How to Turn Your iPad into an Extra Computer Screen

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Congratulations! You’re the owner of one of those new iPad things. You may have even heard of them here on Techland.

Now if you happen to work in an ultra productive, never-not-working office like we do at TIME Magazine, it’d probably be in your career’s best interest to get a leg up on your coworkers wherever you can.

“But how?” you ask, iPad listlessly in hand. One way is to turn your new tablet into a handy extra screen. Now more than ever—in an era where a 60 open-tabbed window is nothing to write home about— desktop retail is a valuable commodity. The benefits of having an extra monitor almost go without saying: Maybe you need to camp an extra window for reference, or maybe you like having your email client open for easy access—the possibilities are all there!

Anyway, here are two options, one for Mac users and another for PC users.

For Mac Users: Air Display ($9.99)

If you’re primarily a Mac OS user, Air Display is your best bet. After downloading the app on your iPad and installing the Air Support software on your Mac (which you can download at the bottom of the page here), follow the onscreen instructions and you’re ready to go.

Air Display requires that both your iPad and Mac be on the same Wi-Fi network, which can pose problems if you’re trying to sync them at a work computer using an Ethernet connection. There’s an easy way to circumvent this, though, and that’s to create an ad hoc wireless network just for your iPad (learn how to do that here).

After activating the app and restarting your Mac, activate Air Display from the upper-right toolbar. Your screen should go blue and take a few seconds to sync up. What’s nice about Air Display is that it reorients your screens whenever you need to move your iPad. Dragging windows between the two monitors is a little laggy (videos are a no-no), but if you want to keep an extra email or Twitter client open it’s surprisingly fluent. Plus, Air Display lets you take advantage of the iPad’s native touch screen, meaning you can use your finger to move your mouse around. Pretty cool, especially if you drag a window with a Flash site onto it (this one, for example).

The only other problem I had with it was that my Icon Dock would shrink down from my Mac onto my iPad screen, but that’s only because I prefer having it run along my left-hand side (the only spot on my desk there’s space for the iPad). But it’s a minor gripe, unless you’re militant about having everything (your iPad, Icon Dock) all on one side.

Air Display will run you $9.99 in the App Store.

For PC Users: DisplayLink (Free)

DisplayLink leverages its experience with networked display technology in the world of PCs with the free (for a limited time) DisplayLink app for iPad.

After downloading and installing the app on your iPad, you’re directed to download and install a piece of software on your computer to handle the connection between the two machines.

Assuming both are on the same network, opening the iPad app will let you select your PC from the list of connected computers, or you can enter your PCs IP address manually. You’ll need to set up a one-time-use password, too, to ensure you don’t connect to someone else’s PC (and vice-versa).

Once the connection has been made, your iPad appears just like any other monitor under Windows’ Display > Screen Resolution settings found in the Control Panel. You can set the iPad’s position and screen orientation for use as a second screen in “extended mode” or simply use it to clone what’s happening on your main screen if that’s more your speed.

The app makes the iPad a great second screen for word processing, e-mail and Twitter use, but it suffers from a fair amount of lag when dealing with any sort of motion. DisplayLink warns that the app is “not intended for 3D PC gaming or use as a primary display for video playback at this time,” though.

Aside from that, it’s a formidable tool for PC notebook users who also travel with an iPad. And the current price—free—is tough to beat, as well.

Check out DisplayLink in the App Store.

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