So, Universal Control is probably the coolest feature that Apple has ever come up with. I know that's a stretch to say but out of all the things announced last year in WWDC, this is the only feature that stood out for me. I was super excited to use this and the thing is you need multiple Apple devices for this to even work.
I know I'm babbling about this feature and not telling you anything about it. Ok, I promise you we will understand what universal control is and how to set it up, how to use it, and how it differs from Sidecar which is a well know feature in macOS.
What is Universal Control?
Let's understand what Universal Control is. It's a feature that lets you use multiple mac computers and even iPads using the same mouse/trackpad and keyboard without having to connect and disconnect between all of these devices.
So, its a feature that lets you slide from one device to another by sliding your mouse towards that device. The only concern is that all of these devices should be connected to the same iCloud account.
You can check out the video here to see exactly how it works.
Sidecar vs universal Controls
You might have heard of sidecar which is a feature that has been around for a while now. Sidecar is very different from Universal Control and we will see how here.
So, Sidecar is a feature that lets you use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac. You can either extend or mirror your mac computer. It's super easy to use and while you do this, you won't be able to use your iPad.
But Universal Control is when your Mac and iPad are two different devices but you can use one keyboard and mouse to use on both type of devices seamlessly.
Even though it was announced in WWDC 2021, it was not part of the iPadOS 15 or macOS Monterrey released in September. We got an info from Apple saying that it will be released in the future.
Now that we have finally received this feature as a beta, you need certain requirements for this to work. For Universal Control to work, you need macOS 12.3 in your Mac Computer and iPadOS 15.4 in the Tablet. At the moment (first week of February 2022), you need to be enrolled in Apple Beta Program for this to work effectively.
So, this works with only certain devices as well. I have listed all the devices that support Universal Control.
- MacBook Pro (2016 and later)
- MacBook (2016 and later)
- MacBook Air (2018 and later)
- iMac (2017 and later)
- iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015)
- iMac Pro, Mac Mini (2018 and later)
- Mac Pro (2019)
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
- iPad (6th generation and later)
- iPad mini (5th generation and later)
How Does Universal Control Work?
Let's see in theory how universal control works. For the purpose of this tutorial, let's say we have only two devices. One Mac Computer and one iPad. Assuming both are connected to the same iCloud account and have all the settings enabled, now the devices are sitting next to each other.
In macOS, you can prefer which side the iPad is placed next to the mac computer (left/right/top/bottom).
Now, you are using the mouse and keyboard in the mac Computer. And now you can slide your mouse into the side where the iPad is selected in the Displays section of System Preferences.
Once you reach the end of the screen on the selected side (left/right/top/bottom) the cursor will slide into the iPad device from the opposite side of the side you chose. So, if you slide into the right side of the screen in the mac Computer, the cursor will slide from the left side of the screen in the iPad so the experience feels seamless from one to the other.
Features of Universal Control
These are some of the things you could do with Universal Control.
- Move seamless from one device to the other using mouse.
- Once mouse is moved, the keyboard will also move to that device (iPad/mac)
- You can drag and drop files from one device to the other. (Compatible apps)
- You can move images from one device to another. (Compatible apps)
How to Set it up?
Now, in this section let's see how we can set up Universal Control. There are changes that need to be done to both devices. I'm assuming you have already updated all the devices to the required version of their own respective operating systems. (macOS 12.3, iPadOS 15.4)
How to set it up in Mac?
- Once the required software versions are done, Click on the Apple icon at the top left corner of the screen.
- Choose System Preferences.
- In the Preferences window, choose Displays.
- Under Displays, At the bottom left corner you will see the Add Display option and if you click on it you will see whether the iPad is discoverable.
- Now click on Advanced at the bottom.
- In the Popup that appears, make sure to check all the three options in the window are selected and once you have selected, click Done at the bottom.
These are the three options you will find in that setting window.
- Allow your cursor and keyboard to move between any nearby Mac or iPad - This setting is basically a way to enable or disable Universal Control. When you update to macOS Monterey 12.3, this feature is enabled by default, so if you want to disable it, you need to do it manually.
- Push through the edge of a display to connect to a nearby Mac or iPad - Like the above option this feature is also enabled by default. As the name suggests, this feature lets you slide into another device using the cursor by moving towards the edge of the display.
- Automatically reconnect to any nearby Mac or iPad - This setting is not enabled by default but the Universal Control feature will automatically connect to to the iPad or other devices in the iCloud account when they are placed nearby. If you want to do it manually instead of mac doing it automatically, then ensure to disable this.
Now that you have done these changes, your Mac will allow using Universal Control using the device. Let's see the changes to be done on the iPad side.
How to set it up in iPad?
- Assuming you already have the required software version in the iPad, go to the Settings App.
- In the Settings app, choose General.
- In the General section, choose AirPlay & Handoff.
- Under AirPlay & Handoff, make sure that Cursor and Keyboard (Beta) option is enabled as you can see in the screenshot below. This will allow your cursor and keyboard to be used on any nearby Mac signed in to your iCloud Account.
Now, you are all set up to use Universal Control in both the Mac and the iPad. Let's see how we can use it.
How to use it?
First of all, as I said earlier, The position of the iPad needs to be set properly. In my mac, I have set up the iPad on the left side of the computer display as you can see.
So, I will move my cursor to the left corner and slide into the iPad slowly.
Now, in the same position on the Ipad, the cursor will come to be. The cursor will look different on the iPad because it has a circular style and not the traditional style for clicking. The iPad cursor is meant for tapping touch screen and not for clicking like you would on a computer.
That's how you can use it on the mac and iPad devices. So, I have been testing this feature for the past couple of days and it has been such a seamless experience. Let's see how we can drag and drop and file from my Mac to the iPad.
- Drag and Hold a file in the computer and move it towards the screen where the iPad is placed on the Display settings in System Preferences.
- Now, slide over and move into the iPad and see the file being held on cursor in the tablet. The Files app is opened in the iPad so that i can drop it inside.
- Drop the file inside and you will find the file saved to the Files app.
That's how you can move files from Mac to iPad using Universal Control.
Lets talk about a couple of frequently asked questions about Universal Control.
- Does this feature support third party mouse and keyboards? Yes, it does. No restrictions applied to Apple Magic devices. If the third party device works in the Mac, then it will work seamlessly in the iPad or other devices as well. I, persnally use the Logitech MX Master mouse and it works just fine.
- Does it support Apple Pencil? No, it doesn't. Apple Pencil is very specific to iPad and since Apple Pencil doesn't work on Mac because of the lack of touchscreens, it doesn't work at all with Universal Control.
- Does it work between two Macs? Yes, Universal Control works between two Macs, you don't need an iPad for this to work.
- Does it work between two iPads and no Macs? Not at the moment. You need at least one Mac for this work between two iPads. So, for two iPads to work, you need at least one mac and two iPads and then you can move around between all three devices.
- Does it work on iPhone? No, Since iPhone is purely based on touch screen controls, Keyboard and mouse makes no sense in the iPhone environment.
- Does it work on Intel chip based Macs? Yes, this feature is very software specific and has nothing to do with the undelying chip. If the required software versions can be installed in both the Mac and the iPad, then you can use Universal Control irrespective of which chip you have.
That's about it to know about Universal Control. It's an amazing feature and I have had the pleasure of enjoying it very much between my Mac Mini and iPad Pro 11'. I have found myself using this way more than the SideCar feature.