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How To Operate Your iPad 2 As A Wireless Second Monitor

How to use your iPad 2 as a wireless monitor with the Air Display app.

|  Tablet Devices
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Words and images by David Clapp.

Air Display

I have been using the Apple iPad 2 for a few weeks now and am finding more and more applications that are both life enriching and extremely useful to photographers, away from the usual photo apps. I thought I would highlight one I just installed about half an hour ago, the rather amazing Air Display.

Have you ever wanted a second monitor for your Mac Book Pro or indeed even your Windows laptop? I know there have been times when this would have been extremely useful. I often process new work whilst on the move, to reduce the workload when I return home. Despite being an excellent laptop, the 13" MBP desktop can get rather cramped when using Photoshop, so I was delighted to find out that the iPad could be used in such an unorthodox way.

My home PC setup consists of the amazing NEC2690UXi2 and a second monitor (an NEC1990Sx) which I use for all the Photoshop tools palettes. Spoiled with such a large desktop space, I jumped at the chance to utilise the iPad in another exciting way.

A Second Display for £5.99

You guessed it, it works in exactly the same way as a conventional dual monitor setup, but it operates over a wireless network. Drag windows onto the second screen, or have other programs open too.

Ok here's how to install it. Make sure both the iPad and the laptop are on the same network (go into System Preferences > Network select the same network on each).
  1. Go to the Air Display website and install the server app onto your laptop (at the bottom of the page).
  2. Purchase the app and install it on the iPad.
  3. Now go into the laptop, there will be an Air Display icon on the system bar / system tray. Left click the Air Display icon, turn on the server software.
  4. If both iPad and laptop are on the same network,  the iPad will be in the list, select it.
  5. Your iPad is now a second monitor.

What if I Don't Have WIFI?

The computer connects to your iPad over a wireless network, so I bet you just thought the same question I did - what if there is no WIFI available? This must make the app completely redundant right? Well, thankfully, it's not the case.

One of the features I love about the MBP is that Airport (the wireless network connection) can be used to create any number of wireless networks to connect devices together. I have used this extensively when DJing back-to-back sets with my techno amigo Matt. We have run seamless sets for over six hours with our MBPs synced, using either Airport or by using a network cable, all without using WIFI or a router.

Here's how Airport can be used to connect the iPad and the Mac together :
  1. The Mac can see my Netgear router, which is in the list, but I have created another Airport network called 'Air Display'.
  2. Airport will now only operate on this network alone, ignoring my Netgear  WIFI altogether.
  3. Select the iPad's network to match (System Preferences > WIFI > Air Display) and run the app.
  4. Bingo, it's that easy.
If I want to connect to the internet as well, I can do so by using an Ethernet cable plugged directly into my Netgear router. That's my setup right now and it works very well.

Air Display

Lag and Refresh...

The brilliant thing about Air Display is the fact that there is only a little lag, or screen redrawing issues. Things are a little jerky when moving windows around erratically, but it's to be expected. Its not really very practical to watch video in this way, but it does work. The iPad screen looks clean, crisp and although there is a slight drop in quality as your window is moved, it rectifies when your movement stops. Very clever.

Touch Screen or Mouse...

Finally, the iPad still retains its touch screen capabilities, so I can operate the iPad with my fingers or the mouse. I am looking into some tablet apps next, so maybe I can use the iPad as a graphics tablet for Photoshop.

Touch screen

Get the Air Display App here: Air Display.

Words and images by David Clapp.

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19 Jun 2011 6:28PM
That's pretty impressive and would certainly make Photoshop easier to use if your screen real estate is limited. Hopefully the lag issues you mentioned will be sorted out with the next iteration.
Thanks for sharing!

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