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Controlling Your Desktop/Notebook Computer from Your iPad

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It’s true that many Apple iPad apps allow you to easily sync or transfer data, content, or files between a primary computer and the tablet. This can be done in a variety of ways. Instead of transferring compatible files, data, and content between a computer and iPad, it’s also possible to control the actual computer remotely from a tablet. In this article, best-selling author and avid iPhone/iPad user Jason R. Rich explores options for accessing your computer files and running computer software directly from your iPad or iPad mini using a third-party app and related software.
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One of the truly great things about the Apple iPad (and iPad mini) is that information, content, files, and data can be easily transferred between your tablet and a primary computer using a cloud-based file sharing service (such as iCloud or Dropbox), the iTunes Sync process, or email, for example. Plus, thanks to file and content compatibility between apps running on the tablet and software running on a PC or Mac, information, data, and files can easily be viewed, shared, edited, and synced on either your computer or tablet with ease.

However, another option that many business professionals and even gamers find useful is the ability to control a Windows-based PC or Mac from an iPad remotely via the Internet (or a Wi-Fi home network). Several third-party companies have developed Remote Desktop solutions, but one of the most versatile, easy-to-use, and cost-effective options is Splashtop 2.

Begin by downloading the Splashtop 2 app from the App Store and installing it onto your iPad ($1.99). Next, download and install the Splashtop Streamer software (free) onto your Windows-based PC or Mac.

When both the Splashtop 2 app and Splashtop Streamer software are running simultaneously, your tablet will automatically establish a connection with your primary computer as long as both the computer and tablet are linked to the same wireless network. Then, from your iPad, you can literally take control over your computer, launch and use software, and handle a wide range of other tasks, while seeing everything on your tablet’s screen.

So, instead of transferring a Microsoft Word document, for example, from your Mac to the Pages app in order to view, edit, print, or share it from your iPad, it’s now possible to actually launch and use the Microsoft Word software that’s installed on your Mac, but control all aspects of it from your tablet, without having to transfer or sync documents or files. All of the content remains on your primary computer, but you have full remote access to it from the iPad.

Splashtop 2 works with all Windows and Mac OS X software, not just Microsoft Office. Thus, you can play your favorite computer games remotely or watch HD-quality movies, TV shows, and Flash-based videos (at up to 30 frames per second) from your tablet, while all of the related software and content actually remains at all times on your computer.

The connection between your primary computer and tablet is password-protected and secure. While there’s sometimes a tiny lag time, most users find they’re able to run their most frequently used and relied-on software, plus gain access to their most vital data, with little or no problem whatsoever.

Even though the core Splashtop 2 app is priced at $1.99, several in-app purchases are required in order to gain full access to all of the app’s features and functions. For example, if you want to establish a remote connection between your primary computer and iPad while outside of your home wireless network, you’ll need to pay for a monthly service plan ($1.99 per month or $16.99 per year).

Using Splashtop 2’s Anywhere Access option, the tablet can connect to the Internet via a 3G, 4G (LTE), or Wi-Fi connection (depending on the tablet model), and establish a connection to your primary computer in order to remotely access and control it via a secure global network of servers that use 256-bit AES encryption.

One potential drawback to running Windows PC or Mac software from an iPad is that the software is most likely not configured for the smaller size tablet screen. In many cases, the Splashtop 2 app compensates for this and provides on-screen navigational buttons and the ability to easily scroll around.

However, another in-app purchase option for Splashtop 2 includes Configurable Shortcuts & Gamepad, which provides easier on-screen controls for many popular software applications as well as games. This includes shortcuts for all of the Microsoft Office applications running on a PC or Mac that will be accessed remotely via an iPad. The monthly subscription fee for this app add-on is 99 cents (or $9.99 per year).

As always, in-app purchases are charged immediately and directly to the credit or debit card you have on file in conjunction with your Apple ID account, which is used to access and make purchases from the App Store.

In addition to the Splashtop 2 app, several other app developers offer similar Remote Desktop solutions for remotely accessing a primary computer from the iPad. For example, there’s GoToMyPC, which also requires a proprietary app be installed on the tablet and related software to be installed and run simultaneously on a PC or Mac.

GoToMyPC charges a flat monthly fee of $9.95 (or $99 per year) for the basic service, which gives one user access to his or her primary computer from their iPad. The GoToMyPC Pro package ($19.90 per month or $198 per year) gives one administrator and between 2 and 50 users access to their computer(s) from their tablet(s). A separate GoToMyPC Corporate plan is also available. For more information, call (888) 646-0016. A free 30-day trial of GoToMyPC is available by accessing the company’s website.

Unlike Splashtop 2, GoToMyPC allows for remote access from an iPad, but also from any other Windows or Mac OS X-based computer, which makes it easy to access your work computer from home or while traveling, for example.

From the App Store, if you enter the phrase “Remote Desktop” into the Search field, you’ll also discover the PocketCloud Remote Desktop app (free), and more than a dozen other Remote Desktop solutions for the iPad.

The PocketCloud Remote Desktop service charges a subscription fee of $7.99 for three months (or $23.99 per year), after the initial 30-day trial period, in order to continue using the service to establish a remote connection between your computer and iPad. The more costly PocketCloud Pro subscription option and app upgrade ($5 per month) includes better data encryption and the ability for the iPad to access multiple desktop or laptop computers remotely.

Final Thoughts

If you rely heavily on data, content, or files that are stored on your primary desktop or laptop computer, or you want to use software on your tablet that’s not inherently designed to run on it, such as your favorite game or proprietary business software, using a Remote Desktop solution to access and control your Windows-based PC or Mac can be extremely beneficial. Thanks to this solution, from your tablet, you can also easily access your favorite Flash-based websites and surf the web using your desktop computer’s web browser and saved bookmarks, while viewing everything on your iPad’s screen.

Even with the occasional lag time sometimes associated with making a connection via the Internet (especially when using a 3G wireless data connection), using a Remote Desktop solution remains a viable option to people who want constant and secure access to their primary computer (or a notebook computer) from their iPad.

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