Add an Extra Monitor to Your Laptop for $14.99

I’ve written before about the quantum leap in efficiency you enjoy when using multiple monitors, and I assume that most attorneys who work with a desktop arrangement have at least two monitors going. But what if you use a laptop instead of a desktop arrangement, or are out and about? I hereinafter offer a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to add a second monitor to your laptop, if you own an iPad.

The solution comes by way of the Duet Display app, which turns your iPad into an extra monitor for your PC or Mac. Installation is crazy simple. You install the app on your iPad, install the partner program from the Duet website on your laptop, and then connect your iPad to the laptop via USB cable. Your iPad then shows up as a second monitor on your laptop. I’ve tested it with three different computers, and in all cases no configuration was necessary to get it to show up as a second monitor. However, your Windows or Mac OS has no way to know where your iPad is sitting (that would be mind-blowing if it did), so if you want to have your mouse cursor move the right direction onto the iPad, you’ll need to tweak the display settings the first time you use Duet with your laptop. Thereafter, it remembers the positioning.

“Wait! Did you just say that I’ll have a mouse cursor on my iPad?” Yes. It’s just acting as a monitor for your PC or Mac, so you’ll use your mouse on that display just like you would on your laptop (with the added advantage that your iPad retains its touch screen capabilities).

There is really no circumstance, at least in my experience, that an additional display isn’t as handy as a pocket in a shirt, to quote my father-in-law. At my office I use four monitors, but since I now have the Duet app (and a fancy 12.9 inch iPad Pro), I add my iPad as a fifth monitor. It is amazing how often, even with four monitors, that I find myself having to minimize or move programs to get to the program I need. You are engaging in repeated inefficiency every time you have to bring up a program, even if it simply means clicking on the task bar. There is always something I can throw over on the iPad in order to free up real estate on my “real” monitors, giving me unfettered access to other programs.

An added bonus is that with my iPad open and facing me, I can instantly see all the notifications that are tied to my iOS programs, including text messages. And I have full access to my iPad if there is anything there I need to access. (However, if you switch to a different app without keeping Duet running, it will disconnect and send whatever you had open in Duet back to your computer.) For extra credit efficiency points, assuming your iPad can do so, you can use the slide over feature to add an additional window to your iPad.

Originally, Duet required a USB connection to your computer. That limited its usefulness somewhat, because although the USB port on my computer is powered, it doesn’t pack enough juice to charge the iPad, and there is no convenient way to charge the iPad through the port while using a USB connection. After about ten hours of use, I’d get the low battery warning. Thankfully, Duet almost immediately added a wireless option, allowing a connection via WiFi. The publishers claim that a USB connection is the better way to go to avoid any lag time, but I have never experienced any problems, and use the WiFi connection almost exclusively. It is so much more convenient. I open the Duet app on my iPad, and whammo blammo, I have an extra monitor.

By default, the display comes up as an extension to your laptop display, but you can also configure it to mirror the display. Useful, for example, during client meetings so you can display information on your laptop without the client having to look over your shoulder.

I have a fancy 12.9 inch iPad Pro (did I mention that?), so the iPad display is fundamentally the same size as my laptop display, but even with a smaller iPad, it is completely workable even with my tired, old eyes. Note that Duet requires iOS 7.0 or later, so it won’t work with the very first generation iPad. (I just checked mine, and it appears that it maxed out at version 5.1.1.)

How much for all this wonderfulness? It seems that no one expects to pay more than two dollars for an app, but you’ll have to pop $14.99 for Duet Display. That’s a pretty cheap way to add an additional monitor to your laptop or desktop. And that’s a one time fee for as many iPhones and old iPads you feel compelled to put it on. Over the years, I have tried other apps that perform the same function, but none worked a flawlessly as Duet.

Bonus, super secret, tip: Duet works on iPhones as well as iPads. OK, the Duet site lists iPhones as being compatible, so it’s not a total secret, but it makes no mention of actually using an iPhone.

“Why would I use my iPhone as a second monitor?”, you ask. Good question. Thanks for participating.

Remember the pocket in a shirt comment? There is always a use for an additional monitor. Even when using an application that is available on your iPhone, it is sometimes more efficient to use it via Duet because you will be afforded keyboard use. For example, I could open Todoist on my iPhone as I work through my to-do list on my laptop, but by opening Todoist on my laptop and throwing it over to my iPhone, now I can check off, add and modify entries via my laptop’s keyboard, rather than switching between the two and pecking it out on my phone.


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