In the last three or four years the tech market has changed markedly – smartphones are in, PCs are not as crucial as they once were and almost everyone seems to have a tablet.  When I first got a tablet – a gen 1 iPad I wanted to know what I could do with it to make my PC use better and more efficient.  3 years and a Nexus 7 later it is still something that I want to do.  So what options are there?

iPad Control System

Use the tablet as a second screen.  Some hate the trend towards multiple monitors and others swear by it but if you’re away from home or on a laptop any second screen can be a help.  A table does not make a great second screen – the refresh rate and size argue against it but as with phone cameras – the one you have is better than none.  If you are running an iPad or Android the market leader seems to be Air Display.  It is relatively simple to setup, works on PC and Mac and also allows the tablet screen to be used as for gestures.  The only problem is the price – £6.58 on Android and £6.99 on iOS and the fact that it is still buggy with Windows 8.

Use it to control your PC remotely.  This is the classic idea – I’m away for the weekend and the office calls – they need that spreadsheet that’s on my PC!  I could drive all the way home or I could just use product X to log in to my PC remotely and save the day.  In reality that sort of situation is pretty rare but there is something to be said for the ability to get to your PC from across the country or even if you just don’t want to get out of bed but you want to start a download or do something Window’sy on a tablet.  There are a large number of these programs called VNC’s for Virtual Network Computing or a graphical desktop sharing system.   Some of these cross platform include Splashtop, RDM+ and LogMeIn and while its never as good as being at the PC there is a use for them.

Use it as a control system.  Keyboards are designed for typing rather than for controlling a game or specific program.  A tablet is a large remapable control area and with the right app can make an excellent extra control system.  This is a part of the market which is not fully developed but the potential is there.  For example playing an MMO a can need a large number of specialist macros and keys.  Rather than getting a MMO keyboard we could just use a tablet.  Productivity software such as video editing could make use of this – the kickstarter CTRL Console uses an iPad to control Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro.  Musicians and DJs can use tablets with apps such as TouchOSC to add almost any control that they want to.

Finally you can use that control surface as a trackpad.  Its a fairly simple idea but apps like Remote Trackpad on Android or TouchPad  on iOS can give users a huge trackpad space which particularly when combined with gestures has obvious potential.  Prop your tablet up and you effectively have a large [amazon_link id=”B003XLYAWC” target=”_blank” ]Apple Magic Trackpad[/amazon_link].

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