I recently started a side project for a tool to help writers, both fiction and non-fiction, delivering their works and maintaining consistency.

My idea is to have different information available in the same or in different screens, in order to enable the writer to verify the consistency in what he's working on at the moment.

Is there any set of rules or guidelines to follow when developing this kind of application? Can someone point me to guides or material for this?

Thanks a lot!

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    Hi and welcome to UX.SE! Looks like you have a good question going but we need to have a little more information than that. What kind of application are you planning? Is this a word processor, a spell checker, a content management system or a tagging system? Please give us a little more info, and you'll have better chance of getting the answer you need. Thank you! – Benny Skogberg Mar 8 '13 at 18:50

There's a fair amount of research to answer the question of whether two monitors are better than one for varying types of work, and the answer is generally "yes". The article "Are Two Monitors Better Than One?" is a good starting point if you're interested in that research.

However, your question is specifically about how to layout windows in the same application when using multiple monitors. To my knowledge, there isn't any public research on that. In my own experience (I've worked on IDEs, word processors, presentation software, mail applications, and virtual infrastructure software), users tend to want what they are focusing on showing on the screen that is directly in front of them, with helper windows/applications/documents/whatever on the secondary or tertiary monitor. (I personally have a three-monitor setup in my office: my laptop screen and a matched pair of 24" displays.)

Based on my experience, I think that your application should be flexible enough to allow your user to move your application's windows around to where they want them to be. It's important to remember that your users are unlikely to always be in a situation where they're using a multi-monitor setup -- laptops are now more common than desktops, and they're mobile for a reason. Your application should continue to be useful if I'm on my 13" laptop as it is when I've got my 13" laptop hooked up to one or two external displays.

  • I wouldn't limit it to windows distribution between screens only. E.g. for presentation software, it's a good thing to have two different views in presenter mode. I would even extend the meaning of that, because these screens don't need to be just multiple displays connected to one computer - these can be screens of multiple devices as well, like Keynote on Mac and Keynote Remote on iPhone. Wondering if there's more use scenario types, but it might be extended to this second (companion) screen trend as well, of course in broader meaning: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_screen – Dominik Oslizlo Mar 9 '13 at 7:52

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