There are increasingly more offices and work environment setups that allow employees to use multiple screens to do their work, and there are also many people who use multiple devices at the same time.

I am wondering if there are any example designs or design patterns that have been used to cater to these types of user behaviour. I think only creating multiple instances of the application (i.e. different windows) or having different components of the design float around is probably not taking advantage of the screen space or the multi-modal way of interaction with the application, so I would like to know if anyone has seen good examples that are around.

UPDATE: The Aurora 7 Laptop from Expanscape seems to have taken multi-screen design to another level altogether

  • 1
    I'd argue that multiple displays are merely 'a bigger display'. So the same UI model applies. The key for the OS and/or Apps, IMHO, is that they are smart enough to both treat the multiple displays as one large one, but also can conform to one specific screen at a time when requested.
    – DA01
    May 27, 2014 at 15:29
  • @DA01 I think it depends on how you use the multiple displays. For example, there are monitors that can be rotated to be in 'portrait' view which means that you can see more of the area 'below the fold' and therefore less scrolling is required. I am not sure what the behaviour would be when you combine this with a monitor that is in 'landscape' view.
    – Michael Lai
    May 27, 2014 at 22:45
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    @MichaelLai that is typically how I set up my dual monitors (one in portrait, one landscape). It's really no different...it's still one big monitor, albeit in an 'L' shape. The programs either span them both or just one at my request.
    – DA01
    May 28, 2014 at 1:09
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    Similar question also without an answer. May 28, 2014 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


Yes there are some good uses, especially in the case of multi-device.

For instance:

  • Guild Wars 2 has an API which allows developers to make apps that follow various situations in the game. This android app increases player productivity by allowing the 'main' screen to keep focused on the gameplay and placing maps, various stats, recipes etc into a tablet or phone UI.

  • Similarly an older game, Crystal Chronicles, had tried some new things out before everyone had devices. The result was somewhat troubling because you needed four people with a GameBoy Advanced, but the effect was really quite useful and enjoyable. Multiple people can 'log in' to an app on one or more screens while using their device for navigation and control of their particular account. Very useful in collaborative/cooperative situations.

  • All of these points so far had some enhancement based on maps and navigation, and so does this one. Industries such as utilities and construction work with map overlays to pull up information and make decisions. Ex:

    • A pipeline schematic of a region is overlaid onto Google Earth
    • Particular points on the overlay are clickable allowing the user to do pressure tests, turn valves on/off, etc.
    • Imagine being able to browse the map by swiping a tablet and pulling multiple control panels into the screen of another device.
  • While it would take some very good client/server abstractions, the ability to drag-n-drop across devices is really powerful. You could have screen regions which broadcast to a group of other users in order to share components, files, messages, etc along with shared workspaces in a similar way. Perhaps a tablet user is able to send an order sheet to the screen of a co-worker who then processes it and drops it off to the tablet of a warehouse manager.

There are really an endless number of things you could do with multiple devices or simply multiple screens. Most of them revolve around creating an area for a particular context to live in instead of simple window. This allows the user more productivity because they have sandboxes for different types of tasks without switching the focus of their primary workflow.

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