It's no surprise that using multiple monitors lets you get more work done in less time. As Farhad Manjoo reported in the New York Times last year, the consensus of the ergonomics experts is that using more than one monitor makes computer users much more productive.
Unfortunately, monitor expansion is not always an option, as anyone who has used a laptop computer on the road knows. A serviceable alternative is use of a screen-expander utility that lets you extend your desktop space virtually.
(These programs differ from Windows' built-in Magnifier utility, which enlarges the contents of the desktop but not the desktop area itself. To activate Magnifier, press the Windows key, type R if necessary to get to a command line, type magnify, and press Enter.)
One such desktop extender is Jorrit IJpenberg's GiMeSpace Free, which enlarges the available desktop area for open application windows by letting you not only drag them beyond the left and right edges of the screen, but also move the cursor to the edge on either side to scroll the entire desktop in that direction.
I can't say for sure how far you can scroll your virtual display because when I moved one window as far to the side as I could, the desktop just kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.
To revert to a stationary desktop, simply right-click the GiMeSpace Free icon in the notification area and choose Exit. You can also click Collect Windows to return all open windows to the area of the original desktop. This option comes in handy when you've stacked a dozen or so open windows across your horizontally stretched screen.
As the utility's FAQ page indicates, the program has some rough edges. As I mentioned above, your windows may need to be in normal mode to slide off the screen, and it can be distracting to have an accidental mouse movement scroll the active window when you don't intend it to.
In addition, GiMeSpace Free doesn't work with WinAmp and other programs that use their own interface handlers. The program's scrolling can slow to a crawl on systems with an overworked CPU; IJpenberg suggests opening Task Manager and disabling unneeded processes when this happens, but that defeats the purpose.
I'm willing to put up with a few glitches to get many of the benefits of multiple monitors without the extra hardware. GiMeSpace Free can't match the at-a-glance ability of an actual desktop spanning 3 or more feet across, but for the display challenged, the program could be the next best thing.