Thursday, October 20, 2005

Squinting faces at the sky...

Microsoft have been busy in their Redmond bunker doing some cool research. No, it isn't into any new versions of still born platform independent programming languages, it is into increasing productivity in the office, not Office(tm), environment.

One thing looked into was the use of multiple and large monitors. New York Times reported what they found:
For Mark and Czerwinski, these piecemeal efforts at coping pointed to ways that our high-tech tools could be engineered to be less distracting. When Czerwinski walked around the Microsoft campus, she noticed that many people had attached two or three monitors to their computers. They placed their applications on different screens - the e-mail far off on the right side, a Web browser on the left and their main work project right in the middle - so that each application was "glanceable." When the ding on their e-mail program went off, they could quickly peek over at their in-boxes to see what had arrived.

The workers swore that this arrangement made them feel calmer. But did more screen area actually help with cognition? To find out, Czerwinski's team conducted another experiment. The researchers took 15 volunteers, sat each one in front of a regular-size 15-inch monitor and had them complete a variety of tasks designed to challenge their powers of concentration - like a Web search, some cutting and pasting and memorizing a seven-digit phone number. Then the volunteers repeated these same tasks, this time using a computer with a massive 42-inch screen, as big as a plasma TV.

The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity. The clearer your screen, she found, the calmer your mind.

Now I have the justification for the 30" Apple Cinema Display or at least a 20" Dell Widescreen LCD here at work. I currently work on a 15" laptop LCD screen @ 1024x768. At home I use remote desktop to connect to the laptop so I can use higher res and a nicer keyboard. I definitely need the bigger screen here at work.

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