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Technology—Probate provides information on current technology and microcomputer software of interest in the trust and estate planning areas. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.
Sounding like a broken record, I request ( no! implore ) readers to suggest topics and to volunteer to write articles, comments, and reviews. My greatest joy would be to have "Guest Editor" as the heading in subsequent editions of "Technology—Probate."
Hardware Recommendations —Split Screens, Dual Monitors, and Display Cards.
Software Suggestions — Windows XP, Windows Vista, SplitView, and Ultramon.
Discussion Lists —ABA-PTL and ABA-TAX. (As much as we try, we deal with death and can't avoid taxes.)
Every technology user should have a teenage grandson or granddaughter to eliminate the need for tech advisors and IT departments. I was at Costco with my grandson. "Opa, you should have two 21-inch or 24-inch wide screen monitors being driven by your desktop. Also you can plug one into your notebook and do the same thing. Take your old 17-inch monitor to the ranch or set Grammie up with two monitors." He informed me that the computer can treat the dual monitors as either one big two-screen-wide display, as a single display with split windows the size of each monitor, or even as a single display with each monitor split into two windows for a total of four simultaneous windows. You can then drag and drop between any of the concurrently displayed windows.
Within a day I was wondering how I could have survived with only one monitor (or at least without a wide-screen monitor and a split-screen program). I wish now that I had spent the additional money for a true dual-display video card. The potentially slightly lower resolution on the second monitor is no problem in the business environment. That is proving true even when I display four items (two on each monitor).
What a Godsend!
I prepare some tax returns for clients. (As with chess or bridge, just knowing the rules is different from actually playing the game.) On the first day after my grandson set up the system, I opened the 2007 ProSystem Fx ("Pfx") program and a client's 2007 file on monitor one and the 2006 Pfx and the same client's 2006 file on monitor two. Comparisons and transfers of information were "walks in the park."
Then there was the preparation of the RPTE web site article that appeared in the November/December 2008 issue of Probate & Property. The first draft was a pain and references I transcribed were often wrong. Being able to display and edit the article on one screen and negotiate through the RPTE web site on the other was a confirming revelation of the benefits of two screens.
Being able to explore an e-mail attachment or an Internet site referenced in an e-mail while viewing that e-mail is a great benefit. With "split-screen" software and two monitors you can view four separate displays each running a different program—MS Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and MS Outlook (or better yet, Firefox and Thunderbird)—all at the same time. You can drag your mouse across both monitors and all four window displays. You can cut and paste between files and programs. The benefits of mix and match with the ability to have multiple displays is limited only by one's imagination. (Haven't watched a movie or TV on one of the monitors yet.)
End result, I bought two 21-inch monitors (one for less than $250 and the other, with built-in speakers and a camera, for $329) and a $100 video card. (Unlike many computers, my desktop's video card is built into the motherboard and has only one monitor connection.) As another approach, I could have bought a more expensive true "dual display" video card (two DVI connections), but almost all new video cards (if separate from the motherboard) have two outlets (VGA and DVI) and will drive two monitors, but with potentially different resolutions. (DVI is capable of higher resolution than VGA and eventually you will want HDMI for High-Definition TV (HDTV), but VGA is fine for viewing documents.)
To be overly technical, DVI is compatible with HDMI and can use a converter for HDMI and HDTV. Grandson tells me that one outlet can be connected to the better monitor if I want to watch movies or HDTV.
Grandson installs the video card and the monitors.
Using an External Device to Drive Dual Monitors or Split the Screen?
Instead of a video card added internally, you can use an external device like the Matrox DualHead2Go external dual monitor controller. This is an excellent solution for those less confident about opening the case, those bereft of grandchildren, or those without an IT department to assist with a video card installation or who must address numerous, non-uniform computers. The Matrox dual monitor controller avoids the need to open the case. You connect the DualHead2Go to the computer's external video output and attach the monitors to the DualHead2Go . Install the software and, voila, two monitors without opening the case. It also treats the two monitors as a single monitor with windows the size of each monitor or one big window the size of both monitors. Matrox also makes a three-monitor version. The two-monitor version costs between $150 and $225 on-line, so the price is in line with a new "dual" graphics card. I did not review Dual View 2 (another manufacturer) because DualHead2Go was such an elegant solution.
Another hardware solution is EVGA's UV Plus+ video card, which uses the USB 2.0 port (rather than the computer's video port) to add a monitor. With it the number of additional monitors is limited to the number of USB 2.0 ports available.
What Size Monitor?
A recent study found that a 26-inch monitor "didn't translate into a productivity increase" and that the "sweet spot" is a dual 20-inch setup or a lone 24-inch screen. See Gregg Keiser, Bigger Is Better in Monitors—to a Point , Computerworld, available at www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9067718. I had already bought the two monitors, however, before reading that article, and I have no problems with two 21-inch monitors.
Crowding the Desktop?
It is a pleasant surprise to discover how little additional desk space is occupied by two monitors, and the space in front of the monitors remains usable. (You still have only one keyboard.) But a word to the wise. Get two monitors of the same size. Its amazing how it helps to have them line up exactly so that they appear to be virtually one screen.
Software Solutions to Screen Splitting
Check out the following site for instructions on using Windows XP with multiple monitors: www.online-tech-tips.com/computer-tips/how-to-split-your-laptop-or-pc-screenmonitor-in-windows-xp (no spaces). If you want information on using Windows Vista with multiple monitors, go to www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/display/multimonVista.mspx.
There are also specific software programs for screen splitting. The two that I tried are SplitView from Vyooh, www.splitview.com, and Ultramon from Realtimesoft, http://realtimesoft.com/ultramon. Both cost $39. (I did not review iShadow , www.ishadow.com, but assume it is equivalent.)
After downloading, both programs worked instantly without any setup problems. The screens switched easily from left to right and could be sized manually. When I tried to run Prosystem Pfx, however, I could not get the split-screened single monitor to display a full view of the program. I had to revert to two monitors to get full views of the 2006 and 2007 input pages. Oddly, I did not have such problems running MS Office programs or WordPerfect.
Using One Huge Monitor (Instead of Two)
Alternatively, others have recommended, although I have not tried it, using one huge monitor (a 26-inch or bigger screen) and using the split-screen approach (as opposed to dual monitors).
Using a Separate Monitor with Your Laptop
I have been using my laptop connected to a docking station with its own monitor. Having the laptop's own display available allows for the existence of two monitors when dealing with Pfx. (Other programs that I have not tried probably create the same problem of getting a full screen display without using two monitors.) Personally, I prefer a Thinkpad or Toshiba laptop keyboard to most desktop computer GI ("government issue") keyboards, and even to a Microsoft wireless keyboard. Because I use a USB wireless mouse with my laptop, I frequently find myself at the Thinkpad in its docking station, which is located in a different place from where my desktop computer is located, and using the Thinkpad monitor and my old 19-inch monitor in tandem, rather than at my dual-monitor desktop. (Obviously, all my computers are hooked up to one another through an in-house intranet.)
If you are using a laptop, you can connect a desktop monitor to the laptop's video output to display on both the laptop and an external monitor. Connect the external monitor to the laptop's video port, go to Control Panel, then to Display, then to the Settings tab . Click or double click on the external monitor. Click "Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor. " Click on Apply, then close out the Display dialog box.
In most cases, to open a window and move it to the second screen you have to have the application window sized to the reduced size setting (as controlled by the middle of the three boxes in the upper right-hand corner of the window) before you can drag it to another screen (the split screen on the same monitor or on the other monitor). Thereafter Windows will remember to which screen or monitor you have assigned the display.
If you want to be inundated with information, google "multimon." If you really want to be avant-garde, consider dual touch screens.
Again, as with the RPTE web site, which I discussed in my November/December 2008 column, the TE Division discussion list ("listserv")—"ABA-PTL"—earns my highest recommendation among numerous discussion lists. With over 1,400 members, this location is another bonanza of information. Subscribe to the full list, not just the "digest." ("Digest" assembles all the messages of a given day into one cumulative list.) I do not recommend a "digest" subscription because replying to a message through "digest" is a pain. It takes only minutes every second or third day to scan through the multiple messages and topics of those days. List members are very good at identifying the e-mail topic or thread being followed. Most frequently there is a thread whereby participants, in response, retain the prior messages. Older messages and those that are not of interest can be deleted immediately. (Remember the benefits of the Shift and Ctrl keys to select and block a group of e-mails for deletion.) If you subscribe to "digest," editing (deleting particular messages) and replying are more difficult and time-consuming. Many subjects can be stored mentally (simply remember that the subject was discussed on the list) and then deleted without overloading your e-mail reader. One can then search the archives when the subject comes up in your practice. To join ABA-PTL, to search its archives on-line, or to manage your subscription, go to http://mail.abanet.org/archives/aba-ptl.html.
Hand in glove with ABA-PTL is ABA-TAX, the listserv of the ABA Section of Taxation. I view both lists on a virtually daily basis. It appears that "death" and "taxes" not only can't be avoided, they often can't be separated. A number of estate and trust tax issues are discussed on ABA-TAX. To join, to search, or to manage your ABA-TAX subscription, go to http://mail.abanet.org/archives/aba-tax.html.
Because participants are normally so good at identifying a discussion's subject, the archives of ABA-PTL and ABA-TAX are among my first stops when researching a problem (even if I have forgotten that the subject was discussed). Often I will find a recent discussion on the very problem.Return to Probate & Property Magazine