iPad Pro Solution, Screens for iOS

From the moment I first acquired a 12.9 inch iPad Pro it has become my “every day” computer. I prefer the keyboard for writing, the touch interface for surfing the Internet, and it’s apps for email and messaging 1. I still love my MacBook, and prefer MacOS to Windows any day of the week, but most of the time I’m really on my iPad.

My shift in computing habits, however, created a problem. While I can accomplished about 90% of the tasks I do on a computer with my iPad pro, the 10% I cannot left me running into a wall 2. Accordance for iOS is very nice, but no where near as flexible or powerful as it’s Mac cousin. Lightroom mobile is a fantastic mobile photo solution, but it’s no replacement for the library management features in it’s desktop sibling. Keynote for iOS is wonderful, but lacks many features on which I rely ever time I create a presentation 3.

Typically, I carry both devices with me wherever I go. So when I need my full Lightroom library I simply switch to my MacBook. When I need some more expansive tools on Keynote, I shift my focus to the desktop. When I create or edit a presentation, I’m always on my Mac. It’s just easier. Maybe one day the touch interface and supporting apps will fully match what I can do on the older desktop paradigm 4, but it’s not quite there yet.

But what happens when I don’t have my Mac handy and find a need for that last 10% of computer flexibility I can’t currently get in iOS. Or what do I do when I need a file which isn’t already dwelling in Dropbox, iCloud, or my WD MyCloud drive 5?

Enter Screens for iOS.

A remote Mac desktop, as viewed through Screens
Screens is an VNC 6 client with some fantastic features. When paired with a companion app residing on a Mac or Windows computer it turns an iPad into a network connected interface for the remote system. Best of all, it can be set to create an encrypted connection via the use of shared encryption keys, adding yet another level of security.

I’ve known about Screens for years, and have had the Mac version of the application for a while, but the iOS version never interested me. Attempting to run a 16:10 interface on a 4:3 screen which was significantly smaller than it’s intended target never made much sense to me. It felt too cramped 7. On the 12.9 iPad Pro, however, the interface is actually quite usable. I’ve established connections on my home network, and when connected to a public hotspot through a VPN. Screens handles screen redraws extremely well, even with the added buffer of a VPN, and manipulating applications feels quite smooth.

My biggest use of the app thus far has been in Lightroom. I took several photographs with my Nikon, loaded them on my iPad, and then imported them into Lightroom Mobile. After the photos synced via Creative Cloud I opened my Screens connection, launched Lightroom, and allowed my photos to sync to my main library. From there I organized them into collections, and moved their physical location into another folder in my Library 8. I accomplished this all through the touch capabilities of the app 9. It worked perfectly! This means I can be “out and about,” load all the photos from a shoot into Lightroom Mobile, and then finish my organization process all before I’m able to physically sit down in front of my Mac. I like that!

Organizing my Lightroom Library will probably form the majority of how I will end up using Screens. I can not only organize new photos, I can search the entirety of my library for photos not currently synced through Creative Cloud. Once I find them, I can enable syncing and wait for them to land on my device in Lightroom Mobile. I could even prepare my shared catalogs for Smugmug and Flickr remotely — something I cannot do in Lightroom Mobile 10.

Lightroom will by no means be the only way I utilize Screens for iOS. In the increasingly rare instances I find myself roadblocked by the current limitations of either iOS or my apps, I’ll be able to open my connection in order to complete my task 11. This is something to which I am really looking forward. the words, “I’ll just run and get my Mac” may be a thing of the past — and that is pretty cool.


  1. iMessage, Hangouts, and Slack. 
  2. The apps listed make up about 7% of what I do on a Mac. The last 3% is video editing — iOS simply isn’t there yet, I need Final Cut X for that. 
  3. Master slides, pixel accurate placement, and template creation are the biggest holes I have in iOS Keynote. 
  4. Actually, I’m fully expecting that to happen. 
  5. I like having my own cloud solution. 
  6. Virtual Network Computing 
  7. I used to have splashtop remote, and hated the experience for this reason. 
  8. I organize by both folders and collections. 
  9. Screens has an add on feature which allows a second iOS device to serve as a virtual trackpad. I’ll probably be trying this out in the future 
  10. Lightroom Mobile doesn’t yet include the ability to add descriptions and image titles. 
  11. This does not include video editing. For that I’m stuck on a Mac until both Final Cut and the ability to use external storage is opened up in iOS. 

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  1. Love the map. 🙂 I’m awful with visual explorations for world-building, I’m afraid…

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