Tutorial Thursday

Whenever I’m at home I hookup my laptop to a secondary 24″ monitor to drastically increase the amount of screen space available to me. When I’m working on programming projects I will rotate my monitor so that it is oriented vertically (a.k.a. portrait mode), which I think is something most programmers do when they have widescreen monitors.

Physically rotating my monitor doesn’t change the screen’s orientation though, and for that you’ll need some software. Most graphics cards are bundled with a control center that will let you change such properties, but I often find them a bit bulky. Below we’ve got three different methods that you can use to change the orientation of your monitor without using the software that came with your graphics card.

Note: All of these alternatives depend on your graphics card supporting screen rotation. This might require installing the drivers for your graphics card, which are typically offered separately from the software control center that they offer.

–Windows Hotkeys–

Believe it or not there is a standard Windows hotkey (in both XP and Vista) that will let you change the orientation of your primary monitor only. The shortcut is Ctrl+Alt+[Arrow Key], where you use the standard arrow pad on your keyboard to change the orientation. Ctrl+Alt+Up will always set your monitor back to the usual landscape orientation.

–Vista Settings–

All editions of Vista except for Home Basic now come with Tablet PC support regardless of whether your machine is actually a Tablet PC. If you only want to rotate the primary monitor you can use the Tablet PC settings in Vista to rotate the screen orientation.

The easiest way to find the Tablet PC settings is to open the Start Menu or Control Panel and start typing “Tablet PC” in the search box. You want to click on the “Tablet PC Settings” option when it is displayed. Then look for the orientation option that you can adjust:

tablet pc rotation

Unfortunately this only works for the primary monitor on the system, but I’m guessing that there are more people out there looking to do this with a single monitor rather than multiple monitors.

–iRotate (Homepage)–

iRotate This is a free program that creates a System Tray icon for each of the monitors connected to your machine. You can click on each icon to see the various orientation options that are available to that monitor. That means in a few clicks you can quickly switch between orientations.

iRotate will also set itself to start with Windows to ensure that all of the monitors remain in the correct orientation. Hotkey junkies will appreciate the keyboard shortcuts that are provided for each of the four orientations, which can be seen in the screenshot above.


I’m sure there are dozens of other ways that you can change your monitor’s orientation, and that’s where we turn it over to our readers. What tools, if any, do you use to adjust the orientation of your screen?