A software package a day: UltraMon

Today’s item is a specialist utility like yesterday, but is much less of a “one trick” program. UltraMon improves multi-monitor setups in several ways that go beyond what most video card drivers or the built in management can handle. If you have two (or more) monitors and feel annoyed by the built in features, you might find what you are looking for in UltraMon.

The most important feature to me is the Smart Taskbar. This allows each monitor to have a taskbar that shows only the tasks that have windows on that monitor. This allows my to split my applications between monitors in a more meaningful way than the single taskbar. Additionally, with the more than twice the space (the secondary taskbars don’t reproduce the start button or the tray, which is a good thing in my book) I don’t need to have a double-high taskbar on my main monitor to accommodate the various windows.

A secondary feature for me is the new taskbar buttons that allow applications to be zapped from one monitor to anther in a single click. Convenient, but it doesn’t work with all applications (most annoyingly Google Chrome). However, when it works it a very nice feature: moving maximized windows used to require a restore->move->maximize cycle. This is a single click with UltraMon.

The final feature I use is the ability to stretch a wallpaper across all the monitors. I have a massive image of a nebula that I use for this purpose. In most cases I would write this off as a “nice to have” because it doesn’t really buy me anything other than a “wow” factor. However, there are some additional features designed for presentations such as mirroring (showing the same display on multiple monitors) that I can find real use for.

Mirroring allows me to keep my regular setup facing me, while projecting a clone of one of my monitors onto the wall. In this configuration I can keep all the “noise” applications on my primary display while the secondary display is mirrored to the projector. If you do frequent demonstrations you probably kept two computers around so you could do presentation on one while you keep working on the other. With UltraMon I can do everything from a single machine.

If you have multiple monitors I really recommend UltraMon to get the most out of your investment. It is cheap, easy to use and has a lot of features that frankly should have been in the operating system by now. The latest version includes support for Windows 7 on top of the existing XP/Vista compatibly, a nice assurance if you are upgrading soon.