How to Use Your iPad as a Second Monitor

Need a second monitor? Try out your iPad

Are you looking to get more productive? One of the best ways to boost productivity in the office or at home is to go with a dual-display for your PC or Mac. But fair warning: It is addicting. After working with two monitors for several years, I find it difficult to go back to just using one, as if I'm trying to work inside of a box. Don't have two monitors? No problem. If you have an iPad, you can use it as a second display.

Is the iPad as good a display as an actual monitor? No. The 9.7-inch display of the full-sized iPad certainly won't give you as much real estate as a 22-inch monitor. But the best apps for converting your iPad into a second monitor also make use of the iPad's touch interface, which can be a real bonus.

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How to Use Your iPad as a Second Monitor

These apps work in conjunction with software installed on your computer. The software for your PC or Mac is free.

Duet Display

duet-display.png

While many apps have provided the ability to use your iPad as a second monitor via Wi-Fi, Duet Display uses the same Lightning or 30-pin cable you use to charge your iPad. This makes the connection fast, allowing you to do everything from watch video, which would be laggy over Wi-Fi or even play games.

And Duet Display works great with the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro's 12.9-inch display makes it perfect for adding a second monitor to your MacBook, iMac or even your PC if you have one. 

You can watch a demo video of Duet Display in action on Youtube.

Air Display

air-display-2
Apple Inc.

Until Duet Display came along, Air Display was the reigning champ of converting your iPad into a monitor. And while Duet Display hasn't registered a TKO, the champ has definitely been backed into a corner.

Avatron Software recently came out with Air Display 3, which also uses the iPad's cable rather than Wi-Fi to set the iPad up as a second monitor. Unfortunately, Air Display 3 only works with Macs. If you are using Windows, you will need to install Air Display 2.

Do not download Air Display 2 from Avatron's website. Avatron has an Air Display 3 Upgrade Bundle available in the app store. Unfortunately, their website doesn't link to it. While the upgrade bundle is $5 more than Air Display 2, it matches the price of Air Display 3 and gives you access to both apps, so when the Windows version is ready, you'll be ready.

Have a Mac? Download Air Display 3 instead. 

iDisplay Is Another, Pricier Option

An illustration of a computer with an iPad as a second monitor.
 Lifewire

Duet Display and Air Display aren't alone in providing the ability to use your iPad as a monitor for your PC. But they are by far and away the best solution. If you are willing to pay iDisplay's price tag, you might as well go with the better options.

How to Use iPad as a Second Monitor Using Sidecar

You can also use an iPad as a second monitor using Sidecar, a feature that premiered in macOS Catalina (10.15). Sidecar lets you expand your workspace by turning an iPad running iOS 13 and later into more real estate. Here's how to use it.

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac by either selecting it under the Apple menu or clicking its icon in the Dock.

    System Preferences in macOS Catalina
  2. Click Sidecar.

    Sidecar in System Preferences
  3. The Sidecar options window will open. Here, you can decide where the Sidebar and Touch Bar will appear.

    • The Sidebar contains buttons that let you open a keyboard, press the Command key, and other items that will help you perform tasks on your second screen. You can put it on the left or the right.
    • The Touch Bar mirrors the functionality of the context-sensitive menu on some Mac models. It can appear at the top or bottom of your iPad display.

    You can use the Touch Bar in Sidecar even if your Mac doesn't have one.

    Sidecar and Touch Bar options
  4. Click the box next to Enable double tap on Apple Pencil to quickly switch between tools, show a color palette, and more.

    Double-tap is available on the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil.

  5. Click the pulldown menu labeled Select Device to choose your iPad.

    Select Device in Sidecar settings
  6. Your Mac will automatically connect to the iPad.

  7. Select the Sidecar menu on your Mac to choose the iPad's role. Select Use As Separate Display.

    You can also use Sidecar to mirror your computer's display.

    Use As Separate Display option
  8. Your iPad screen will get another desktop on it. You can drag windows between it and your Mac.

    Second display on an iPad
  9. The Sidebar contains buttons to help you perform desktop tasks on your iPad.

  • Tap the top icon to toggle showing the menu bar.
  • The next icon will open your Mac's dock on your iPad.
  • The next four buttons mirror the Command, Option, Control, and Shift keys on a keyboard.
  • The arrow icon lets you undo the last action you performed.
  • Tap the keyboard icon to open a full keyboard on your iPad. You can use it along with the modifier keys above to navigate apps.
  • Finally, tap the Sidecar icon to disconnect from your Mac.