Lifestyle and Emerging Technology In Plain English

Using your Android or iOS tablet as a second monitor

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As we’ve seen pre­vi­ously (The more screens, the bet­ter — Our guide to mul­tiple mon­it­ors ), hav­ing more screens to dis­trib­ute your desktop across can be a huge bene­fit to your com­put­ing experience.

And as you’ll have noticed in the title, if you’ve got a tab­let, you can even bring it into the mix, as long as you’ve got access to a WiFi net­work and have installed a few pieces of soft­ware. Lets take a look.

Apps
There are quite a few apps out there for Android and iOS, on both Win­dows and OSX. This post isn’t really about all the vari­ations avail­able, so to keep it simple, I’m using Air Dis­play by Avat­ron, which is avail­able for all four con­fig­ur­a­tions (Android (OSX/Win), iOS (OSX/Win)).

It’s a simple mat­ter to set up, just install a server applic­a­tion on your desktop, and a cli­ent applic­a­tion on your tab­let. Con­fig­ur­a­tion took a minute or two and then I was shar­ing my screen.

MacAndroid.jpgIt’s about the net­work
The way these desktop-extending apps work is they basic­ally fool your oper­at­ing sys­tem into think­ing you’ve just con­nec­ted another mon­itor to the sys­tem. To your oper­at­ing sys­tem, the tab­let looks just like a mon­itor, and is treated as such.

You can drag win­dows on to it, launch your computer’s applic­a­tions from it — it’s just another screen.

Screen with bene­fits
Ok, it’s not really just another screen. This new mini-monitor also becomes a touch screen. Yep, you can tap on your screen, and the computer’s cursor imme­di­ately snaps to the loc­a­tion you tapped. Which means all your mouse func­tions are also now avail­able on the touch­screen tablet.

Port­able
For me, one of the best uses of a tab­let as an exten­ded desktop is when I pair my iPad up with my Mac­Book Pro when I’m on the go.

Ima­gine pulling up to your favour­ite table at your local cof­fee shop, setup up your laptop, and next to it, your tab­let. Extend the screen onto your tab­let and poof! You are now über pro­duct­ive while being extremely portable.

Refresh­ing
Since you’re actu­ally get­ting an exten­ded desktop sent through the net­work to your tab­let, don’t expect blis­ter­ingly fast screen updates. Depend­ing on the app and desktop, you can make Flash anim­a­tions appear on your device. In my case, I man­aged to get just under 60 frames per second in my highly un-scientific HTML5 Fishtank fram­er­ate test :smileyhappy:

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Draw­backs?
No sys­tem is per­fect. Using the tab­let as a second screen requires a WiFi net­work con­nec­tion. This can be a bit tricky in some loc­a­tions where you’re only allowed one WiFi con­nec­tion per person.

Also, if there are mul­tiple WiFi net­works in the same build­ing, say at a uni­ver­sity, you must make sure that your devices are all on the same WiFi network.

Why?
Well, I like using the extra mon­itor provided by my tab­let as a news desk, tweet mon­itor and ref­er­ence desk. Yep, just a pass­ive dis­play that I can occa­sion­ally glance at that means I don’t have to Alt-Tab to check on stuff. Much less dis­tract­ing that way, I find. And it’s a port­able solu­tion to my mul­tiple mon­itor addiction.

Thoughts?
Got a favour­ite com­puter and tab­let con­fig­ur­a­tion you want to share? Tell us about it and we’ll all learn something!

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4 Responses to Using your Android or iOS tablet as a second monitor

  1. Vivekananth says:

    Sir,
    This is pretty inform­at­ive, How­ever i’m look­ing for a facil­ity where i can use the Blue tooth to trans­fer data rather than Wifi. Is it a pos­sib­il­ity ?. Is there any app for it ?. Can i also get to use my Mobile phone as a screen ?. This will immensely help me with my work.

    Thanks in advance.

    Cheers,
    Vivek

  2. Brad Grier says:

    Sadly, no, I don’t know of any­thing send­ing video via bluetooth. Given the state of Bluetooth 4 though, there should be some­thing out there and soon — fat pipe and solid protocol!

  3. J says:

    Is there an option to dis­able the “tap once to move the mouse, tap twice to click”, and instead change it to “tap to move mouse AND click”?

  4. Brad Grier says:

    Not that I’ve seen. Might be a good sug­ges­tion for the developers.