Need to level up your multi-tasking? Apple's latest continuity feature allows you to use your Macâ€™s mouse, trackpad, and keyboard on a nearby iPad.
Windows PC owners have the means to control multiple computers with one keyboard and mouse, but what about Mac users? The Universal Control feature allows those using macOS or iPadOS to share the same cursor, mouse, trackpad, and keyboard between a Mac and iPad. And if you have more than one Mac or iPad, you can share these controls among all of them.
Apple currently tags Universal Control as a beta feature, but it seems stable enough to use without trouble. For those keeping track at home, this feature differs from Sidecar, which lets you use an iPad as a second monitor. Only Universal Control allows you to use multiple devices independently while still using the same input methods.
For all of this to work, your devices must meet certain requirements. Your iPad must be running iPadOS 15.4 or later, while your Mac must have macOS Monterey 12.3 or later. Your device must also be one of the following:
MacBook Pro introduced in 2016 or later
MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
Mac mini introduced in 2018 or later
iMac introduced in 2017 or later, plus iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015)
iMac Pro introduced in 2017
Mac Pro introduced in 2019 or later
iPad Pro (all models)
iPad (6th generation) or later
iPad Air (3rd generation) or later
iPad mini (5th generation) or later
You must be signed into each device with the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication. Each device must be within 30 feet of each other with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff all turned on. Finally, your Mac or cellular-enabled iPad cannot be sharing its internet connection for this to work. Now, let’s see how this all plays out.
First, make sure your iPad is running iPadOS 15.4 or higher. Go to Settings > General > Software Update. You’ll be told that the OS is up to date or be prompted to download and install the latest update. Follow the onscreen instructions to install the update.
Next, check your Mac. Click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner and select About this Mac. Click the Software Update button. You’ll be told that your Mac is up to date or be asked to update it. Click the Update Now button to install any pending updates.
Once everything is updated, you must then enable the Universal Control feature. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Displays and click the Universal Control button. At the next screen, check Allow your cursor and keyboard to move between any nearby Mac or iPad.
You can set Universal Control to switch your mouse cursor from one device to another simply by moving it to the right or left edge of the screen, depending on where each device is situated. If you wish to enable this option, check the box for Push through the edge of a display to connect a nearby Mac or iPad.
If you want your Mac and iPad to automatically connect with each other this way every time they restart, check the option for Automatically reconnect to any nearby Mac or iPad. When ready, click Done.
Now you’re ready to take Universal Control for a test drive. Position your Mac and iPad near each other. The feature works based on the general locations of your devices. Let’s say your iPad is positioned to the right of your Mac. Assuming you checked the option for Push through the edge of a display to connect a nearby Mac or iPad, move your mouse or trackpad cursor to the right edge of the screen.
You should then see a circular cursor appear on your iPad. You can now use your mouse or trackpad and keyboard on the iPad. Using your Mac’s controls, you can open an app on your iPad and use your Mac’s keyboard to type in the app.
You can return to your Mac by moving the circular cursor all the way to the left of the screen. You should then see it pop up on your Mac again.
If you didn’t check the option for Push through the edge of a display to connect to a nearby Mac or iPad, then you’ll need to manually activate the device before you can switch between screens. On your Mac, click the Control Center icon in the menu bar and select Display.
Click the entry for your iPad under Link keyboard and mouse to, so that it displays a blue icon. You can then move your cursor to the right edge of the screen until it appears on your iPad. To disconnect from your iPad, return to the same Control Center window and click the entry for your iPad. The blue icon should disappear, signifying you are no longer connected.
Another way to do this is through System Preferences > Displays. Click the Add Display drop-down menu and select the entry for your iPad; a checkmark will appear. To turn it off, use the same process and click the iPad entry again to uncheck it.
You can add more devices to the mix to control them all from one central Mac, though only two other devices can be connected at one time. To add another Mac, go to System Preferences > Displays on that Mac and click Universal Control. Make sure to check Allow your cursor and keyboard to move between any nearby Mac or iPad; the other choices are optional.
Adding another iPad requires no special activation as long as it is running iPadOS 15.4 or higher, though you may need to wait a few minutes for the Mac to detect it. From your primary Mac, open the Control Center and select Display to see all the compatible nearby devices. Click more than one entry and make the icons turn blue to signify a connection.
You can also do this from System Preferences > Displays and click the Add Display drop-down menu. Select the device you wish to add from the list.
If you try to go beyond the limit of connected devices, you will receive a message telling you that your Mac is unable to connect. It then directs you to disconnect one of the other devices first, which you can do from the Display menu. You can then move your cursor to the right edge of your primary Mac to connect to a second device. Then move the cursor on that device to the edge of the screen to move over to a third device.
You can drag and drop or copy and paste content from one connected device to another. To try this from one Mac to another, drag a file from your primary Mac to the right edge of the screen until you see it on the desktop of the second Mac. To drag a file from your Mac to a connected iPad, first launch the files app and open a specific folder.
Alternatively, right-click on the file and select Copy. Move to the other Mac or the iPad, right-click on the area where you want to copy the file, and then select Paste.
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Surviving a long and varied career in publishing, advertising, and IT, Lance Whitney now wears a few different technology hats. By day, he’s a journalist, software trainer, and sometime Web developer. By night, he’s asleep. These days, he writes news stories, columns, and reviews for CNET and other technology sites and publications. He’s written two books for Wiley & Sons: Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time in 2012, and Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn in 2014. Contact Lance via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
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