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Saturday, April 13, 2024

How to Use Universal Control With Your Mac and iPad

If you have an iPad sitting on your desk next to your MacBook or Mac, well, you can put it to good use with Apple's Universal Control feature, which is available in the latest versions of MacOS Monterey and iPadOS. Unlike Sidecar, which strictly turns your iPad into a wireless secondary display when connected to a Mac, Universal Control lets you interact between the devices while maintaining their respective operating systems—you can even control them with one keyboard, trackpad, or mouse and transfer content back and forth. 

Universal Control is an easy-to-use yet powerful feature that enables a more productive workstation. Here, we explain all the steps to set it up on your Mac and iPad. However, the feature is still in beta, so you might run into a few quirks.

Is Your Device Compatible?

Universal Control can be used with up to two other devices, in addition to a Mac. That means you can use it with a Mac and two iPads, two Macs and one iPad, or three Macs (look at you!). First, if you haven't updated your machines yet, you should check if they're compatible with MacOS Monterey 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4. 

The following Macs support MacOS Monterey:

Mac Mini (2018 and later)iMac (2017 or later)iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015)iMac ProMac Pro (2019 and later)Mac StudioMacBook (2016 and later)MacBook Pro (2016 and later)MacBook Air (2018 and later)

The following iPads support iPadOS 15:

iPad (6th generation and later)iPad Air (3rd generation and later)iPad Mini (5th generation and later)iPad Pro (all models)Update Your Mac and iPad

If your setup supports Universal Control, the next step is to make sure all the devices are running the latest version of their respective operating systems. Don't forget to back up your files before you update. 

To see the exact version your Mac is running, click the Apple logo in the left-hand corner of the screen, then click About This Mac, and you'll see the current version listed under MacOS Monterey. You can also go to System Preferences > Software Update—if you're already on version 12.3 or higher, it'll say your Mac is up to date. If not, you'll see an option to click Update Now (or Upgrade Now). Once you click on it, it'll begin to download and install.

To check what version your iPad is running, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Tap on the latest version (iPadOS 15.4 at the very least) and choose Download and Install

How to Set Up Universal Control

Before turning on Universal Control, you'll need to check off a few additional requirements. First, make sure each device you're using is signed in with the same Apple ID with two-factor authentication. The devices also have to be within 30 feet (10 meters) of each other, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Handoff turned on. Lastly, it's important your Mac isn't sharing its internet connection with other devices (and your iPad isn't sharing a cellular connection as a hotspot).

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Once that's done, follow these steps to turn on Universal Control via your Mac:

Open Settings and click DisplaysClick the Universal Control buttonSelect Allow your cursor and keyboard to move between any nearby Mac and iPad

In the same pop-up, you'll see two more options: “Push through the edge of a display to connect to a nearby Mac or iPad” and “Automatically reconnect to any nearby Mac or iPad.” If you have the first one turned on, your Mac will connect to another device when you push the cursor over. The latter will simply have the devices automatically reconnect whenever they're near each other.

To turn on Universal Control on your iPad:

Open Settings and tap GeneralTap AirPlay and HandoffSelect Cursor and Keyboard

If you don't check off automatic connectivity (as mentioned above), you can also turn Universal Control on manually by going to Control Center > Display and clicking on your iPad or Mac under the Link Keyboard and Mouse section.

How to Use Universal Control 

Once Universal Control is turned on, place the devices next to each other to link them (they should be unlocked and awake). Then take your trackpad or mouse and move the cursor on your Mac to the left or right edge of the display toward the connected Mac or iPad. If you can move the cursor back and forth between screens, it's successfully connected.

As with standard external displays, you have the ability to precisely position the Mac and iPad to match your exact setup. You can arrange them by going to System Preferences > Displays and manually moving the secondary Mac or iPad to the left, right, above, or below. That way, interacting with both screens will feel a lot more seamless. If you don't see the option to move around a second (or third) display:

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On your Mac, open System Preferences and then DisplaysClick Add DisplayClick on your iPad or Mac under Link Keyboard and Mouse

Universal Control isn't meant to replace SideCar. It doesn't extend your Mac's display, so you can't use it to drag apps or browser windows back and forth between the two devices. Universal Control is best for dragging and dropping content and files between two operating systems—all while using one keyboard and mouse.

For example, you can drag photos from your Mac to iMessage or the Photos app on your iPad. You can also use the Apple Pencil to sketch drawings on your iPad and use your mouse to drop into Keynote on the Mac. If you're using Universal Control with a second Mac, you have the ability to drag files between the two; you can also drag files from the Mac to the iPad Files app. 

You have the ability to copy and paste from the Mac to the iPad too—you can either use trackpad and mouse gestures or keyboard commands (Command-C to copy on one device and Command-V to paste on the other). That's especially great when you're chatting with friends or coworkers on your iPad; you won't need to use the virtual keyboard. Apple's Universal support document says most trackpad gestures built for iPad's cursor support will work using the Mac. The document lists alternative gestures you can try as well.  

How to Disconnect Universal Control

You can turn off Universal Control a couple of ways. You can go to Control Center > Displays and click on the iPad or Mac that's connected. Otherwise, Universal Control will automatically disconnect whenever you put your Mac to sleep or lock your iPad.


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