One of our first blog posts from 2010 suggested that if you are going to use a laptop as your main computing device, then you should consider getting an external monitor, mouse and keyboard to make it easy on yourself and so you can be more productive. That post was 10 years ago and while technology has advanced, the same recommendation holds true today.   Sure you can run DesignSmart and most applications on a laptop, or even a tablet, but an external monitor will cause less eye strain and require less scrolling. And because you’ll see everything more easily, you won’t tire as easily and, in theory, you’ll get more done. As an extra bonus, you can use the external monitor to run DesignSmart, then set up your laptop to display your email program. And the external mouse and keyboard will allow you to move your laptop to the side and work with a full-size keyboard and mouse directly in front of the monitor. In our firm staff have been using laptops for years, but we’d never try to work day-in and day-out without these external devices.

You can get a perfectly good keyboard and mouse combo at your local office supply store for $25 – $50. A good monitor can be had for $100, but you might want to check out the recent WireCutter review of high end, medium and entry-level monitors. When picking out a monitor, keep in mind that it will probably last five years,  so it might be worth getting something other than the entry-level model.

One more thing when picking out a monitor: Make sure your laptop has the necessary port that the external monitor supports. Most newer monitors and laptops come with HDMI connections (like TVs use), but if your laptop is older it might not have an HDMI port so you’ll need a monitor with a VGA connection. Just ask an 11-year-old to explain this to you if you have any questions.