Experiences with Keynote and the iPad VGA connector: not so good

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.

mac keynote presenters slide

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:
ipad display keynote externa monitor

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:
ipad refuses itunes movies

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?

21 comments on “Experiences with Keynote and the iPad VGA connector: not so good

  1. Wow, sounds rather suck-tacular to me.
    I was looking at the VGA dongle for the iPad. Clearly I don’t need to spend the money. Not that I have an iPad yet, but that’s just a matter of time :D.

  2. I agree with your review of the iPad’s video out capabilities, or lack thereof.
    I had visions of being able to wow my audiences with Steve Jobs’ like presentations and demos of various websites. Needless to say, after spending $30 for the adapter, i was extremely disappointed to discover this is not possible. Jobs obviously did not use an Apple VGA adapter for his ipad demo.
    So far, this is my only serious complaint about the iPad. I’m sure (hoping) it will be addressed in a future update.
    A few app developers that i’ve contacted believe that the vga out is part of a private API that Apple hasn’t made available yet.

  3. As an iPhone developer I can confirm that there is no public API that third party apps can use to display any output through the VGA dongle. Until Apple provides such an API, this capability will be limited to Apple’s own apps.
    If you’d like to see third party developers use the video out capability, you can suggest it as a new feature here: http://bugreporter.apple.com/

  4. This certainly sucks. My clear expectation when buying this was that I would be able to simply mirror the 1024×768 screen with a projector. Now I have a useless cable I need to return to apple.

  5. I bought my iPad pretty much to browse the web on my big screen from the couch, download and watch movies, and bring them to my friends’ houses and maybe play games at parties. I was disappointed when the VGA adapter couldn’t do any of that.

  6. I found this out while readying a presentation for about 150 people next week. Not being able to see the slide, on the iPad, while using VGA out is a huge disappointment. I only hope it is a matter of software development. If it is hardware, I’m even more disappointed.
    I am falling back on using Keynote remote on the iPad to run the presentation via my MBP.
    I won’t even get started about iPad’s Safari not having VGA. Yes, I know there are some apps. for that. But not native in Safari????

  7. iDemoWeb is an iPad app that mirrors web sites from Safari to the big screen. Works great. If you want to project or share PowerPoints from iPad, check out MightyMeeting for iPad. Enjoy.

  8. If you search the App Store using keywords like “vga adapter” or just “vga” you will find several iPad apps that will output various content to the external display using this adapter. In addition, some of them (Infonet Presenter, Projector!, etc.) will have extra functionality to help during the presentation or even when preparing, like annotations, importing PDF files from email attachments or iTunes shared files, etc.

  9. I agree with everything you said. I knew that without jailbreaking the iPad that only certain apps would output via the VGA cable but I bought one anyway.
    Delivering a preso on the iPad looks cool but today I discovered the downside…no speakers notes / timer view and the interruption caused by the calendar alert

  10. Totally agree. I was so bummed the first time I used my iPad to present to a large audience. That black “Slide 1 of 25” screen looks like something Microsoft would invent – it’s awful. So I’m up there looking over my own shoulder at the screen behind me to see what slide I’m on. Yeah, that looks really professional…

  11. Gosh, I’m glad I read this blog post and thread of comments. I’m presenting at Jeff Pulver’s #140conf on Thursday in San Francisco and was planning to show the few slides I have from my iPad. I bought Keynote and the VGA adaptor for the event, but had not tried it at home yet. Now I know what to expect! How disappointing. Guess I’ll be lugging my 17″ MBP after all…

  12. Presenting with IPAD:
    1.You can project key note made presentations with VGA adaptor.It will show just precisely the presentation and you will see black screen in ipad with option to advance slides.If you press the screen continuously with finger you get to see a laser pointer in the projection screen.If you are a speaker dependent on reading slides by looking at your ipad then you are doomed.Its absolutely awkward if the projection screen is behind you.
    2.Goodreader for ipad will project pdf,powerpoint in still format.
    At the end of the day i find ipad = iDumb or iLoot by jobs.You spend $30-$40 for VGA,Keynote $12,ipad $1000 for a limited animations and still picture slides.
    Dont jailbreak since it voids your warranty.If jobs has some conscience we may get to project what we want.

  13. Jailbreak your Ipad.
    In the cydia store there is an app that mirrors your screen. I am using this app for all my courses. Now I can see what I am doing on my Ipad. All apps are diplayed on TV, Monitor or beamer.
    Works grate for me

  14. there is a simple method called uiapplication_tvout.m that will mirror apps. It is legal.
    With tvout, video is delayed and chunky. is there an alternate to get the same fluid video?

  15. The Ipad sucks all together. What a tremendous waste of money! Until you find out how you can transfer data from your Mac to the Ipad and back you already waste a great deal of time (both being from Apple, wheras using Android devices you just plug and play!).
    Reluctantly realizing that it is hardly more then an expensive toy, I got the Idea of using it to purchase films over Itunes and projecting on my beamer. Well here we are… Can’t do that either.
    My oppinnion: an Ipad is a useless and expensive peace of junk, which was my gravest missinvestment of my life. A stupid toy, good for nothing. I just can’t stop wondering why people are so crazy about it and what they do with it since anything I would like to do is restricted…

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