Using an iPad as a second screen for a MacBook

24th March 2022
iPad and MacBook using the iPad as a second screen

There are many benefits to incorporating a second screen into your work, the most obvious is that you’re able to increase your (digital) working space, which of course means you can:

  • Compare data or articles more easily
  • Participate in a video call on one screen and use the other for working collaboratively or to keep reference materials to hand
  • Read instructions on one screen while following them on the other
  • Keep one screen for communication-based programmes (like email, Teams, Zoom) and the other for writing, analysing, creating, planning etc…
  • Play! You can game on one screen while streaming and interacting with viewers on the other

Why use an iPad over a regular monitor?

Many people who have a second screen use a dedicated monitor set up permanently at their workstations. However, this can take up space and if you have a transient workspace (i.e. working from the dining table once or twice a week), it’s not ideal to have another monitor cluttering up your room.

using iPad as a second screen

You can use an iPad as a second screen which has a number of benefits over a regular monitor:

  • An iPad can be packed away easily and compactly
  • An iPad has many functions of its own, outside of being a second screen while a traditional monitor really only has one role
  • When using an iPad as a second screen with a Mac, you benefit from Apple features including:
    • Multi-Touch gestures
    • Use of the Apple Pencil
    • Touch Bar

How can I use an iPad as a second screen?

There are a couple of options when it comes to the ‘how’. Apple has their own feature and there is also a third party software provider called Duet. Let’s take a look…

Apple Sidecar

Apple supports iPads as second displays for Macs through their free Sidecar feature. This allows you to display your Mac desktop on your iPad and use your iPad functionality (fingers or Apple Pencil) to work, instead of a keyboard and mouse/trackpad. This means you can swipe and pinch rather than click.

To use an iPad as a second screen for a Mac via Sidecar, you need to make sure:

  • Both devices meet the Sidecar system requirements
  • Both devices are signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID – using two-factor authentication
  • Both devices have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Handoff turned on
  • The devices are within 10 metres / 30 feet of each other
  • If using Sidecar via USB, your iPad must be set to trust your Mac
side car system with iPad and MacBook

You can use Sidecar wired or wirelessly, although of course having your iPad plugged into your Mac will keep your iPad charged.

How you get Mac windows over to your iPad will depend on the macOS you’re using; if you’re on Catalina, you’ll need to click the AirPlay icon and then choose your iPad. If you’re on Big Sur or later, you can move windows via the Display menu in Control Centre or the menu bar. Alternatively, you can move your pointer to the full-screen button and choose to move that window to the iPad display, where it will be perfectly resized.

Your iPad will act as an extension of your Mac by default, but you can choose to mirror your Mac in the Display or Airplay menu (depending on your macOS), where you can select the blue iPad icon.

Once connected, common Mac functions will appear in the sidebar of your iPad, including Command Shift and other modifier keys, for use with either your finger or Apple Pencil. Sidecar also supports the Touch Bar, which has controls that make working even easier, even if your Mac doesn’t physically have a Touch Bar.

You can still use your iPad in its normal way when connected via Sidecar. Simply switch to an app as you normally would and, while that is open, your screen-sharing session will be temporarily suspended. To resume, go into the Sidecar app on your iPad Home Screen, which is only present while you are using Sidecar.

For full details, take a look at the Apple Sidecar instructional page.

Duet Display

Another way to use your iPad as a second screen is via the Duet Display app.

duet display iPad and MacBook

Duet works with every major platform, working across Windows, iOS and macOS, so anyone can use an iPad as a second screen, not just Mac users.

Unlike Sidecar, Duet is a paid-for service. The basic Duet Display – for personal use of your iPad as a wired display, with basic touch control and Mac & PC support – is a one-off purchase of $14.99. The more advanced offering of Duet Air – which includes everything in Duet Display plus higher performance, rendering and control, with 24/7 support – is $24.99 a year. An Enterprise solution is also available for company-wide use.

If you use your MacBook Pro in the closed-clamshell mode, which allows you to drive an external display while the MacBook is closed, you may find that losing the use of your Touch Bar is an irritation. Duet can be used with an iOS device as both an external display and a Touch Bar, which offers the perfect solution to anyone using an older Mac, which doesn’t have the Touch Bar feature or the latest model MacBook Pro in closed-clamshell mode.

Duet Display is an app for iPhone and iPad which helps you to turn your iOS device into a second screen for your Mac. The app also allows you to use a virtual Touch Bar with that second display, even if your Mac doesn’t have a hardware Touch Bar. And as a bonus, any app that has been updated with Touch Bar support will work with the virtual version as well.

Once you’ve downloaded Duet, you just double click the app as you would with any other app. It will then move to the Applications folder and request permission to add a graphics driver (you need the driver in order to supply the high-performance display on your iPad) this will only add an additional driver for Duet’s operation and not affect your system drivers. Duet is certified by Apple to load the driver onto your Mac so it’s safe to do. Once this is all done you’ll need to restart the Mac, then you can get started. Duet’s icon will appear in the menu bar – a circle with a lowercase d – and from here you can access the duet settings which you can tweak to your preferences.

MacBook Air 13inch

Obviously, this set-up is a great workable solution for anyone with a Mac that has hardware that predates the Touch Bar but it is also a really useful option when you’re running a MacBook Pro in closed-clamshell mode and can’t access your Touch bar. Macs have always been great at handling multiple monitors and with Duet Display, or any other external screen, you can choose to have your Mac’s display mirrored or you can use it to simply extend the Mac’s display, which is much more useful when you find yourself working on smaller screens. Just the same as with multi-screens on a desktop, if you connect your iPad with Duet Display running you can drag a window from your Mac’s screen over onto the iPad.

If you’re short on space or have to work somewhere which has limited space available, using an iPad with its case folded and propped up takes up decidedly less space than either an open MacBook Pro or a second monitor.

How we fit in

If you want to find out more about leasing the latest iPads and Macbooks for your business, give our team a call on 020 7111 1643.