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How to Use Your iPad or Tablet as a Second Monitor with iDisplay

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We could all do with some extra screen space from time to time. It can be a battle to manage all of the windows you have open at any one time. Having a second monitor is not something that everyone is able to do, be it in terms of space or finances, but if you are packing a tablet you already have your second screen ready to go.

Whether you have an iPad or an Android tablet, there are a number of ways in which you can transform your touchscreen device into some extra desktop real estate. Weighing in at an average of 7 to 9 inches, using your tablet as a second monitor is something that has certain limitations; you are not going to want to use it to edit large spreadsheets, for example.

There are a number of ways in which you can put your tablet to good use, and we have looked at how Air Display does the job for iPad, iPhone and Android owners. While this is a solid solution, there is the slight drawback that the app will set you back $9.99. Thankfully there are cheaper options available as well.

Getting Set up

Whether you’re working with an iOS or an Android device, the process of using your tablet in this way is very similar. You will need to install a client app on your tablet or phone, as well as server software for your Mac or PC.

One of the first things you might want to consider is just how the setup is going to work. If you have ever used more than one regular monitor connected to the same computer, all you really have to worry about is which monitor is going to be the primary one.

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To some extent, the same thing is true when working with a tablet. However, there are very few tablets that have a built-in stand, so for the sake of practicality – you don’t want to just lean your tablet up against the side of your monitor – you will want to come up with some sort of mounting solution.

There are various cases available for Android and iOS tablets that either include a stand (such as Griffin’s Survivor range) or can be converted into one (such as Apple’s Smart Cover), as well as more advanced desk mounts.

A simple solution also exists in the form of Belkin’s FlipBlade for Tablets which can be used with virtually any make of tablet.

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Introducing iDisplay

iDisplay is available for Android and iOS, and there is server software available for Windows and OS X. The only real requirement is that your tablet and computer are connected to the same wireless network – although as you’ll see, users of Windows 7 and earlier have access to more options than anyone using Windows 8 (this should change as updates are released).

Both the Android and iOS versions, will set you back $4.99 . We are going to focus on how to get the Android up and running, but the process is very similar between the two platforms.

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Download and install the free desktop software for your Mac or PC – if you are using Windows you may find that you are warned about the installation of a new display driver, and you will be prompted to restart. While you’re waiting for the restart, you can set about installing the mobile app.

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You will then need to launch the desktop app, allow it through your firewall, before turning your attention to your tablet.

Mobile App

Grab yourself a copy of iDisplay from the App Store or Google Play. When you launch the app, you will see a list of computers that have been detected running the iDisplay desktop software.

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Tap the entry for your computer and there will be a slight delay while a connection is established. On your computer, click the ‘Always allow’ or ‘Allow once’ button to permit the connection.

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What happens next depends entirely on which version of Windows you’re using. If you have made the jump to Windows 8, you’re limited to reproducing your main monitor on your tablet – at least with the Android version of the app – but with Windows 7 and its predecessors, you can gain an extra monitor to use however you want.

Just as with dual monitors, you can configure the arrangement of your tablet in relation to your monitor. Right click the system tray icon and select Settings followed by ‘Display arrangement’ before moving the displays around to reflect the setup you’re using.

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Once this has been done, you can drag window off the edge of your monitor and they will reappear on the screen of your tablet or phone.

iDisplay in Action

So what can you use your secondary tablet display for? There is an element of delay to contend with, so you’re not going to want to use this setup for anything too graphically intensive or time sensitive – it’s not really ideal for enhancing your gaming experience.

But what iDisplay can be used for is monitoring your inbox, keeping Twitter or Facebook separate from all of the other windows you may have open, housing a system monitoring tool, and so on. Any small widget that you want to keep an eye on can be moved from your main desktop onto your mobile device, freeing up space while ensuring you can see whatever you need to.

Have you tried transforming your tablet or phone into a second monitor? Is this something you mind paying for, or is a free solution the one for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny and intriguing. Never afraid to get his hands dirty with some full-scale geekery, he’s always trying out the latest apps, hacks and tweaks. He can be found on Twitter and Google+.

  • Published 02/21/13

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