In March, we reported on how Microsoft's Windows 8 will handle multiple resolutions, however, what was missing were some fine details on multi-monitor support.
Already in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, it's now possible to have multiple desktop-backgrounds or a single panoramic view, a serious limitation of previous versions of the OS. Applications dragged from one monitor to another may now appear on that monitor's task-bar, which is now extended across the entire desktop; alternatively, task-bar icons can be present on both the active monitor and the primary monitor, remain only on the primary monitor or be present on all monitors, opening the choice up to users, allowing them to best fit their working habits and efficiency requirements.
Yesterday, Microsoft detailed further enhancements to multi-monitor support, which will be finding their way into the Windows 8 Release Preview, chief amongst which was the the extension of corner activated features to multiple monitors.
In the current Consumer Preview, the Start menu, App Switcher bar and various charms could only be activated by clicking the corners and edges of the primary monitor. From the Release Preview onwards, it will be possible to click the corners and edges of any monitor and have these widgets pop-up on that specific monitor, which, naturally enough, means that it will be possible to have the Start menu open on alternative monitors.
It will also be possible to move Metro-style apps from one monitor to another, in both the familiar drag-and-drop method, through the new multi-monitor corner activation feature, by utilising the App Switcher on a different screen or through new keyboard shortcuts, 'Win + Page Up' and 'Win + Page Down', helping the Metro system to feel a little less awkward in a multi-monitor environment.
One niggle with multiple monitors is just how easy it is to accidentally move the mouse from one screen to another when trying to access features in the corner of the monitor, often leading to unintended actions or, in the worst case, closed windows, something this writer does frequently when working on his HEXUS articles! Microsoft thinks it has the answer to this with new hard corners that provide a 6 by 6 pixel barrier around shared corners, ready to catch the user's mouse pointer.
These new 'hard corners' prevent accidental mishaps whilst, at only six pixels in size, don't stand in the way of the mouse, yet allow a user to confidently swing their mouse over to a corner. For corners that aren't completely shared, such as monitor 1's bottom right corner in the above picture, Windows will not block the mouse at all when travelling from screen 2 to screen 1.
These changes may appear fairly minor, however go a long way to tackling some of the long standing issues of multiple monitors and, some of the new issues that would have been caused by the introduction of Metro.