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macOS Catalina: How to turn your iPad into a second display with Sidecar


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Sometimes the best way to get your work done is by expanding your canvas with a second display. It’s screen real estate that defines how many apps we can work with without changing windows. Working with two different input methods, however, like touch versus mouse and track can introduce friction.

That’s why Apple built its new Sidecar feature in macOS Catalina. Feeling cramped on your Mac screen? Sidecar lets you instantly turn your iPad into a second display — no additional hardware required.

Getting started

Sidecar is a brand new feature for using your iPad as a second display for your Mac. You don’t need the latest tablet or computer to use it either.

Sidecar works with plenty of recent iPads and Macs. If you have one of these Macs on macOS Catalina and iPads on iPadOS 13, you can use your iPad as a second display for your Mac:

iPad

  • iPad Pro: all models
  • iPad (6th generation) or later
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)

Mac

  • MacBook Pro introduced in 2016 or later
  • MacBook introduced in 2016 or later
  • MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
  • iMac introduced in 2017 or later, plus iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015)
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac mini introduced in 2018 or later
  • Mac Pro introduced in 2019

luna display sidecar

Sidecar on macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13 also requires the Mac and iPad to use the same iCloud account with two-factor authentication for security.

Your Mac relies on Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Apple’s special Handoff feature to communicate with the iPad, and you’ll want both screens to be within 30 feet of each other to maintain the wireless connection.

How it works

Ready to extend your Mac display with your iPad? Bring both screens together, and keep in mind that Sidecar will use battery so stay powered if that’s a concern.

You can start Sidecar from the Mac in multiple ways.

System Preferences

  • Launch System Preferences
  • Select Sidecar
  • Click ‘Select Device’ under Connect to and choose your iPad

Menu Bar

  • Click the    or  icon in the top right corner of your Mac
  • Select your iPad under Connect to

Window

  • Move your mouse cursor over your current active window’s full-screen icon  in the top left corner of the app
  • A menu will appear that includes the option to ‘Move to iPad’

Once you initiate Sidecar, you can drag windows and files from your Mac screen to your iPad. It works just like using a dedicated external monitor.

The productivity benefits are huge. You don’t even need to use touch input or a dedicated keyboard with your iPad. Your Mac’s mouse or trackpad and keyboard totally control the experience.

When you no longer want to use your iPad as a second display for your Mac, you can disconnect from the  icon on your Mac or look for the disconnect button (a box with a line through it) on your iPad.

Going further

Sidecar isn’t just a convenient way to expand your screen real estate on your Mac with your iPad. macOS Catalina includes special integration that makes Mac control from your iPad even easier.

Sidebar

Yes, there’s a sidebar in Sidecar! It’s loaded with tools for key modifiers like Command and Shift, hiding and showing the Mac menu bar and Dock, toggling the on-screen keyboard, and using undo.

Sidebar controls are great for when you pick up your iPad and walk around with your work. Just remember to stay within 30 feet to remain connected.

The sidebar can be relocated or hidden using the Sidecar section in System Preferences on the Mac.

Touch Bar

Even if your Mac doesn’t include a Touch Bar, Apple’s display on MacBook Pro keyboards, Sidecar can present an on-screen Touch Bar with your iPad.

This is great for accessing quick controls and other actions even if you’re using Sidecar with an iMac or other Mac without a Touch Bar.

You can optionally relocate or hide the Touch Bar from Sidecar in System Preferences.

Apple Pencil

The iPad is still a giant touch screen even when used with Sidecar. You’ll need an Apple Pencil to manipulate the on-screen cursor without a mouse or keyboard, but multitouch gestures are still available.

Apple highlights several useful gestures for using touch to control the second display experience from your Mac with Sidecar:

  • Scroll: Swipe with two fingers
  • Copy: Pinch in with three fingers
  • Cut: Pinch in with three fingers twice
  • Paste: Pinch out with three fingers
  • Undo: Swipe left with three fingers, or double-tap with three fingers
  • Redo: Swipe right with three fingers

The Apple Pencil can also be used to draw or write in Mac apps using the iPad as the input window, and second generation Apple Pencils can use the new double tap gesture to perform custom actions.

Multitasking

So what happens to your iPad when it’s being used as a second display for your Mac with Sidecar? Good news: It’s still your iPad!

You can go back to the Home screen on your iPad and use it just like you would otherwise including accessing other apps. Your Sidecar session will remain active, and you can return to the Mac experience with the blue Sidecar app icon on the Home screen. This app icon only appears when Sidecar is active.

Sidecar isn’t just useful for using your iPad to expand your Mac screen space. You can also turn your iPad into a mirrored display of your Mac workspace wirelessly.

This use case is great for presenting content from your Mac to an audience using your iPad. Just explore the  icon on your Mac menu bar and see which arrangements work best for you!

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