Last night I had a chance to test out a feature of my new Apple iPad that I’d been eager to try: the VGA connector. On a laptop you plug in a second screen or projector and it generally mirrors what’s on your existing screen, giving you the ability to share what you’re doing with others. Flip a setting in the Displays preferences and it becomes a second screen, and what’s shown on it is different to what’s on your computer screen. That’s super helpful with a spare monitor, but it’s particularly useful for people running presentations.
I use Apple’s Keynote for presentations and it’s terrific at working with a projector, where the slide is shown on the screen, but on the computer you see a thumbnail of the slide, a smaller thumbnail of the next slide and a timer.
I copied my presentation onto the iPad and made sure I had Keynote ready to go. Some glitches with typefaces and layout, but nothing I couldn’t fix in a few minutes of fiddling on the iPad itself. Ready to go!
And then I found out that while the device did a splendid job of driving a projector using the VGA connector ($29 from Apple), what it didn’t do was offer anything at all useful on the iPad display itself:
Very disappointing. Even if it didn’t show the slides, at least a timer would be useful. It’s startling lame actually, and I expect it’ll be one of the first things that will change in the first rev of Keynote for iPad.
Another thing I quickly learned is that if you have app notifications turned on, every time you get a notification alert it kills the presentation, drops you back into Keynote edit mode, and makes the projected screen go blank. You confirm receipt of the alert and restart the preso so it’s not a nightmare, but, really, can’t Keynote pop up “I notice you have Alerts enabled. I recommend you disable them for a presentation. Disable now? Yes / No” or similar?
Since I had the iPad hooked up to a second display, I took advantage of the opportunity to try running different apps and seeing what was second-display aware. Turns out almost nothing is. Netflix? Nope. ABC shows? Nope. Safari? Nope. What did work with the second monitor was iTunes video. Sweet!
I plugged in external speakers and we were enjoying Buckaroo Banzai — which I had previous ripped from my DVD and copied onto the iPad via iTunes — on a big, crisp screen. Very nice. The iPad screen was blank during this time, however, which was a bit weird. Why not have it show pause/play controls, volume, etc?
Then I tried to play a bit of Inglorious Basterds, a film I’d bought on the iTunes store, just to bump into this:
Ah, so there are DRM limitations here too.
Anyway, that’s a summary of my experience. Not that great, and certainly Keynote worked, but it was surprisingly crude and simplistic compared to the great experience of a two-monitor setup for Keynote on the Mac itself.
What are other people’s experiences with the iPad VGA out connector? Any other apps you’ve found that can utilize it? Is it part of the API and accessible to iPad developers?