Friday, March 2, 2007

Pivoting monitors let you see high or wide

The standard orientation for most computer displays is horizontal or "landscape" orientation, which is ideal for spreadsheets, games and movies. On the other hand, most word processing documents and web pages, are best viewed in a vertical or "portrait" mode.

Some early computers and word processing systems used portrait orientation. But when IBM, Radio Shack and Apple introduced mass market computers, they adopted the TV's 3-high by 4-wide format, and the landscape monitor became standard.

With paper, however, the 11" high by 8-1/2" wide portrait format is standard. Just about everything published today is in portrait mode. Magazines, newspapers, letters and instruction manuals are easier to read in portrait mode. Web pages are called pages, and mimic the portrait orientation of most printed pages. Word processors use portrait mode by default. But strangely, most computer monitors are stuck in landscape mode.

Fortunately, a growing number of monitors can pivot from landscape mode for movies and spreadsheets, to portrait mode for just about everything else.

For several years, I’ve been using a 22” ViewSonic monitor. I maintain over 30 websites, and many of them share common material. If I need to copy from one site to another, I use my ViewSonic in portrait mode, and can view stacked-up web pages (with page width like on a 17” monitor) and easily copy and paste from one site to another. There’s no need to click on web browser tabs, or squeeze pages to fit in one wide screen.

The world is perverse. Except for spreadsheets, almost all business computing would be best done in portrait mode, and portrait monitors take up less desk space. But television is ubiquitous, and the powerful impact of the TV screen – and especially new wide-screen hi-def TV screens, has altered what we think of as normal.

The next time you go shopping for a monitor, look for one that pivots. You’ll scroll less and see more.

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