An excellent multi-monitor utility

I’ve said for a long time that adding a second monitor to your desktop is one of the best ways to increase your productivity. Currently, I’m using a 24-inch Westinghouse monitor (1920 x 1200 res) and a Samsung 214T (1600 x 1200) in a side-by-side configuration. When the Samsung failed last week, I felt lost for a day or two until I was able to dragoon another monitor into fill-in service.

And kudos to Samsung for their warranty support. I filled in a web form, and they shipped a refurbished replacement to my local UPS Store, where I exchanged it for my defective one. About as hassle-free as it gets.

Now that I have my regular multi-mon setup working again, I decided to try out UltraMon. I’ve read a lot of great reviews of this product over the years but never got around to trying it (the $40 price tag no doubt had something to do with that).

I was a little disappointed (and wary) to learn that there’s no official Vista support yet, except via a beta release. I decided to take the chance anyway and am very impressed so far. The most obvious feature is an extra set of buttons that appear next to the Maximize/Minimize/Restore buttons on any window. One button instantly moves the current window over to the other monitor; the other one spans the current window over multiple monitors (I can’t think of many places I would use this).

I really love the fact that UltraMon extends the taskbar to the second monitor, with buttons on that taskbar showing windows on that monitor only. But the killer feature is finally having separate wallpaper on each monitor.


OK, not a killer feature, but still very nice.

I’ll keep kicking the tires for 30 days, but unless I find something really surprising I expect I’ll pony up that 40 bucks when the trial runs out.

14 thoughts on “An excellent multi-monitor utility

  1. I’ve been using Ultramon here on a couple of multi-monitor systems for years and I have it on my main QX9650 and I can honestly say that I’ve never had any problems with it no matter whether I’m gaming or rendering a video. The main feature I use is the second task bar which, once you get used to it, you miss on systems that don’t have it installed.

    Oddly enough, one feature don’t use is the dual wallpaper feature …

    Between Ultamon, virtual desktops and Hydravision on the ATi drivers I have full control over everything on the screen!

  2. I also have been using it for years. It is well worth the $40.
    I can’t live without the 2nd taskbar on my other monitor. Its annoying to have them all bunched up on the main monitor’s taskbar. As for the wallpaper per monitor feature; I love that feature as well.

    The only gripe I have is the excruciating LONG development cycle that the beta has had. Beta 2 took almost a year to come out after beta 1.

  3. I think MultiMon which is free does just as good a job:

    It has shortcut keys (Ctrl+Alt+(left or Right Arrow)) to swap your current window back and forth which I’m sure UltraMon probably has too – I rarely use that feature anymore though after installing GridMove:

    It takes a little bit of setting up but now that I have it configured, I just select a window and hit Windows Key+G and then a number 1-4. 1 sends the window to fullscreen on my laptop, 2 to the top half of my portrait 24″ 1920×1200 (so I get a 1200×960 screen), 3 goes to the bottom portion of the 24″ and 4 fills the 24″. So essentially I have 3 workspaces that I send windows to using GridMove – 3 workspaces makes life a lot easier while coding. I imagine you could setup something similar with your system. I went for a portrait 24″ as then I get 2 1200×960 screens instead of 2 960×1200 screens that a landscape 24″ would get me – web pages especially work better this way as many are designed for at least 1024×768 which the 1200×960 covers but 960×1200 would not.

    With GridMove you can also setup drag zones so you can drag windows to a certain area and then they expand out to a defined area – much the same as using Windows G + Number shortcuts which I find much faster.

    Hope this helps someone out.


  4. I’ve been using it for about 6 months now. I tried some other free utilities but they all came up short.

    The one major use I have for the button that makes an application span both monitors is Access. It makes for a very nice work space.

  5. US$40 is a real killer. I use free Multimon. I don’t have a need to stretch the taskbar over, as my 2nd monitor usually has a fullscreen RDP session to servers I work on. Multimon serves the purpose well.

  6. I’d be interested to know if Ultramon slows the shut down time for you on Vista. If I don’t manually close it before shutting down it gets hung up.

  7. Sue, I haven’t noticed any lag in shutdown times, but I don’t shut this computer down very often. I shut it down yesterday morning to install something and didn’t notice any particular problem. What video card and driver are you using?

  8. I’ve been using UltraMon for years under XP, then Vista. The extended taskbar is a killer feature, though buttons on that bar don’t group. Under Vista, for me, UltraMon crashes sporadically. (So much so, that I have a shortcut to the taskbar component on my Start Menu.) Still, it’s worth that hassle. Sadly, I can’t get Vista’s photo screensaver to run on both monitors, which would be more interesting to me than wallpaper (I rarely see my desktop). peace, mjh

  9. Fortunately, I don’t shut down mine very often either. The video card is a Radeon X1650 with driver Catalyst 8.3. It hasn’t been very long since I updated the driver… I need to try a shut down without manually closing Ultramon to see if this driver has changed anything in that regard.

  10. UltraMon is great, been using it for years.
    The one gripe I have about it is that there’s no feature to move the clock and system tray to the second monitor (where it should be, if the two monitors were really one big one, as I treat them).
    Everything is else like buttah

  11. Ultramon is handled by one lone developer. There are so many poorly-coded Windows applications out there that it’s probably more than he can handle to keep coding in exceptions. (Read Raymond Chen sometime for some warstories of Windows compatibility.)

    This sort of thing, deeply-integrated into the shell, really needs to be done by Microsoft and integrated into the OS to be done right. And it was — in Longhorn before the reset. I will be furious at the Windows UX team if this feature doesn’t make it into Windows 7. Graceful handling of multiple monitors is one area where Windows shines vs. Mac — the Windows “one menu per window” model works much better than Mac’s “one menu for your entire desktop.”

    Multimon is OK for limited use, but it’s got less of a history than Ultramon (Multimon Pro, the pay version, is especially recent). If I can’t get this feature directly from Microsoft, then I want it from someone who’s got a history of dealing with the frustrations and headaches of multiple-monitor compatibility. Saving a couple of bucks isn’t worth the headache.

  12. Let me turn your attention to another clever peace of software that has a bunch of multi-monitor abilities (such as multi-monitor taskbar with the Start button on each display, Task Switcher window cloned onto all monitors, fast switching of windows between monitors, and many others) – Actual Window Manager ( It also has many other useful tools besides the multi-monitor support so that I suppose it deserves a try, at least.

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