How to Use an iPad as a Second Screen Display

Updated on August 3, 2019
Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan Wylie is a writer, educator and podcaster. You can hear the audio version of this article, and others, on the Unpacking iOS podcast

Why You Need an iPad as a Second Display

Dual screens are popular with productivity gurus, but anyone can benefit from using their iPad as a second display. The ability to view multiple applications at once means you can see more at one time and be more efficient while working on your computer. It also means you can set up different workspaces on each screen.

Imagine having email and Slack open on your iPad’s screen while you are simultaneously working on an Excel spreadsheet on your Mac. You can quickly move between the two screens to find and organize all the information you need for your spreadsheet. The same can be said for research projects, presentations, company reports and more. A second screen is just a handy thing to have access to if you are working with multiple applications at one time.

Of course, you don't need an iPad to achieve all of this extra productivity goodness. Many people simply purchase an additional monitor. However, if you already have an iPad at home, you can save yourself that extra expense. You will also gain the benefit of having a portable, lightweight monitor that you can throw in your bag to use at a coffee shop or the library with no extra effort. Here's how.

Duet Display for iPad

Created by ex-Apple engineers, Duet Display is perhaps the most flexible option for dual screen wannabes because it works on both Mac and Windows devices. It's also easy to set up, but it's not without its limitations.

To get started, download and install Duet Display for Mac or PC. This program is a free download that can easily be found at duetdisplay.com. Next, install the $10 Duet Display app on your iPad, and connect your tablet to your computer with a lightning or USB-C cable. When you launch the iPad app, you will be connected to your computer and can use your second display for whatever you need. Simply drag the windows you need to your iPad and interact with them using your computer's keyboard and mouse.

With Duet Pro, you can add the ability to use an Apple Pencil and touch gestures to control the applications that you move to your iPad's screen. This means your iPad can become a high performance drawing tablet that can interact with desktop applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchbook and more. It could potentially replace a Wacom tablet, or similar, by letting you draw directly into the graphics application you are working with. Duet Pro is $30 per year, or $3.99 a month and is available as an in-app purchase from the iPad app.

If you prefer to go wireless, Duet Air gives you the ability to use your iPad as a remote desktop client, or as a wireless second display. It uses bank-grade levels of encryption, promises zero lag, and comes with a touchbar to help you navigate your Mac or PC. Duet Air is $20 annually or $1.99 a month.

Duet Display Demo

Luna Display for iPad

The engineers at Luna Display took a different approach. They created a dongle that you plug into your Mac. It costs $69.99, but the iPad app is free, so it's a one-off purchase for everything you need to get started. Simply connect your Mac and your iPad to the same WiFi network, then launch the Luna Display iPad app to get started. If you are in an area where there is no WiFi available, you can connect your iPad to your Mac via USB.

Luna Display has full touch support, meaning your iPad basically acts like a touch screen Mac when it is connected. It even supports the Apple Pencil, but if you need pressure sensitivity for drawing, you will need to use their sister product, Astropad. A touch screen Mac might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly makes sense on the iPad screen and, like Duet Display Pro, a toolbar is included to help you navigate around.

Another interesting use case is the ability to use Luna Display to have your iPad act as a monitor for a Mac Mini. The Mac Mini doesn’t come with any kind of screen, but if you plug in the Luna Display dongle and then fire up the iPad app, you move from using your iPad as a second screen, to using the iPad as your main screen.

Luna Display Demo

Sidecar for Mac and iPad

Duet Display and Luna Display have been around for a few years now, so it was perhaps only inevitable that Apple would one day enter this arena themselves. The Cupertino version is called Sidecar, and it's baked right in to the latest version of the Mac operating system. No apps or additional purchases are necessary.

To get started, you need a Mac running Mac OS Catalina, and a compatible iPad. From here, all you need to do is click the AirPlay button in your menu bar and select your iPad from the list of available devices. You can also click and hold on the green button in the corner of an active window and send it to your iPad, or drag apps across your screen to your tablet. If the WiFi connection from AirPlay is not strong enough, you can connect your iPad to your Mac via a USB cable.

Sidecar supports the Apple Pencil and a limited set of touch gestures, but it was not designed to bring touch interaction to the Mac. Apple have resisted that for many years, and still show no signs of making Mac OS more touch friendly. Instead, Sidecar is designed as a second screen application for the iPad. It has a more limited feature set when compared to Luna Display or Duet Display, but if you already have a Mac and an iPad, Sidecar is completely free to use.

Apple Sidecar Demo

3 Tips for Using an iPad as a Second Display

1. If you are interested in adopting a dual screen workflow as part of your daily routine, an iPad stand is going to be on your shopping list. They are available in all shapes and sizes, and some are even in the form of an adjustable arm that clamps onto your desk. I like the Lamicall Tablet stand because it can be used with a case, and has adjustable viewing angles, but your needs may differ so shop around until you find the one you need.

2. Another useful tip is that apps like Duet Display support portrait mode. This can be very handy when working with documents, because it is a more natural orientation for those kinds of files and it lets you see more on the screen at one time. Reports, PDFs and even sheet music looks much better in portrait orientation.

3. If you have a Mac window on your iPad, and you want to use an app on your tablet, you can still do that. Sidecar lets you access the iPad home screen via the home button or a touch gesture, and you can return to your Mac window by tapping the Sidecar icon in the dock.

Quick Poll: Make Your Voice Heard!

What app do you prefer when you use your iPad as a second display?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Jonathan Wylie

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, turbofuture.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://turbofuture.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)