Windows 8: Better Alternative to a Native Multi-Monitor Taskbar

  1. Introduction
  2. Windows 8 Multi-Monitor Features
    1. Multi-Monitor Taskbar
    2. Additional Multi-Monitor Extensions
      1. Advanced Windows Control
      2. Desktop Mirroring
      3. Wallpaper Management
      4. Screen Saver Management
      5. Desktop Profiles
  3. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Microsoft plans to release Windows 8 at the end of next year. Appreciable difference of new operating system will be additional taskbars when working with multiple monitors. However, secondary taskbar of Windows 8 will have a terribly low number of features unlike the primary taskbar, while Actual Multiple Monitors secondary taskbar contains all features of primary Windows taskbar.


2. Windows 8 Multi-Monitor Features

2.1. Multi-Monitor Taskbar

Secondary taskbar is very important feature for most users working with two or more monitors. Using the Windows 8 secondary taskbar, users will get only additional space for running tasks in fact.

Windows 8 native multi-monitor taskbar works in three modes:

  • Mirror mode - windows appear duplicated on all taskbars.
  • Individual Secondary mode - windows appear unique to each taskbar and on main taskbar as well.
  • Individual mode - windows appear unique on each taskbar.


In addition, Windows 8 secondary taskbars have no Start button (user can only move the primary Start button between taskbars), no notification area, no toolbars, no clock and no Show Desktop button. Also, Pin to taskbar generally does not work.

On the contrary, Actual Multiple Monitors offers a fully functional taskbar for each monitor - with all the features and controls that are absent in Windows 8 native multi-monitor taskbar:

  • Start button – there is no need to return to the primary taskbar each time to access the Start menu because the Start button is available on each taskbar.
  • Notification area and clock – users have access to system tray and clock (including calendar) on each taskbar.
  • Show Desktop button - available on the right of each Actual Multiple Monitors taskbar.
  • Toolbars - it is possible to set up toolbars familiar for many users on each taskbar individually.
  • Pin to taskbar - implemented in Windows 8 only for the primary taskbar. However, the users of Actual Multiple Monitors can use Pin individually on each secondary taskbar (with the native Jump Lists support).


Feature Windows 7 Windows 8 Actual Multiple Monitors
Multi-Monitor Taskbar
Mirror mode (duplicated on all taskbars) no yes yes
Individual mode (unique to each taskbar) no yes yes
Individual secondary mode (unique to each taskbar and on main taskbar) no yes yes
Start button no no yes
Notification area no no yes
Clock no no yes
Thumbnail previews no yes yes
Grouping of similar buttons no yes yes
Multi-preview for group buttons no yes yes
Show Desktop button no no yes
Toolbars no no yes
Pin buttons to taskbar no no yes
Control buttons in thumbnail previews no yes yes
Jump Lists no yes yes

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2.2. Additional Multi-Monitor Extensions

In contrast to Windows 8, Actual Multiple Monitors offers a number of additional features, which help users solve their problems when working with dual, triple or more monitors.

  • 2.2.1. Advanced Windows Control

    Actual Multiple Monitors adds new buttons to each window's title bar for easier control. ‘Move to monitor’ button allows quick moving of any window (even maximized) to any monitor. ‘Maximize to desktop’ button allows maximizing any window to entire visible desktop area or just to selected displays (e.g. two of three).


    Moreover, users can assign a hotkey for any action in Actual Multiple Monitors and create specific rules for any window to run this window on a specific monitor.


    Feature Windows 7 Windows 8 Actual Multiple Monitors
    Multi-Monitor Window Management
    Change specific window's position at startup no no yes
    Move windows to any monitor via title button no no yes
    Move windows to any monitor via hotkey yes yes yes
    Maximize windows to desktop via title button no no yes
    Maximize windows to desktop via hotkey no no yes


  • 2.2.2. Desktop Mirroring

    Desktop Mirroring is not a standard Windows feature but it can be useful for many users. This feature allows creating mirrors of various objects (the area around the mouse pointer, a part of desktop, specified window / application / monitor) in a separate window. Mirroring is described more detailed in the article Desktop Mirroring.


  • 2.2.3. Wallpaper Management

    Although Windows 8 has the ability to manage wallpapers on all displays, Actual Multiple Monitors offers more simple and convenient interface for managing the desktop background on multiple monitors.


    Feature Windows 7 Windows 8 Actual Multiple Monitors
    Multi-Monitor Background Wallpaper Management
    Single picture over entire desktop yes yes yes
    Individual picture on each monitor yes yes yes
    Slideshow mode yes yes yes


  • 2.2.4. Screen Saver Management

    Users can set different screen savers on each monitor with the help of this tool.


    Feature Windows 7 Windows 8 Actual Multiple Monitors
    Multi-Monitor Screen Saver Management
    Single screen saver over entire desktop yes yes yes
    Individual screen saver on each monitor no no yes


  • 2.2.5. Desktop Profiles

    Users can create desktop profiles for quick switching between different display configurations.


    Feature Windows 7 Windows 8 Actual Multiple Monitors
    Multi-Monitor Desktop Profiles
    Saved desktop profiles yes yes yes
    Background settings yes yes yes
    Screen saver settings yes yes yes
    Display settings (resolution, orientation, etc.) no no yes
    Switch between profiles via hotkeys no no yes

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3. Conclusion

Despite the fact that Microsoft has implemented native multi-monitor taskbar in Windows 8, it still does not solve all problems of users who use multiple monitors. Many important features, which users appreciate in the main taskbar, has not been implemented for secondary taskbars. However, all these features are available in Actual Multiple Monitors.
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