Thursday, June 7, 2012

How Many Computer Montiors Should I Have For BIM?

I have worked with CAD and BIM for 23 years now.  Back when I first started in the AEC industry, all the CAD stations each had a big CRT monitor of a minimum of 17".  Hopefully 20" or 21", because bigger is better...  The GUI window in which you did your actual drafting needed to be as big as possible.  But before Windows, that was not a big problem (Not with AutoCAD anyway).

Big ole CAD monitor

But now that our drawing software has moved to filling our GUI with icons, palettes, buttons, etc, our drawing window has been shrunk down.  Because of this, you will need a bigger and wider monitor, or  better yet, multiple monitors.

Too many tools, not enough drafting space

Many companies and independent users have moved to using dual monitors.  This is much better than one.  But, I'm here to tell you that the best solution I have found is to have 3 monitors.  I have tried 4 monitors, but it is just too much.  Too much for me anyway.

I use them all in landscape orientation.  One on my left, one in the center and one to the right.  See image below.  This helps me use less paper by utilizing a PDF as my redline/markup.  I can use the built in yellow highlighter as I finish each item.  I have played with making one or more be in the portrait rotation, but it just does not flow well for me.

The image below shows my markup on the left, the main Revit program in the middle, and my file/project management tools on the right.  When I'm using a markup, I move my properties palette to the monitor on the left.  With Revit, you need to have as much vertical space as possible for your project navigator (on the right hand monitor).  I wish Autodesk would take a lesson from Graphisoft and create something as dynamic as ArchiCAD's navigator (it requires less screen real estate).

Triple monitor screen capture
My monitors are not actually that close together.  That image above is the result of a screen capture from a remote desktop session.  The side monitors are rotated approximately 20 degrees inward to accommodate for my pivoting head.

I believe the next logical step would be to have one large curved monitor to do what the 3 above do.  Such as the Ostendo CRVD.  I think Ostendo should send me one to test...

If you only have one video port on your computer, then you will need a port adapter, or a new video card.  Here is a Google search to start looking for a port adapter...

My computer already had dual ports.  Here in my office, we had a Toshiba Dynaport device designed for laptops that nobody wanted to use.  I connected it to my desktop computer and I was able to attach a third monitor (after I downloaded the driver for Windows 7).  Sweet!!!

Tell your boss that 3 monitors will make you more productive.  The extra cost will pay for itself over time, and clients will be impressed :)

My workstation at the office...


  1. Great post. Work environments are so underrated for their importance regarding speed, efficiency, and enjoyment. I've been sharing work environments on my blog recently and it's so cool to see how people set up their screens..

    Years ago when I started using ArchiCAD I got my boss to buy me a second monitor. He was so convinced by how much more productive I was, that everyone else got a 2nd monitor soon. I'm now working off just a laptop (too much traveling), but I miss multiple screen and need to get back to it. Or just buy a 30" second monitor. That might be nice!

    And... also I recently wrote a post about your book. Thank you for writing it. It's such a great asset for the ArchiCAD community!

  2. Thank you very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it. That means a great deal coming from another blogger. I'm going to post a picture of my actual workstation...