Use Dual Displays When Working With Microsoft Office

Multiple monitors can be a productivity game-changer

Operating in a single pane of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or other Microsoft Office programs works well. Office has a good user interface that offers specialty panes and views. But adding another window to compare two documents can make a workspace feel crowded and confusing.

You can add an additional screen to boost monitor real estate. Here are some guidelines for setting up dual monitors and working with Microsoft Office programs on multiple screens.

Instructions in this article apply to dual-monitor setups in Windows 10, Windows 7, and Mac computers.

A person working at a Windows computer with dual monitors.
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How to Connect Two Monitors to a Windows 10 Computer

This process involves getting a PC to recognize more than one monitor.

  1. Connect the two monitors to the computer or device, and turn on the power for each.

    Make sure all necessary cables are connected to the monitors and the computer, including connecting power and video signals using VGA, DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort cables.

  2. Select Start Settings System Display. The computer should detect both monitors automatically and show the desktop.

    If you don't see the monitors, select Detect.

  3. In the Multiple Displays section, select an option from the list to determine how the desktop will display across the screens. Extend These Displays is recommended for a dual-monitor setup.

    Duplicate displays shows the same desktop on both displays. Disconnect This Display turns off the selected monitor.

  4. Select Keep Changes. Your dual-monitor setup is ready to use with Microsoft Office programs.

How to Connect Two Monitors to a Windows 7 Computer

The process is a little different if the PC has Windows 7 installed.

  1. Connect the two monitors to the computer or device, and turn on the power for each.

    Make sure all necessary cables are connected to the monitors and the computer, including connecting power and video signals using VGA, DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort cables.

  2. Press Windows Key+P.

  3. Select Extend to use the second monitor as an extension of the first.

    An alternative method is to right-click an empty area of the desktop and select Screen Resolution. From the Multiple displays drop-down list, select Extend these displays.

How to Connect Two Monitors to a Mac

Setting up dual monitors on a Mac is an easy process. After you connect another monitor, choose to use it as an extended desktop or for video mirroring.

  1. For each display, securely connect a video cable (and adapter, if necessary) from a video output port on the Mac to the video input port on the display.

  2. The Mac should detect the connected display. If it doesn't, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences > Displays, then select Displays again. Select Detect Displays.

    You may need to hold down the Option key when selecting Detect Displays.

  3. After the Mac recognizes both displays, go to Apple menu > System Preferences and select Displays > Arrangement.

  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up the display as an extended desktop.

Optimize Office Programs for Dual Monitors

Once your dual-monitor configuration is set up as an extended display, make sure your Office programs are optimized for the new desktop real estate.

In older versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, go to File > Options > Advanced. From there, look for Show All Windows in Taskbar (under the Display section). With this selected, you should see the full Word interface in each window you're running. (In newer versions, this should be automatic.)

In PowerPoint, you can run a presentation on two monitors. This gives the presenter additional options for showing content, adding in-presentation markup, or supplementing the core message with additional windows, such as an internet search. This can be tricky, so practice in advance.

Work with different Excel workbooks on multiple screens by starting Excel and opening the file as usual. Move this window so that it's entirely on one monitor. Then, open Excel again. Open the second Excel file and minimize it so that it's not full screen. Then you can move it to the other monitor.

Microsoft explains more about running software in multiple displays in Windows 10.