By Dan Moren
June 30, 2018 8:45 PM PT
Applications Folder: AirServer
There are a handful of apps out there that let you extend your Mac’s display onto an iOS device, but sometimes what you really need is a way to project your iOS device’s interface onto a Mac.
Once upon a time, this used to be the only way of getting video screen captures of an iOS device, and a few handy apps sprang up to let you accomplish it by taking advantage of Apple’s AirPlay feature. AirServer is one such app, allowing you to effectively turn your Mac into an AirPlay display. And even though there are plenty of other ways to capture an iOS device’s screen now, AirServer remains a handy tool in my toolbox.
Not infrequently, for example, I find myself wanting to watch a TV show while doing some mindless task on my Mac. But for some of that content, there isn’t always a convenient way, currently, to consume it on my computer; often I have to resort to a website that may or may not work well in my browser, and may or may not support a handy feature like popping out the video player into a separate window. So instead, I fire up AirServer and AirPlay the iOS app for the video service in question onto my Mac. I can even tell AirServer to keep the window floating over everything else, as though I were using macOS’s picture-in-picture feature. AirServer also lets me run the audio through my computer’s much better speakers instead of the iPad’s, and even has a control for adjusting the sync delay so audio and video are lined up.
As AirServer has progressed, it has way more features than I end up using, including support for Google Cast, built-in recording, and secure, encrypted connections. While those features aren’t particularly necessary for my what I’m usually trying to do, it’s not hard to envision scenarios in which they would be useful. The app’s also available for a variety of other platforms, including Windows, Embedded Linux, and Xbox, just in case your needs swing that way.
I do wish (and this may be more a limitation of Apple’s AirPlay than AirServer) that there were a peer-to-peer option that let you connect directly to a Mac, à la AirDrop, rather than relying on the devices being on the same Wi-Fi network. You might be able to work around it by creating an ad hoc network on your iPhone or your Mac, but I couldn’t get it to do so, and even if it did work, it’s hardly the most elegant of solutions.
But if you like the idea of turning your Mac into an AirPlay display, AirServer will deliver on that. There’s a 14-day free trial you can check out to see if it works for you, and a full license is $20.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]