Software

How to access a remote desktop from an iPad

With JumpDesktop and a special mouse, you can access your desktop, or desktop-as-a-service provider, from your iPad

I aspire to be #MobileOnly: to use a phone or tablet as my main system. Years ago, I moved all my files to the cloud (Google Drive), so I can access my files from almost any system. And with mobile apps, like Google Docs, Google Keep, Google Slides, Slack, Flipgrid, Twitter, and more, I can work almost anywhere.

But in reality, I'm #MobileMostly: I still need a full desktop operating system for some tasks. Specifically, I need the desktop version of Google Chrome to edit new Google Sites, to create linked slides between two Google Slides presentations, and to work with Google Drawings.

In the fall of 2017, I started to use an iPad as my primary system, but I cheat. I use the iPad with an app and a mouse to occasionally access full desktop apps. The combination has worked well for me. Here's how the setup works — and how you, too, might go #MobileMostly.

1. JumpDesktop

The key to my setup has been the JumpDesktop app, which is available for both iOS (approximately $15 USD) and Android (approximately $10 USD). The app offers what you might expect for a remote desktop app: The ability to configure a connection to a remote system, connect to it, then access desktop apps from your mobile device. You can customize some display, keyboard, and security settings, along with a few other items.

Photo of JumpDesktop app info from Apple's App Store.

Install the JumpDesktop app on your iOS device to connect to a remote desktop via RDP or VNC. The app supports both the Citrix X1 and Swiftpoint GT mice. You can use these to work with remote systems from your iPad or iPhone.

2. Mouse

The real reason to use JumpDesktop on iOS is because it works with a mouse. I use the Citrix X1 mouse ( approximately $60 USD). JumpDesktop also works with the Swiftpoint GT mouse. Start JumpDesktop, turn on the mouse, then use the mouse with a remote macOS or Windows system: Right click, scroll, click-drag-and-drop, and so on. It all works.

On Android, you can use almost any Bluetooth keyboard or mouse you like with JumpDesktop, thanks to Android's native support of Bluetooth devices.

Screenshot of iPad Split View: JumpDesktop on left, native iOS Safari browser on right.

JumpDesktop also supports Split View, shown above with the full desktop version of Chrome open on the left, and a web page open in the native iOS Safari app on the right. If you don't have an external mouse or keyboard connected, the app also works with touch and an on-screen keyboard.

3. A remote system

I've configured JumpDesktop to connect to a Windows system (at Paperspace) and a remote macOS system (at MacInCloud), with RDP. In both cases, the vendor's configuration and support pages provide all the necessary remote access information, such as public IP address, domain details, and login settings. If you prefer, you can connect to your own desktop — physical or virtual — with JumpDesktop. You'll need to configure the desktop to allow remote access via either RDP or VNC.

I can print, too. Printing via JumpDesktop on iOS is a two-step process that requires some configuration. First, I installed the JumpDesktop Printer Driver on my Windows system. Now, when I print, it routes the print job from the remote Windows system to my iOS device. Then, I select a local AirPrint-compatible printer for output. (Alternatively, I can use Google Cloud Print, which sends the print job to my printer over the internet).

#MobileMostly

This setup lets me use a mobile operating system as my primary system, but also have access to a desktop operating system — macOS or Windows — with desktop apps when needed.

If you can't quite go #MobileOnly, try #MobileMostly with a mobile device configured for remote access to a desktop operating system.

What do you think?

What has your experience been when you've tried to work #MobileOnly? If you have deployed mobile access to DaaS systems, how well has it worked for you and your team? Are there other providers or apps you recommend? Let me know in the comments — or on Twitter (@awolber).

Also see

Photo of iPadPro 10.5" with SmartKeyboard (left); Citrix X1 mouse (to right); JumpDesktop app on-screen
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox