If there's one thing that's better than the Retina display on your MacBook or iMac it's plugging in a second screen. That's all very well if you have a spare screen, or the cash for an additional display, but what if you don't? Can you use your iPad as a second monitor? The answer is, yes you can.

It's actually been something you can do via third-party software for some time, but Apple's finally making it possible to do so via macOS when Catalina launches. In this article we'll look at what you'll need to use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac in Catalina, and how you can use your iPad as a second screen right now!

Read on to find out how to use your iPad as a display for your Mac.

If you are using your Mac with an external screen and want to close the lid on your MacBook here's How to use MacBook with lid closed, stop closed Mac sleeping.

Sidecar in macOS Catalina

In macOS Catalina, coming later in 2019, you will be able to use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac, either mirroring it, or extending your display so that you can fit in even more windows.

This is thanks to a new feature called Sidecar. Here’s what you will need in order to use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac.

With Sidecar in Catalina you’ll be able to your iPad as a second screen alongside your Mac. It will be possible to plug the iPad directly into the Mac, or connect it wirelessly using Bluetooth and Continuity (within a range of 10 meters).

iPad sidecar

What you need:

  • A Mac running macOS Catalina - Most Macs since 2012 can run Catalina. Find out if your Mac can run Catalina here.
  • An iPad running iPadOS 13 (see below for a full list)
  • It is necessary to be logged into the same iCloud account on the Mac and iPad.
  • You’ll need to be within 10 meters of your Mac if you are connecting wirelessly.

iPads that work with Sidecar include:

  • 
12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad (5th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Air 2

How to use an iPad as a second screen on MacOS Catalina

Once Catalina and iPadOS 13 launch - or if you are running the beta versions - you will be able to connect your iPad and Mac following these steps:

  1. You will be able to connect your iPad using your charging cable (if you have the required ports on your Mac), alternatively, you can connect via Bluetooth as long as you are within 10 meters of the Mac. (Until we can test this feature thoroughly we can’t be sure, but we imagine being plugged in directly could mean there is less lag).
  2. To connect just click on the AirPlay icon in the menu at the the top right of your screen. (It’s a square with a triangle).
  3. You should see your iPad listed. Select it and an an extension of your Mac’s screen will appear on the iPad display.
  4. If you would prefer to mirror your Mac’s screen on the iPad, rather that use the iPad as an extension of your workspace, click on the new screen icon that will have appeared in the menu (it will have replaced the AirPlay icon).
  5. Switch from Use as Separate Display to Mirror Built-In Retina Display. There will also be a new Sidecar section in System Preferences next to Displays.

For more Mac tips read: Best Mac tips, tricks and timesavers.

Other features of Sidecar

When Sidecar arrives as a feature in Catalina there will be some great features coming to those who can utilise the new feature. These include:

  • A Touch Bar that can appear on the iPad, bringing many of the Touch Bar features that are currently only available on the MacBook Pro to other Macs.
  • You’ll also be able to use the touch-screen functionality of the iPad display in other ways making this the first time the macOS can be controlled via a touch screen.
  • This feature essentially means you will be able to use Mac apps on your iPad - although they won't be running on the iPad itself.
  • You’ll be able to use your iPad as a graphics tablet with your Mac. (See below to see which iPads will work with the feature).

The following iPads can be used as graphics tablets in Catalina:

  • 12.9in iPad Pro
  • 11in iPad Pro
  • 10.5in iPad Pro
  • 9.7in iPad Pro

How to use an iPad as a second display now

However, you don’t have to wait for Catalina to launch. There are tools that enable you to use your iPad as a monitor for your Mac right now. So we will tell you about them below.

What you'll need

  • A Lightning to USB cable
  • An iPad
  • Software such as Duet Display, iDisplay and AirDisplay.
  • A Mac running macoS 10.13.3 or earlier - unfortunately 10.13.4 broke some of the DisplayLink functionality that these apps rely on.

Problems

These apps use DisplayLink USB graphics technology, which can be used to connect computers and displays via USB, Ethernet, and WiFi. Unfortunately,  macOS 10.13.4 broke DisplayLink - and therfore apps like Duet Display and those mentioned above may not work if you have installed the update to High Sierra.

It may still be possible to use the iPad as a display - but only in clone mode. To do so, it's recommended that the DisplayLink 4.3 drivers are downloaded.

How to use Duet Display

In this example we're using Duet Display, which was developed by a team of ex-Apple engineers. Duet Display allows you to use the tablet as a second display not just on your Mac, but a PC too.

Duet Display also provides limited touchscreen support, allowing you to tap and swipe your way around MacOS. It means you don’t have to spend your time moving your mouse between the two screens, which becomes especially laborious when using a trackpad and again, enables users to be more productive.

We'll show you how to set up Duet display to use your iPad Pro (or any other iPad or iPhone) as a second display for your Mac or PC.

Here’s an overview of how to use your iPad Pro as a second display using Duet Display, with more in-depth instructions below:

  1. On your iPad Pro, open the App Store and install Duet Display– at the time of writing, it costs £19.99. It’s a universal app, so it’ll also be available for use with your iPhone.
  2. On your Mac or PC, head over to the Duet Display website and download the Duet for Mac/Windows app.
  3. Install the Duet companion app for Mac or PC. This is an important step, as the companion app allows your iPad and Mac to ‘talk’ to each other. Follow the installation instructions, and restart your Mac to complete the installation.
  4. On your iPad Pro, open the Duet Display app and plug it into your Mac or PC using a Lightning cable (or 30-pin cable if you’re using an older iPad).
  5. The iPad Pro should be recognised by the Duet companion app, and your desktop should now extend across the two displays. You’re then ready to go! Quality settings can be tweaked via the Duet companion app on your Mac or PC to provide higher graphics, smoother refresh rates, etc. and to disconnect the display, simply close the app on your iPad.