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I want to be able to see a preview of what is being shown on the second monitor attached via VGA on the Macbooks screen. In other words I want to monitor what is being shown without having to look at the other screen (it is not facing me).

Surely presenters want to know what the audience is seeing?

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Usually presenters will be mirroring what's on their Primary screen to the external screen. That is, what they see on their primary screen is exactly what the audience sees.

This is called video mirroring and you can set it up using these steps:

  • Connect your second monitor and switch it on
  • Go to System Preferences (under the Apple  menu)
  • Click on Displays
  • Click the Arrangement tab.
  • Tick Mirror Displays from the lower-left corner

If, in your case, you have a particular need to view something different on your Primary screen at the same time the audience is viewing the secondary screen, but you also want a preview of what's on the second screen displayed in a window on your Primary screen, then this is not possible within macOS itself.

However, I do believe I have seen specialised software used in churches, universities, etc that can do this. The specifics escape me at the moment, but if that's what you're after I may be able to find out.

  • This will only mirror the displays, not enter a 'presenter mode' as various presentation applications can – chriszanf Jan 14 '17 at 14:29
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    @chriszanf Agreed, but I think what the OP was asking is something different to what PowerPoint/Keynote do, but I may have interpreted their question wrongly. My understanding was that they just wanted to have a window on the primary screen that shows exactly what the audience is seeing and that if the OP wanted, they could be working in other apps etc in the meantime (which is what I've seen done in some churches etc). However, upon re-reading the question, perhaps PowerPoint and Keynote will suffice. Either way, they're both excellent packages and I've upvoted your answer as a result. – Monomeeth Jan 14 '17 at 22:29
  • Re-reading the question, it does actually sound as simple as the answer you gave. Your answer, therefore is not wrong. – chriszanf Jan 15 '17 at 1:00
  • @Monomeeth you are correct, I wanted a view of what the audience saw. Presenter mode helped in the end – Darryl Hebbes Jan 25 '17 at 15:07
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Using various software with a secondary display, you can enter "presenter mode" and this allows you to see the current and next slide, with notes that only the presenter can view.

This is available in Microsoft Powerpoint and Apple Keynotes. With Powerpoint, you can enter 'presenter mode' using Option-Return [⌥↩︎]:

Option-Return [⌥↩︎

With Keynote, you can customise presenter notes and enter presenter mode using the menu option: Play > Customise Presenter Notes.

I can't test as its the weekend but if I was at work, I could connect to a display and verify that it enters (as I believe) presenter mode automatically

Apple Keynotes Presenter Mode

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