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WWDC: Universal control on Mac and iPad explained

WWDC: Universal control on Mac and iPad explained

I’ve always found it frustrating not to be able to use the same mouse and keyboard to control both computers when working with an iPad and a Mac at the same time. Soon, I will be able to do this thanks to a new feature called Universal Control, which Apple introduced this week at WWDC 2021.

What is universal control?

Universal control allows you to use the keyboard, mouse and trackpad on all devices. If you want to use your MacBook Pro trackpad to control what you do on your iPad or even another Mac, Universal Control is for you. And Apple says it designed this feature to be easy to set up.

What happens?

When you use Universal Control, you’ll be able to slide the cursor left or right (but only horizontally) between your devices. You’ll see a Mac cursor on your Mac screen and the iPad round dot cursor as you move that device.

What can you do?

Anything you already use your mouse, trackpad, and keyboard will work on all of your devices using Universal Control.

Just place the cursor on the right device to get started. You can even drag and drop items such as documents, images, or media between devices; select it on iPad and drag it to Mac. This could be useful when sketching, designing, planning, or doing things differently.

Any application that currently supports Handoff is expected to work with Universal Control. (I haven’t been able to test this yet, but I hope this generosity extends to Office applications.)

How many devices does Universal Control support?

You can use the new feature with up to three devices. I think this can be in any combination, so an iPad and two Macs or vice versa. I’m not sure if you can use this with three Macs, but I think a lot of people working in high quality motion graphics studios would be thrilled if you could.

How is Universal Control configured?

Assuming that Handoff is enabled on all of your devices and that they meet the requirements listed below, setup is fairly easy. All you have to do is use the mouse or trackpad to push the cursor (left or right on a horizontal axis) from one device to another until it appears on the second device. You can move the cursor between them without any problems.

The way it works is also interesting. Apple doesn’t use anything more complex than proximity, so assuming your devices are close, you’ll start a session by dragging the cursor to the left or right of the Mac screen and then a little further.

During Apple’s keynote speech at WWDC, executives displayed the gray animated bar, which appeared on the side of the iPad when the first cursor crossover took place. That bar has a few arrows that you can use to align your iPad with your Mac, so you can easily drag your mouse.

What if I have multiple devices?

If you have many supported devices, the system will assume that you are crawling the last iPad or Mac you used, assuming they are close.

Have I heard that Universal Control uses Continuity and Handoff?

Correct. Magic happens because of Continuity and Handoff. You’ll find the Handoff checkbox in System Preferences> General on Mac and in Settings> General> AirPlay & Handoff on iPad.

Just enable Handoff (which should be the default) to enable universal control.

You can, of course, turn it off if you want to stop using it.

You can configure your devices to always use Universal Control

If you use the devices together most of the time and you want to use Universal Control to connect the devices using the cursor, you can. Once the new operating systems are shipped, you’ll find a System Preference that allows you to do so.

Which Macs are compatible with Universal Control?

Universal Control is available on the following Macs:

  • MacBook Pro (2016 and later),
  • MacBook (2016 and later),
  • MacBook Air (2018 and later),
  • iMac (2017 and later),
  • iMac (27-inch 5K Retina, late 2015),
  • iMac Pro,
  • Mac mini (2018 and later),
  • Mac Pro (2019).

What iPads does it support?

Universal control is compatible with the following iPad models:

  • iPad Pro
  • iPad Air (third generation and later),
  • iPad (6th generation and later),
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later).

What are the requirements?

Once you’ve determined that the Macs and iPads you want to use Universal Control are compatible with, you’ll need to upgrade to MacOS Monterey and iPadOS 15, which will ship this fall. Or you can participate in the public beta testing process; The public beta will be released in July.

You’ll also need to make sure both devices are connected to iCloud with the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication. Your Macs and iPads must also have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff enabled, and they must be within 10 meters of each other. IPad and Mac should not share a cellular or Internet connection.

Can you use a USB connection?

Yes, to do this, you need to check if you trust your Mac computer on the iPad using the dialog box that should appear when you connect the two.

When will Universal Control be available?

Universal control will be widely available when Apple delivers macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15, usually around September.

If you’re participating in Apple’s public beta system, you may be able to test the feature yourself starting next month, but Universal Control isn’t included in the beta currently available to developers. So we’ll have to wait a little longer to test it.

Who is this for?

Apple notes that the feature is great if you’re someone who wants to use an Apple pencil to create a design on your iPad and then wants to move on to a project you’re building on your Mac.

This is true.

But you can also imagine using it on multiple Macs in a playback or animation studio, or supporting major logical editing on your Mac with captured material on the go with your iPad. Pro. Or even in the field while taking materials from multiple machines to embed in an edition on your MacBook Pro.

Beyond advertisements, the ability to access up to three different computers with a single mouse and keyboard should help anyone involved in a variety of tasks, from data entry to financial commerce and design. Because, although a large screen is great, more accompanying screens are even better.