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As we've seen previously (The more screens, the better - Our guide to multiple monitors ), having more screens to distribute your desktop across can be a huge benefit to your computing experience.
And as you'll have noticed in the title, if you've got a tablet, you can even bring it into the mix, as long as you've got access to a WiFi network and have installed a few pieces of software. Lets take a look.
There are quite a few apps out there for Android and iOS, on both Windows and OSX. This post isn't really about all the variations available, so to keep it simple, I'm using Air Display by Avatron, which is available for all four configurations (Android (OSX/Win), iOS (OSX/Win)).
It's a simple matter to set up, just install a server application on your desktop, and a client application on your tablet. Configuration took a minute or two and then I was sharing my screen.
It's about the network
The way these desktop-extending apps work is they basically fool your operating system into thinking you've just connected another monitor to the system. To your operating system, the tablet looks just like a monitor, and is treated as such.
You can drag windows on to it, launch your computer's applications from it -- it's just another screen.
Screen with benefits
Ok, it's not really just another screen. This new mini-monitor also becomes a touch screen. Yep, you can tap on your screen, and the computer's cursor immediately snaps to the location you tapped. Which means all your mouse functions are also now available on the touchscreen tablet.
For me, one of the best uses of a tablet as an extended desktop is when I pair my iPad up with my MacBook Pro when I'm on the go.
Imagine pulling up to your favourite table at your local coffee shop, setup up your laptop, and next to it, your tablet. Extend the screen onto your tablet and poof! You are now uber productive while being extremely portable.
Since you're actually getting an extended desktop sent through the network to your tablet, don't expect blisteringly fast screen updates. Depending on the app and desktop, you can make Flash animations appear on your device. In my case, I managed to get just under 60 frames per second in my highly un-scientific HTML5 Fishtank framerate test
No system is perfect. Using the tablet as a second screen requires a WiFi network connection. This can be a bit tricky in some locations where you're only allowed one WiFi connection per person.
Also, if there are multiple WiFi networks in the same building, say at a university, you must make sure that your devices are all on the same WiFi network.
Well, I like using the extra monitor provided by my tablet as a news desk, tweet monitor and reference desk. Yep, just a passive display that I can occasionally glance at that means I don't have to Alt-Tab to check on stuff. Much less distracting that way, I find. And it's a portable solution to my multiple monitor addiction.
Got a favourite computer and tablet configuration you want to share? Tell us about it and we'll all learn something!