go either way.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:20AM (#16407927) Journal
    I'm actually in a situation at home where I can compare both side-by-side. I have a PC with XP on it running two 20" wide-screen LCD panels, and across the room, I have a new Mac Pro with a Dell 24" LCD display. (Ok, granted, not quite a 30" like they use in this study ... but should be close enough for the purpose.)

    Despite having 40" of total space on one system, vs. only 24" on the other, I *still* prefer the single 24" display, all things considered.

    The fact that you can angle each viewing area separately is more of a nuisance than a benefit, IMHO. I'm always finding one of the displays gets bumped so it's not sitting right up against the other one, and the gap between screens is distracting. I also find that with dual displays, I tend to want to angle them just slightly inward so they have a slight "wrapping around my viewing area" effect, rather than looking straight on at both of them. But again, that always seems to get bumped out of place if someone wants to play with the controls on one of the panels or whatever.

    With dual displays, I'd also be happier if games would start making use of them. As it is, I don't think I've ever gotten a piece of software other than MS Flight Simulator to take advantage of dual monitors. (I recall seeing somebody's instructions for making Quake 3 use dual monitors for a wide-aspect game spanning both of them - but it required software rendering, which made it horribly slow.)
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:39AM (#16408227) Homepage
    The article has things oversimplified. It's not a larger monitor that makes you more productive. It's more real estate that makes you more productive. With that 30 inch monitor came a higher resolution. A 30 inch monitor at 800x600 is not much more productive than a 15 incher.

    A larger monitor is easier on the eyes, and if it's easier on the eyes, you can make the resolution higher, thus gaining more real estate and being able to put more windows on your screen.

    Dual monitors always increase real estate so it's easy to see how they increase productivity. Getting a larger monitor doesn't always increase productivity unless it includes an increase in resolution.

    Once again this proves that it's not the size that matters, it's how you use it.
  • Re:Answer is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:47AM (#16408351) Homepage
    I think it really depends on the task you doing. For instance:

    Dual Monitors:
    • Programing/Coding
    • some forms of 2D Graphics
    • Stock trading
    • database development/management
    • some forms of word processing
    • General Multi Tasking
    Basically any scenario where you're doing a lot of side by side comparisons, moving data from one place to another or Channing something on one end and watching the results somewhere else. Multi monitors helps keep you from constantly switching between things.

    One Large Monitor
    • 3D Graphics
    • Gaming
    • Media (movies/slide shows etc.)
    • Some forms of word processing
    • some forms of 2D Graphics
    • CAD solidmodeling/drawing
    Basically any scenario where you need to do a lot of comparisons of the same object on both a large scale and a small scale, or just getting a large view of something that fills your vision. Any scenario where you're constantly zooming in and zooming out will benefit from a single large monitor by allowing you to leave it mostly zoomed in and using your eyes to move around or change focus to the whole picture instead of your mouse. Games and media benefit from this due to giving you a good immersive feel by filling your vision.

    There are other scenarios, and hybrid scenarios: like the gamer who keeps an IM client and stock ticker open or the person who likes to play a movie in the background while they do other work. But the type of display that works "best" changes depending on what you're using it for. Perhaps the best universal scenario would be a 30" main display with a 19" secondary.

    I would definitely agree that there's a point of being too big, but I don't think you could associate an actual size with it. 30" might be too big if you're only sitting 20" from it Similarly I've got a projector in my basement that's got a 114" image but I can comfortably use that from my couch 180" away. So size is relative to how far away you're set from the screen.
  • by ghjm ( 8918 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:39AM (#16409129) Homepage
    Err ...

    So you're saying that in an IT department with 5 employees, if I fire one of them and give the remaining four dual monitors, we'll get the same amount of work done without any added overtime?

  • Re:Even Faster... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:44AM (#16409229)
    Yeah, and when you need to select 25 of 100 non-consecutive JPEG files from a folder to copy I'm sure you always use the command line instead of ctrl-click and drag.
  • One piece I think people skip over is the benefit from rotating certain monitors to be oriented vertically. Most non-media-related computing tasks rely more on the y-axis (emails, code, web pages.); being able to see 100+ lines of code on the screen lets you have a lot more context.

    In addition, it helps to be able to maximize multiple windows rather than have one giant screen space and to have to manually resize (or use the clumsy tile windows capability.) If I had one 30" monitor it would drive me nuts; instead I have 3 20" Dell LCDs both at home and at work and it makes a huge difference to be able to maximize two windows on the left and center monitors and to leave the right monitor for email/IM/VMs. (I also usually have about 40-50 windows open at once, which some find strange -- a bunch of python shells, Komodo, Visual Studio, VMware, remote desktop, other text editors and tools, skype, AIM, winamp, photoshop, etc.)

    The actually productivity boost comes from not needing to alt-tab, and thus avoiding the concomitant mental context switches; it's great to be able to look at a google search or API reference on one window while actually writing code instead of flipping back and forth and back and forth.

  • Drag and what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by unix_core ( 943019 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @01:24PM (#16410689)
    Of course it would make me more productive, the bigger the screen, the more terminals i can use at the same time! ;)
  • Re:Answer is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:06PM (#16411293)
    I think this is going to change dramatically in the coming future. First off, all internal applications (Like unwrapping) in a 3d app can be put into an internal "Sub monitor" so those aren't a problem. With Z-Brush and Modo offering such high quality 3d paint tools I think we're going to see painting on the mesh far more common, resulting in more single monitor applications. The current situation of multiple applications being required is slowly disintegrating.

    One thing I can never understand is when people ridicule the idea of a larger monitor (I'm not suggesting parent was, just a standard reaction). I always get incredulous stares even with my 23" and exclamations at its size but I always respond: How productive at work would you be with a TV tray table for a desk? Some how people have been convinced that 17" of work space is all you need! Our "work space" is minuscule even with a 23" screen. I would say 23" is a minimum not a maximum.

    Unrelated. This is far less of a problem with windows which only requires one click to switch between applications. The one feature where I feel that Mac OSX seriously lags behind windows is the ease of switching back and forth between two applications. Perhaps apple's survey highlights just how inefficient OSX is for a multi window user. And since this is 90% of what my OS does (the other 9% opening applications in the first place) I think they should focus more on their interface than the trying to solve it with a larger screen.

    As a user of a large screen I do think Microsoft and Apple need to add a new feature to OSX and Windows. The half Maximize. There should be two extra buttons on the opposite top side: [Maximize Right][Maximize Left]. The two buttons would quickly resize the window to take up half the screen.
  • Re:Answer is (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @02:16PM (#16411431)
    In my dual monitor setup, I use one in front, and one off to the right at an angle. Not as good as three monitors but I still get some benefit from the "off to the side" concept.
  • by lotrtrotk ( 853897 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @03:28PM (#16412469)
    ...But can you walk while you chew gum?
    Don't you think that closing a few of those windows might actually HELP productivity? Your brain can't possibly focus on that many things at once. Not to mention that your PC must be getting bogged down (even if it IS a powerhouse of a machine).

    If you can chat, listen to music, email, edit photos, do research, code in 3 different languages, and do any number of things on VM & Remote machines, AND post on slashdot, all at the same time...... then you must be cutting a lot of corners.

    Ps. Please don't take this as a troll. I don't mean this as an attack. Just an observation.

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.