The concept of a multi-display desk setup has been around for some time now, with the idea being that we can be more productive when we have more screen real estate and separate screen areas to work within. Mostly the benefits tend to come from removing all those non-work related windows away from a dedicated work space, so that we can be productive without having content pop-ups whenever a friend/colleague/family member signs in/updates status/tweets/sends a chat message.
Some of us don’t have a multi-display setup for whatever reason, but what many of us do have these days is an iOS device. Thankfully, there’s an app for that – made by Avatron Software and called Air Display.
Air Display allows you to use iOS device as an auxiliary display from your Mac or PC computer. There is also an Android version of the app to allow you to do the same thing on your Android tablet or smartphone, or even a Mac version to allow you to span your workspace onto the display of a Mac.
Installation is as simple as all software should be to install. A quick download of the App onto your iOS device readies it for becoming a secondary display. On the host computer, you then download the free software “Air Display Connect”, which will allow you to pair the computer to your Air Display-enabled iOS device. A simple switch and tweaking of basic settings then turns your tablet or smartphone into an external display for your computer. The process is very straight-forward, and the software walks you though the steps effortlessly.
The only requirement of Air Display is that both host and client must be connected to the same WiFi network – if this is not possible, such as while you are on the road, then the host computer will need to be able to establish an “ad-hoc” WiFi network for the iOS device to connect to.
Once you are up and running, Air Display works exactly as you would expect it to, giving you a separate display to throw your work or social media onto. There is a slight lag in the cursor response while working on your iOS device (due to being connected over WiFi rather than directly connected), but it acceptable and certainly wasn’t a deal breaker. My WiFi signal was strong but in situations where your router may be situated at a distance with a weak signal this could potentially cause problems.
Air Display allows you to use touch and limited gestures on your iOS device as an input method, but I found it far easier to continue using the Magic Trackpad for the host Mac instead. Taps allow you to select, move, and scroll windows but my fat fingers were not suited for this kind of input when the iPad was used as an external monitor for OS X.
Owners of the new iPad (ie. 3rd generation) that are running Lion 10.7 will be able to take advantage of the extra pixels on the retina display in applications that support HiDPI. Instead of running a 2048×1536 resolution (resulting in tiny fonts and images), supported applications can use the additional pixels to smooth out text and the screen image rather than offer a display depth that renders it difficult to use. A couple of examples of the difference this can make appears below: (c/o 9to5mac and OS X Daily)
Air Display is a pretty impressive app which works well as exactly as advertised. It is perfect for anyone that frequently has a desire for a second display without the hassle of requiring power and cabling to a second monitor. In fact given that you end up with (essentially) a wireless external display, this may lend itself to novel uses such a running slideshows, etc. on an iPad in situations where a monitor set up is not practical. Air Display is available for iOS in the App Store for $13.99, or on the Android Marketplace for $6.24. If you fancy spanning your Mac or PC desktop onto a separate Mac’s display, Air Display for Mac will set you back $26.48.