I rely heavily upon multiple computer monitors (and multiple computers) for doing my job. Being able to simultaneously display and access content side-by-side increases my productivity tremendously. At work, I utilize at least three monitors at any given time: dual monitors on my Windows 7 PC, and the giant monitor on my iMac. And I’m debating on moving the extra monitor to the iMac instead of the PC since I use the iMac more.
But, at home, we’re a laptop-only family. We don’t even own a desktop device of any type. And I tend to do most of my work at home reclining on the couch or in bed, with my MacBook on my lap — so attaching a second stand-alone monitor to my laptop just isn’t all that plausible. Yet I frequently need another monitor to view applications or sites side-by-side. Sure, I’ve often sat the iPad next to me, or snagged my husband’s or kids’ laptops when not in use, but working on two completely separate computing devices side-by-side isn’t quite as productive for me as having two monitors attached to the same computer, which allows me drag and drop between each screen.
So, I was thrilled to come across this iPad app write-up from ProfHacker (@profhacker) in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week. ProfHacker reviews two similar apps that can convert your iPad into a second monitor — Air Display ($9.99) and DisplayPad ($2.99). I opted to splurge on Air Display since it can work with both OSX and Windows (I run Bootcamp on my MacBook). I have an iPad2, but the app works on the original iPad as well.
One key caveat is that Air Display requires both devices be connected to the same wifi network. At least at this time, Air Display will not work via Bluetooth or through the wired iPad power adapter cord.
I have been really pleased with Air Display for use on my home wireless network so far, both on Snow Leopard and on Windows 7. I am still able to lounge around using my MacBook, and just prop the iPad up on the arm of the couch, on my nightstand, or down by my feet on the coffee table. No cables between the devices means that I don’t have to worry about tripping on any cords.
I have not been quite so lucky at work, though, with my iMac. Even though I am able to disconnect from our campus wired network and connect to the secure wireless network on which I use my iPad and iPhone, Air Display has not been able to locate and connect to my iPad even when I manually enter the Air Display IP address. I am not giving up on this yet though.
There is a bit of lag time, due to the wifi connection, but I didn’t find that too disruptive for the work I tend to do from home (usually blogging, writing and research). The Air Display app claims to also work with an iPhone or iPod touch, but I have not tried that out, and probably won’t since I don’t see much value for me in utilizing such a small device as a second computer screen.
I found this video tutorial from ThatSnazzyiPhoneGuy to be a bit more helpful than the video used in the ProfHacker article.