Windows is a great operating system for productive environments. Having multiple monitors allows you a level of freedom to get more done across a larger space. This enables you to keep more windows open, giving you access to more data at any given time.

Many users take full advantage of the taskbar, and would benefit from having it extend to each monitor rather than being completely dependent on a single monitor. Being able to access your Start menu from any screen can be a plus, especially if you want access to something specific without having to shift your line of sight.

There are actually quite a few tools out there to accomplish this. Here are a few of them.

DisplayFusion – $25

DisplayFusion isn’t a free solution, though it does a lot more than just extend your taskbar. It enables you to do things like set a separate screen saver on each monitor, span a single screen saver across multiple monitors, customize your Windows logon screen background, assign applications to a specific monitor, enable window snapping, and even enable/disable monitors on the fly.

Essentially, DisplayFusion is an all-in-one supplement to built-in Windows desktop management options. While I wouldn’t recommend it for the casual user just wanting to extend the taskbar, it would be the type of program that may work for those who wish to make the most out of Windows using multiple screens.

Actual Multiple Monitors – Free / $29

Actual Multiple Monitors by Actual Tools is a software solution that extends your taskbar to a second monitor in a mirrored, independent, or mixed state. The Actual Multiple Monitors taskbar looks exactly like the original taskbar, with a few added features. For example, you can show or hide various components of the taskbar with a single click including the clock, notification area, desktop button, and Start menu.

In addition, you can maximize a single window across all of your screens and reassign them with a single click.

Actual Tools has made both free and pro versions available. The free version will give you a second taskbar, but doesn’t include certain features. Here are some of the features you do get with the free version.

  • Second Taskbar
  • Mirror Taskbars from Primary
  • Adjust Transparency
  • Re-Order Taskbar Buttons
  • Group Similar Taskbar Buttons
  • Stretch a Single Image Across Multiple Desktops
  • Set Individual Background Images for Each Monitor
  • Additional Window Menu Commands

At $29, you can opt for the Pro version, giving you the ability to use the program in both corporate and personal settings. In addition, you receive some added functionality. Here are some of those additional features.

  • Start Button on Every Monitor’s Taskbar
  • Notification Area on Each Monitor
  • Pin Programs to Secondary Taskbar
  • Multi-Monitor Task Switcher
  • Re-Order Notification Area Icons
  • Single and Individual Background Picture Slideshow on Multiple Desktops
  • Individual Screen Saver on Each Monitor
  • Desktop Profiles
  • Lock Mouse to a Specific Monitor
  • Window Snapping
  • Automatic Monitor Assignments for Specific Windows

You can try these additional pro features free for 30 days upon installing the program. That makes it a feasible solution to try, though I’m not terribly happy with having to go pro to take advantage of taskbar functions that really don’t do anything new.

Dual Monitor Taskbar – Free

Dual Monitor Taskbar is an open source solution for adding taskbar support across multiple monitors. Unlike other solutions I’ve found, this one doesn’t try to push you towards a pro version. It’s simple and fairly straightforward.

Currently, it is only tested for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Here are some of the features currently available on Dual Monitor Taskbar:

  • Start Button (BETA)
  • Taskbar on the Second Monitor
  • Window Manager
  • Mirror Mode
  • Pinned Programs
  • Aero Support
  • Auto-Hide
  • Notification Area

Upon testing, the Start Button feature didn’t work all the time. That said, I found the notification area a bit more functional than the one I tested with Actual Multiple Monitors. Being free, it’s hard to complain about a little BETA testing.

One feature that did impress me was the Window Manager. This allows you to assign specific monitors to various windows and control how these screens display. You can also set a specific font on the secondary taskbar to make it a bit more suited to your personal tastes.

Lacked features aside, this is my favorite solution out of the pack because it doesn’t try to do everything, and is completely free. It appeared to me that many of the features found on the more expensive competition did things you can already do in windows anyway, making it less appealing than just finding something that specifically handled taskbar management.

As for resource management, Dual Monitor Taskbar took just 19 MB of RAM during operation. That’s a pretty small footprint, though slightly larger than the 8 MB used by Actual Multiple Monitors.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for something that does everything and anything you might need for multiple screen management, DisplayFusion and Actual Multiple Monitors are both solid solutions. Being able to maximize a single window across all of your screens can be pretty cool, and having the ability to create profiles and set backgrounds / screen savers independently is a plus.

Still, if all you want is another taskbar, then there is no reason you shouldn’t try the free Dual Monitor Taskbar. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t require you to spend money to use all of its features.