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Duet Display brings Apple’s Touch Bar to any iPad

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I've long been a fan of Duet Display's ability to turn my five-year-old iPad into a surprisingly responsive and portable secondary display for my laptop. Now Duet is about to get just a little bit more interesting thanks to a new option that adds a Touch Bar to the bottom of the display, whether you have a new MacBook Pro or not.

I've been testing a beta release of Duet Display (version 1.6.3.4) running on the latest release of macOS (version 10.12.2). I'm using it on a first-generation Retina MacBook (the one with only a single USB-C port) and an iPad 2 from 2011. As I said earlier, the Touch Bar addition is "interesting" — I don't find it particularly revolutionary for my wordsmithing purposes beyond having quick access to all the emoji characters in iA Writer or the image editing scrubbers in Apple Photos. It is fun, though.

I also tested it briefly with Photoshop since Adobe added Touch Bar support just last week. It's fine, even if I don't particularly enjoy moving my hands back and forth between my MacBook's keyboard and trackpad and the iPad's screen sitting off to the side. I imagine the ultimate setup for reducing hand travel would be an iPad Pro running Duet Pro with an Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard as Duet now supports iPad keyboards. It’d be like having a high-end Wacom tablet attached to my laptop. In this way, illustrators could work almost exclusively from the secondary iPad display and keyboard, with the Touch Bar along the bottom of the iPad providing quick access to the color palette and brushes, for example. Not that Duet running on an iPad is meant to be a replacement for Apple laptops with built-in Touch Bars. But if you already own an iPad, then Duet lets you slot it into your workflow in ways you couldn’t before. "I honestly think this will help adoption of Touch Bar," said CEO and founder Rahul Dewan in an email, "as you can turn any iPad into a Touch Bar for your Mac."

Duet is also working at being able to customize the Touch Bar to add custom global and app-specific shortcuts depending upon context. Better yet, I discovered during my testing that the macOS 10.2.2 update fixes that nasty Duet bug that kicks users back to the login screen when trying to use Expose or Mission Control ever since the Sierra release.

Duet Display with Touch Bar is available today for Macs and PCs. It’s a free upgrade for existing users or a one-time purchase of $9.99 for a limited time ($19.99 thereafter).