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What Is a Split Screen?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

The term "split screen" refers to the division of a computer screen into two or more parts so that different applications can be viewed on-screen at the same time. This can be useful when one needs to use the information provided by two programs simultaneously or when one wants to focus on two significantly different applications, such as a spreadsheet and a video, at the same time. Normally, the term "split screen" refers to the splitting of a single computer monitor, but it can also refer to a multiple-monitor computer setup in which one computer is connected to two or more screens. Such a setup can be useful for work that requires a great deal of screen space and can also be used to enhance some computer games.

A computer's monitor should, ideally, be relatively large in order to support a split screen setup. Small screens, such as those on smartphones, netbooks, and other small, portable electronic devices tend not to have the screen space necessary to support a split screen setup. Furthermore, screen splitting requires that the computer be able to run two or more applications simultaneously. Small or low-performance devices may lack the technical specifications necessary to operate such screen setups. This is particularly true of split screen setups using two or more separate monitors, particularly when they are used for computer games, as maintaining such screen configurations requires substantial graphical processing power.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

There are a few different ways to configure a split screen computer setup based on one's particular needs and on the type of computer being used. In some cases, simply re-sizing the applications' windows can be sufficient for setting up such a configuration. Some third-party applications beyond the systems included in the operating system can also be used to configure multiple screens on one monitor. The same applies to multiple-monitor setup. Proper physical setup of the monitors themselves, the computer, and all cables involved is another important and, often, problematic aspect of multiple-monitor setup.

Some individual computer applications, most notably various types of computer games, have built-in split screen functionality. In computer games, this split screen function allows two or more people to play the game at the same time, assuming that they have the proper control devices. Other programs that need to display a variety of different forms of information or that show both information and editing tools may also have their own in-program screen-splitting functionality.

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      Woman doing a handstand with a computer