Better Patent Search With Two Monitors

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When you don’t know that you don’t know, it’s a lot different than when you do know that you don’t know. – Bill Parcells

It can be hard to spot deficiencies in your own work routine, and patent searching is no exception to the rule. Personally, I conducted many patent searches using one monitor and didn’t even think to question if I was missing out. Since I’ve moved over to using a dual monitor setup…well, to borrow another quote, I’ll give you my monitors when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!

Last week, I opened up the floor to the readers to suggest what topics The Intellogist Blog should tackle next. Among the responses was a call at IPInsiders for more posts on patent searching tips and techniques (don’t worry, we’re working on the other suggestions too!).

Following this suggestion today, I’ll explain why having a dual monitor can help you conduct patent searches. Read past the jump to find out what you don’t know that you don’t know about patent searching!

One of the biggest benefits most searchers will experience when moving to a dual monitor setup is the sheer screen real estate increase. At a base level this means that users have the option to stretch browser windows or documents over two screens to see more at once or see the same section at an increased magnification.

Conversely, users can utilize the extra real estate to view two objects at once. One screen can be dedicated to looking at a PDF of a patent document of interest, while the other screen is dedicated to a word processor document for taking notes or writing a report. Managing projects with multiple components becomes much easier with a dual monitor setup because each separate component of the project (search, reference, report, spreadsheet, e-mail) can be assigned to a specific location for fast recall and simultaneous usage.

Need to reference a spreadsheet while emailing a colleague? With two monitors you can quickly drag email to one side and the spreadsheet to another without having to sacrifice seeing the entirety of either. A related perk is the improved ability to compare documents side by side. If both monitors can swivel and set up in portrait mode, then comparing documents is a breeze.

Patent searchers heavily reliant on drawings and mosaics, such as those involved in the Mechanical Engineering arts, will see the biggest benefit to moving to a dual screen setup. Constantly resizing drawings and squinting at reference numbers is no way to understand the inventive concepts of a piece of prior art. Having the description on one monitor and the drawings on another can go a long way in mapping the concepts to the visual representation.

Setting up dual monitors can be daunting for the uninitiated, but there are a lot of helpful articles out there. If you’re in a corporate environment, you’ll definitely want to talk to IT and your manager about your desire for a new setup (show them this article for reasons why it would make you more productive!). If you want to set up dual monitors at home, I highly recommend checking out this very helpful article on Wired that breaks it all down. To simplify it for you, you’ll need the following:

  • A second monitor (obviously!)
  • A graphics card with two outputs (you may or may not have this already)

Additionally, you’ll need to tweak some settings in your operating system of choice to accommodate your second monitor and account for how it’s oriented.

It may sound complicated, but if you’ve ever talked to anyone who’s made the switch to dual monitors, you’ll know that there’s no going back!

Do you have a dual monitor setup at your patent searching workstation? Anyone out there use three monitors? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Patent Analysis from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.


8 Responses

  1. Preaching to the choir!

    I had a two screen set up, and was seriously thinking of adding a third until an earthquake removed the option (Christchurch, NZ). Now I’m back to one only (temporarily) and struggling to remember how to work with so little screenage.

    • Barbara,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation in Christchurch. I visited New Zealand last year and found that the beautiful scenery was only their second greatest attribute behind their wonderful people. I didn’t have time to dip down to Christchurch, but perhaps next time!

      When I switch to working on one monitor, I have to remember tricks that I used such as tiling windows and splitting the view within a PDF or Word document—not ideal but you gotta do what you can.


  2. I use two 27″ iMacs connected by a DisplayPort cable, along with a 17″ Macbook Pro. (The second iMac runs as a server and donates its screen to the first via Target Display Mode.) I also read PDFs on an iPad 2 as a fourth screen.

    In the past, I’ve used as many as four 20-to-24″ monitors, most rotated to portrait orientation for better document viewing. The 27″ screens, however, allow side-by-side viewing of full pages of documents, so two is enough.

  3. When I set up my own business as an independent patent searcher, the first thing I did was buying two 19″ monitors. The one on the left is in landscape position, the one on the right in portrait. The portrait one is of course used for reading original patent documents (one page display), and also e.g. for results lists from e.g. Thomson Innovation (no scrolling necessary!) or Patbase.
    I never print a patent, everything can be done from the screen. Only for showing visitors who never saw an actual patent I have one document on paper, US 5255452, which is often recognized even by people without IP experience. Guess why?

    • Moonwalk!

      Peer, I have one monitor in portrait and one in landscape as well. I agree that it’s useful to have both, since some documents/interfaces are better in one layout rather than another.

  4. We added the Multi Window Support function to PatBase at the end of last year. It allows users to synchronise up to three windows at the same time.

    This feature has been designed with dual screen or high resolution screen set ups in mind, and has been very well received.

    To see a short video on how it works, please go to




    • Thanks for the information, Katy! I’m all in favor of patent search systems that accommodate users willing to customize and improve their work space.

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