OS X Multi-Monitor Setup

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I’ve been using the dual 30″ monitors with my Vista machine, hooked up with Dual Link DVI cables. Someone in chat suggested I use one of them for the MacBook Pro. With these new MBP’s, it’s quite easy. Just plug in one of the DVI cables, and off you go… or so I thought.

Setting up the dual screens with OS X was much different than it is in Windows. It is pretty elemental… almost TOO much so. I’ll get to that in a minute, though. When I plugged the cable into the MacBook Pro, it was automatically recognized. It automatically recognized the display, the colors, everything. Out of the box, Mac OS X handles dual monitors better than Windows: you can set screen-specific wallpaper images by default without any extra software. Just choose “Set Desktop Background,” and a panel appears on each screen to configure them separately.

Then… I ran into problems. I was over-thinking things, I admit it. The Menu bar was still showing up on the MBP, and I didn’t want it to. I wanted it on the big screen. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to move it, and Google wasn’t being my friend. So, I turned to my chat room. LifeJustIs2007, Protocol and a few others started looking around. LifeJustIs found the answer for me, and it was exceedingly simple, I had to laugh.

It’s easy to move your menu bar from one monitor to the other: just click and drag it to any side of either monitor to make it stick.

Uh yeah. It really was that simple. So now that it’s all set up, I think I’m going to keep it this way. I have one sweet 30″ screen for the Windows machine, and one right next to it for my MacBook Pro. Jealous yet? I know… I’m a lucky man. These are just awesome to use, and I’m very grateful to have them.

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47 thoughts on “OS X Multi-Monitor Setup”

  1. It’s been exactly that easy to configure multiple monitors on the Mac since the days of OS 7 (15 years ago). Macs were truly plug&play long before Microsoft trademarked the term in an apparent attempt to see just how far “irony” would stretch.

  2. So the Macbook Pro does have a dual link DVI interface? Nice to see, I can’t believe how many new laptops still come with D-SUB interfaces. Synergy is an awesome application btw.

  3. Same thing happened to me, took me ages to work it out and after doing a lot of searching on Google and I finally found out how to do it. I was so surprised at how easy it was to do. The answer was right in front of me the whole time.

  4. Think Occam’s razor, Chris. “Click and drag” are built into the Mac’s DNA so there’s almost always a simple graphic solution for the basic functions. Too many years with “Alt-F4” can lead one to overcomplicate things. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there…

  5. Macintosh Computers had the capability to support Multiple Monitors since the days of Macintosh II. Any Mac that has slots for Video Cards can drive the Monitor attached to that Monitor. For example one can have more than two monitors with the Mac Desktops (Towers) depending on the number of slots that are free to plug the video cards.

  6. Yes, it’s odd that you ran around the Web looking everywhere but the Mac’s built in Help to figure out how to move the menu bar. I am by no means a power user, and I figured this out without consulting anything outside of the display setup system preference and it’s associated Help files. Everything I need to know about normal functionality on the Mac is usually already explained in-process or in Help. Too much time on Windows…?

  7. Yes I was using multiple monitors as an student developer at Claris Ireland, Dublin in 1992. It worked just the same. As Splashman says it’s quite funny to see people express how cool this is 15 years later. In fact I believe it worked like this originally in 1987, when the first Mac II’scame out. Windows multiple monitor support is truely really bad in comparison, no matter how much fudging and excuses people produce for it.

    Claris was one of the best jobs I ever had. Trying to do Windows 3 development back in college after 10 mths of coding the AppleTalk protocols, the Mac Toolbox and MacApp was horrible and sometimes depressing, but I did have a huge head start over everyone coming from DOS!

  8. Chris,

    I use my macbook pro with a 23 inch screen. I vary between 2 configurations: 1 dual monitor (like yours) and single monitor with the macbook closed.

    To use single-monitor with the macbook closed:
    1. put the macbook to sleep.
    2. plug in the DVI connector and keyboard and mouse connectors to the usb port.
    3. the mac must be plugged into power. I usually do this last.
    4. hit a key or move the mouse. the mac wakes up with one, large monitor.

    I use an apple 23 inch monitor that has a space below where I slip the powerbook. This also has a convenient multi-cable cable for usb, dvi and firewire. All 3 plug in near each other in one side of the powerbook and keeps the cabling a bit neater. The other end of the usb and firewire is the back of the monitor.

  9. about 2 weeks ago i was trying to figure out how to get my brothers mac on multi screen. thanks for the info but we finally figured it out. cool blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. no, its because i’m 15 and i just got it from my uncle when he got a new one. my moms laptop has windows xp my dads desktop has vista and he just bought a new macbook air which got here 3 days ago. i’m not poor. i also have a desktop running windows 2000.

  11. Ok Ive got my PC hooked up with 2 Mice, 2 Keyboards, and 2 Monitors. I want to play World of Warcraft on my left monitor(Mine). She wants to play Sims 2 on right with her mouse and keyboard (hooked to my PC). If I Install Ubuntu is this possible?. I heard about Desktop Multiplier lets me do this. Problem is I cant seem to get it working. Any help I can get?

  12. um… i have the same monitor you have chris. and on windows, you don’t have to reboot, you don’t have to calibrate colours (dell 30″ is designed to work with windows), windows recognise the model number, it detects it right away too. and, you can configure a wallpaper seperately on windows too, if you have an nVidia graphics card. and, you can arrange the displays the same, move the task bar the exact same too. turn the brightness down on the dell monitor. thats the only physical buttons on it.

  13. You said I only had to drag the menu bar. On OSX Leopard I found I had to go to Preferences >> Displays >> Arrangement >> then drag the little white bar in the graphic.

    Not intuitive at all, as there is no obvious reason to think that this part of the UI was modifiable. A search on google tells me that I am not the only one who found this non-intuitive.

    Windows XP is more user friendly here as it has a button “Use this device as the primary monitor”, and this makes the UI logic obvious to the user.

  14. I used to work on dual monitor setup with Vista, but decided to move to a macbook pro. I still have 2 24″ LCDs, but realized you can’t use them with a macbook pro. IT only supports one external monitor. And having one 24 and one 13″ is stupid.. sigh.. damn mac

  15. So, with only a single menu bar for all screens, if you are running your app on the second window (the one without a menu), you have to mouse an entire screen to reach the menu for that app. How do you get around that?

  16. Maybe someone can help me: I’m using he dual monitor mode for presentations nearly every day. I’m using Windows XP on my Macbook, because with Max OS, the Powerpoint for Mac or Keynote app is changing the dual screen mode if I switch to another app (e.g documents). I would like to have the presentation slide still on the projector, regardless what I’m doing on my macbook. This works fine with XP.

  17. I have a dual monitor on my mac pro. I’m looking for a way to span my itunes display effect accross the screen i’m referring to what happens when your playing a song on itunes and press [command+T]

    currently its only happening on the screen where i put itunes at, which is logical. If this is not possible, is there anyway i can get screensavers similar to the effect on itunes, that i can accross the multiple screens. thanks

  18. Uhh, OSX handles multi-monitors better than windows? Actually, my opinion is that they BOTH handle it poorly out-of-the-box. OSX still only has one menu-bar, no matter how many monitors are connected. So if I have a program open on the secondary monitor and want to access a menu function, I’d have to move the mouse all the way to the primary monitor. Windows only does one taskbar, so switching programs is a bit of a pain.

  19. Aside from the menubar, there is one real issue with multi monitor support in OSX Mavericks: When disconnecting the external monitors, all applications that were previously open on them aren’t resizing to the built in screen of the macbook.
    This results in the applications falling outside of the screens reach, having me to drag them until i see the dialog window controls to be able to click the + icon.

    I think this should be fixed. Or is there some utility/app that could fix this for me ?

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