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Universal Control Arrives in macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4

With the recent release of macOS 12.3 Monterey and iPadOS 15.4, Apple shipped Universal Control, the last major technology promised in its 2021 operating system upgrades. Universal Control enables you to use the keyboard and mouse or trackpad attached to one Mac to control up to three other Macs or iPads—you can even copy and paste or drag items between devices. It’s a great way to make more of your Apple devices while staying on task—no longer do you need to stop using your Mac to accomplish something on your iPad, and if you have both an iMac and a MacBook Air, it becomes trivially easy to use them simultaneously.

Universal Control can simplify grabbing a file from your MacBook Air while using your iMac, or it might make it easy to check something in an iPad-only app without switching from your familiar Mac keyboard and trackpad. For those who would benefit from more screen space, Universal Control simplifies keeping a Web browser window open on one Mac while you’re writing about it on another.

First, make sure all the Macs and iPads you want to use with Universal Control meet its system requirements. macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4 are essential, and most (but not all) Macs and iPads that can run those versions are compatible. All the devices must be signed in to the same iCloud account, that account’s Apple ID must have two-factor authentication enabled, and no device can be sharing its Internet or cellular connection. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi must be turned on, and Handoff must be ​​enabled in System Preferences > General on the Mac and in Settings > General > AirPlay & Handoff on the iPad. That may sound like a lot, but most of those are defaults.

Apple says everything must be within 30 feet (10 meters), but in nearly all cases, you’ll want the devices to sit next to one another so you can easily see what you are doing on all the screens.

The only trick with setting up Universal Control is that it must be initiated from a Mac. Open System Preferences > Displays, click the Universal Control button, and in the dialog that appears, enable all three switches. Only the first one is necessary; the other two make connecting in the future easier.

After you click Done, you’ll return to the Displays preference pane, where any available Macs and iPads should appear, much like they were external monitors. If they don’t show up, click the Add Display pop-up menu and select the device you want to control under “Link Keyboard and Mouse.” You can also select them in Control Center, after clicking Displays. As long as you’ve selected “Automatically reconnect to any nearby Mac or iPad,” you shouldn’t have to repeat this step.

(The “Mirror or Extend to” section of the Add Display pop-up menu is where you select devices to use as external displays for your Mac. Macs running Monterey appear here courtesy of AirPlay, as do Apple TVs; iPads appear thanks to Apple’s Sidecar technology.)

Drag the device screen icons to match where they sit on your desk. The screenshot above indicates that you’d move the pointer from the double-screen iMac to the right to control the MacBook Air and down from the middle of the iMac screens to control the iPad.

When your pointer moves to another device’s screen, everything you do from then on will affect apps on that Mac or iPad, with one caveat. After the pointer moves to another device, you usually need to click once to create “focus,” which means specifying which window should receive subsequent clicks and keystrokes. If you forget to do this (it will become second nature quickly) and start typing, keystrokes will go to the previous device.

To help you move data between your devices, Universal Control offers two additional features beyond clicking and typing:

  • Copy and paste: As you might expect, you can copy data on one device with Command-C, move the pointer to another device, and paste it into an app on the second device with Command-V.
  • Drag and drop: Alternatively, you can drag files and other types of data from one device to another. This works well between Macs, and you can also move data between Macs and iPads in many situations, such as dragging an Apple Pencil sketch from an iPad and dropping it in a graphics app on the Mac. If a drag doesn’t work, try copy and paste or fall back on sharing the data via AirDrop or iCloud Drive.

Keep in mind that once you’ve turned it on, Universal Control has no concept of primary and secondary devices. In practice, you’ll probably use one keyboard and pointing device to control everything, but that’s not necessary. You can use a trackpad and keyboard connected to any device to control any other device, switching whenever you’d like.

Since Apple labels Universal Control as a beta, you may experience occasional dropouts or rough edges. If it loses track of a device, try putting the device to sleep and waking it again, and if that doesn’t work, open the Displays preference pane and select the device from Add Displays again.

Controlling one Mac from another is extremely fluid because the pointer and keyboard act exactly as expected. However, if you haven’t previously used a trackpad and hardware keyboard with an iPad, you may find its approach somewhat surprising. It’s a hybrid between a traditional pointer and a touchscreen, so the pointer is attracted to Home screen icons and many other controls, transforming it into a selection highlight. Either way, Universal Control just works. Give it a try!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: With macOS 12.3 Monterey and iPadOS 15.4, you can now use your Mac’s keyboard and pointing device to control up to three other Macs or iPads with Apple’s new Universal Control. Learn more at:

Does Your Magic Mouse Need More Juice? Here’s How to Check

It’s unfortunate that the most recent iteration of the Magic Mouse has its Lightning charging port on the bottom, making it impossible to use while charging, unlike the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, which work fine when plugged in. To check if your Magic Mouse needs charging before it starts to nag (and starts acting a little funky), look in one of these spots. If your menu bar is displaying the Bluetooth icon, click it, and the charge level should show up. Or click the Control Center icon on the menu bar and click Bluetooth. You can also look in System Preferences, in either the Bluetooth preference pane or the Mouse preference pane. In our experience, the Bluetooth menu is the easiest, but Control Center and the Mouse preference pane are the most reliable—sometimes the charge level doesn’t appear in the menu.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Alex Sholom)

Try Using a Magic Trackpad 2 with Your iPad Running iPadOS 13.4

When Apple released iPadOS 13.4 recently, it came with an unexpected feature: trackpad and mouse support. Apple plans to release a Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro that has a built-in trackpad in May as well, but in the meantime, you can control an iPad entirely via a Magic Trackpad 2 (the wedge-like one that recharges via a Lightning port). Pair it in Settings > Bluetooth, and look for settings in Settings > General > Trackpad. Apple did an impressive job with integrating a cursor into the iPadOS experience: the small, circular cursor shifts colors subtly depending on the background, becomes a highlighted selection rectangle when over objects, expands icons on the Home screen, and morphs into a thin insertion point when in text. Plus, Apple built in oodles of two- and three-finger gestures to mimic what you can do directly on the iPad screen—see the full list at TidBITS.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Did You Know You Can Use Your Mac Laptop Closed with an External Screen and Keyboard?

Those of you who use a Mac laptop—a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro—probably know you can connect it to a large external display for more screen space. But sometimes it’s not convenient to have your Mac open on your desk next to the big screen. If you’d like to close your Mac’s screen and just use the external display, you can! The trick to enabling closed-display mode is that your Mac must be plugged into an AC outlet and you must connect an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad—either USB or Bluetooth. (If you’re using any Bluetooth devices, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth > Advanced and make sure “Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer” is selected.)

Use Modifier Keys to Do More—a Lot More—with Mouse Drags

Dragging files and folders around is core to the Mac experience—drag a file from one folder to another to move it, drag a folder from one drive to another to copy it. But did you know that if you hold down the Option key while dragging a file in the Finder, you’ll get a green + pointer and it will make a copy in the destination? That’s easier than duplicating, moving, and renaming the file. Similarly, if you want to move a large folder from one drive to another, hold down the Command key during the drag to do in one step what would otherwise require copying, trashing, and emptying the Trash. Finally, if you want an alias, hold down the Command and Option keys while dragging, and presto, the original stays put and an alias appears in the destination.