For a long time there, it was pretty rare to find a mainstream PC running multiple monitors. A configuration like that would have been considered high-end, desired mostly by professionals in a business environment, like a graphics design studio or financial firm. Back when PCI was the go-to interface for graphics cards, home users looking for a second display had to arm their machine with an additional graphics card. That was an expensive proposition, and generally more costly than it was worth.
However, times are changing. Today, the PCI Express bus is standard, and the performance of graphics cards has increased significantly. Even the cheapest cards, such as AMD's Radeon HD 3450, available for about $25, offers a second display output ready to take an additional monitor. In addition, CRT monitors have almost exclusively made way for LCDs, making larger screen sizes relatively affordable. Once upon a time, a 19" CRT monitor was an object of envy. Now, few enthusiasts bother to buy an LCD display if it measures fewer than 20".
As the financial burden of owning and using several monitors has fallen, such configurations are now much more common in work and home environments. The reason for using one, two, or more monitors varies, though. Amateur photographers, for example, may benefit from a large display surface by dragging the toolbar of the image editing program onto the second monitor. Working with large Excel sheets is easier, as is using two full-size Word documents arranged side by side. The volume of work can easily be increased, since one either has more room to arrange various open program windows, or simply because one can view more information at the same time on the extended surface. No doubt, almost anyone who has worked on a computer with two monitors will be unwilling to give one of them up.
Cost and space requirements
With all the advantages mentioned above, we shouldn't forget that, even though an additional monitor indeed can be purchased for a relatively low cost, it might of course still be beyond the limits of a mainstream user at home. Also, finding the desk space for an extra LCD monitor isn't always easy. Additionally, there are probably quite a few users interested in the idea of a dual-monitor configuration, but not sure to what extent they may benefit from it.
For those who have both the budget and the space required for a second monitor, but hesitate with the purchase due to worries over potential productivity gains, the MaxiVista software provides an inexpensive way to try such a dual monitor configuration--without having to purchase an extra monitor. The only requirement is that, in addition to your primary computer, you also have to own a notebook or a second desktop PC with its own monitor. These computers must be connected through a network. MaxiVista lets your primary computer use the screen of your secondary computer as a second monitor.