Incorporating an iPad to My Work Station

It’s always nice to have more screen space. I’ve been considering getting a bigger screen but decided to get an iPad instead (although I’m sure I’ll be tempted to get an iMac 27″ when Apple updates it this summer). The iPad has other equally important use cases for me, but it’s been especially interesting figuring out exactly how I would incorporate it into my desktop as I work. Physically, I bought the Smart Cover and have it standing horizontally. The iPad is also supported by the four books behind it that the MacBook sits on top of (thats to have the MacBook’s screen at eye level). The iPad being below eye level (and dimming on inactivity) has a side benefit of not distracting me as much but being there for quick reference.

More interesting than the physical setup are two ways to incorporate it into your work station software wise. I thought I would outline it here.

Use your iPad as an extra display.

You need some like Air Display for your iPad. It’s $9.99. Then you need to install the Air Display Connect on your Mac. This literally makes it seem to your Mac that the iPad is another screen. You can arrange it in the display settings and just like any other monitor, you mouse just moves to it and you can drag windows into it.

Pros:

  • This allows you to use the keyboard and mouse seamlessly. You can even touch on the iPad to move the mouse or click buttons.
  • Air Display Connect software is also useful if you have another Mac that you want to connect together and use one keyboard and mouse.
  • It supports the retina display iPad using it as a HiDPI display.

Cons:

  • This connection is fragile. Restarting the computer, I had to reconnect. Press the home button and use another app on your iPad, you can lose the connect if you leave the Air Display app for too long.
  • This basically wastes the iPad as a computing entity with it’s own memory, processor, and apps. It’s just a  display.
  • I think because on the iPad retina display the resolution is crazy high, it’s really laggy. Dragging a window into it and positioning it is hard because of the lag. Video is out. On the other hand, my most common use case – tailing a log in a terminal – it seemed to work fine.

Use your Mac’s keyboard as a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad.

You need iKeyboard for your Mac. It’s also $9.99. Once you’ve made a connection between your Mac and iPad, you can bring up this app and everything you type is relayed to the iPad via the Bluetooth connection.

Pros:

  • You get to utilized the iPad to to it’s fullest. You can have music, email, etc. running on it. For me, I have music playing and either email, reminder app, or a browser open to PivotalTracker.
  • You get to use your keyboard on the iPad. Maybe this item is not necessary as that’s the whole point of the app, but I don’t like having 1 item lists.

Cons:

  • If you don’t have something running that keeps it from locking, the iPad will turn the screen off. Not having it auto lock doesn’t work for me because I don’t want it on all night as I’ll never remember to turn it off as I leave the office. The perfect solution for me is to have the Music app playing during the day which dims the screen but doesn’t lock the device.
  • The mouse doesn’t control anything on the iPad so you still have to touch it.
  • You have to switch over to the iKeyboard app to begin typing. Hmm, wonder if I can setup some sort of keyboard shortcut that brings up a specific app?

Conclusion

After spending $19.98 buying both these apps and trying each for a day each, at this point I feel more comfortable with using iKeyboard and using the iPad as a separate device but be able to type using my keyboard. It also promotes a good behavior, to segregate email as a separate activity set aside for certain times of the day. When I just email using your computer, I slip into it. Emailing on the iPad, at least for now, I notice it conscientiously. I think that should last, but who knows, maybe my brain will adjust and I’ll slip into emailing again.