MDI vs. SDI: What’s the Difference?

There are two main ways to connect your computer to your monitor, and each one has its benefits and drawbacks. Your computer’s video card can either use the MDI (Medium Dependency Interface) or SDI (Super Dependency Interface) standard to transmit signals from the computer’s memory to the monitor’s memory and display them on screen.

While the two standards are similar, some key differences make each one better for specific situations. Here’s an overview of MDI vs SDI so you can decide which one is best for you.

What is MDI?

Multiple Document Interface applications such as Microsoft Office, Google Drive, and iWork make it possible for you to use more than one document at the same time. Single Document Interface apps only allow you to work on one file at a time.

A good example of this is Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop. You can open two images (or files) in Photoshop side by side, then drag and drop items from one image to another. On the other hand, you can only open one image in Paintshop Pro at a time.

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What is SDI?

In computer graphical user interfaces, a single document interface is a window manager’s term for the single top-level application in a session. It is also called MDI. It allows only one instance of an application to be open at any given time and provides no way to move windows between applications that are already open.

A program can not have multiple instances running at the same time unless it creates a separate session. A popular use of this type of interface is on Unix systems where all windows inside a session share the same desktop.

Difference Between MDI and SDI

A single document frame window can be open in an SDI application at a time, but multiple document frames can be opened in an MDI application. Additionally, MDI applications often allow users to rearrange their windows on-screen and place them next to each other for convenience. In comparison, SDI applications require that windows are resized and spaced out when more than one is open so they don’t overlap each other.

The most significant drawback of this type of interface is that it does not allow user interaction with any windows which are not visible on the screen. For instance, if you’re working on two documents in Microsoft Word and you want to copy text from one to another, you’ll have to switch back and forth between the two documents manually since they’re both visible at once.

1. Screen Size and Resolution

The average laptop screen size is between 13 and 15 inches, with a resolution of 1920×1080. A smaller screen will have a lower resolution, while a larger screen will have a higher resolution. The most common resolutions for desktop monitors are 1080p (1920×1080), 1440p (2560×1440), and 4K (3840×2160).

2. Display Technology

When it comes to displaying technology, there are two main types: MDI and SDI. MDI displays use a single cable to connect the display to the computer, while SDI displays use multiple cables. MDI is typically cheaper and easier to set up, but SDI offers better image quality. So, which is right for you? It depends on your needs and budget.

3. Configuration Options

There are two main types of input devices available on the market today: MDI (Multiple Document Interface) and SDI (Single Document Interface). Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to know which one is right for your needs. Here’s a quick rundown of the differences between MDI and SDI.

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4. Performance Considerations

When it comes to performance, both MDI and SDI have their pros and cons. MDI can be faster since all windows are rendered in one process, but SDI can be more responsive since each window has its process. Ultimately, it depends on your specific needs and which approach will work better for you.

5. Graphics Cards

A graphics card is a piece of computer hardware that renders images, videos, and 3D graphics. There are two main types of graphics cards: MDI and SDI. MDI cards are typically used in desktop computers, while SDI cards are used in laptops and other portable devices. Both types of cards have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick rundown of the main differences between MDI and SDI cards.

Comparison Table Between MDI vs. SDI

Comparison MDI SDI
Maximize all documents Maximize parent window Can only be implemented through special code or through a window manager that can group windows
Switch between documents Using a special interface inside the parent window Through task /window manager
Multiple Desktops You can only stretch the parent window and try to organize individual windows manually Easily done
Multiple Monitors You can only span the parent window and try to organize individual windows manually Easily done
Grouping Naturally implemented Possible only through special window managers
Switch focus to a specific document Easily handled Difficult to implement


The main difference between MDI and SDI is that MDI displays multiple documents in a single window while SDI displays each document in its separate window. MDI is more efficient because it allows you to work on multiple documents at the same time. However, some people prefer SDI because it is less confusing and easier to keep track of different windows.