MaxiVista + iPad: Expand Your Screen Estate

If you are an extreme computer-powered multi-tasker, there is no such thing as too much screen space.  If you aren’t already using a second (or third or fourth) monitor on your system, I will bet dimes to donuts that you have thought about it or would like to do it. It isn’t always the simplest process. Readers may recall my extensive review of the Nanovision Mimo USB monitors, a supposedly plug and play solution to the multi-monitor issue. I loved the monitors and what they did for my productivity until Nanovision updated the drivers and all of a sudden the monitors refused to work. Sometimes hardware (and software) are like that.

Finding myself mini-monitor-less, and having gotten used to the benefits of multiple screens, I have been looking for a solution to the problem for a little while now. In the meantime, I purchased an iPad, one of the benefits of which is a beautiful 9.7″ wide screen. Naturally, I wondered if somehow I could use the iPad to fill the gap left by the now defunct and defective Mimos.

Bartles Media GmBH has come up with a partial solution for those running Windows Vista or 7 – powered machines (and possibly XP machines, although I couldn’t see support for that on their site). Their MaxiVista iPad app (link here) allows you to set up the iPad as a second monitor. The iPad app costs $9.99, but they were very kind to provide me with a free discount code to try it out for myself. MaxiVista (link here) also comes in desktop versions, so you can link up to THREE additional pcs on your master computer. I only tried the iPad version, but I can only imagine how cool their desktop software might be (prices range between $40 and $100, depending on feature set, but there is a free trial available).

To get up and running, you have to first download the PC application onto your main computer. This was simple enough. Once completed, a little MaxiVista icon appears on your desktop. Then, activate your iPad’s MaxiVista app and the PC app. The devices “speak” to each other through your local network – my PC had no problem finding the iPad, and could even “see” that it was either to the right or left of the desktop. The PC app will ask you to confirm the iPad’s location, and you can check either yes or no and save your settings. Once you get past this point, you will see your desktop screen extended onto your iPad.

The app itself works well. I do get a “Com Surrogate” error message whenever I start the PC app, but the error doesn’t seem to do anything more than annoy (I did try a couple fixes, but couldn’t get it to go away). The screen refresh is a little bit slow, so I would not recommend it for views requiring fast refresh, such as video. I also note that, because the iPad always seems to default to the left side of your desktop screen, you will probably want to set up the iPad on the left side of your computer so that the movement makes sense. Some reviewers of the app seem to be sorely disappointed that the iPad loses its touchscreen ability when it is in second monitor mode, but I am not terribly troubled by this – most second monitors are not touchscreen-capable and the app does precisely what it is advertised to do – operate the iPad as a second monitor. Of course, if MaxiVista updates the app to somehow provide touchscreen control of the iPad while in second monitor mode, I will be a supremely happy camper indeed.

In any even, MaxiVista is a complete bargain in my book. My Mimo monitors, which had half the screen size of the iPad, cost well over $100 apiece. Most screens will cost you at least that. If you already have an iPad, the MaxiVista app will only set you back ten bucks. And, unlike my Mimos that relied on buggy device drivers, it WORKS.

How am I using it? Right now, I have two scrolling social feeds in side by side windows on the iPad, while I write the blog post in my main screen. I specifically chose auto-scrolling / updating feeds so that I wouldn’t need to shift my attention to that screen other than to glance at it. I can see the updates in the corner of my eye and take a quick peek, then get back to work. As such, I can keep tabs on more information at once.

iPad & Desktop Screens

iPad Screen Only

Desktop Screen Only

The mouse moves easily between the screens – much better than the mouse movement on the Mimos. Resolution on the iPad is more than adequate – I can see the iPad fine at 20 inches away without my distance glasses. In addition to monitoring multiple websites at once, I can see using this set up for my vector graphics program, setting the palettes and brush menus off to the iPad and keeping the main screen fully open for the drawing itself. Another great option would be to use the iPad to house your chat windows, while working on the main monitor. I had a reason to use this set up back a couple months ago and only wish I had MaxiVista installed at that time. How about loading a document that has no cut and paste option over on your iPad screen while you type what you need from it into a document in your main screen? Been there, needed that too.

MaxiVista is not the only App Store option out there. As I haven’t tried the other, Air Display (separate apps for Windows and Mac systems), I cannot comment on how effective it is. I can say that I do recommend the MaxiVista app for anyone running a Windows Vista desktop and an iPad. I can’t think of a simpler, most cost-effective solution to the multi-monitor problem.  Well done, MaxiVista!

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