Using Apple’s New Mac Universal Control App Is Like Using a Magic Wand

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Photo: Phillip Tracy/Gizmodo – You can use the same cursor and keyboard on both an iPad and a Mac with this feature, which is available in the latest developer betas of iPadOS and macOS. Having spent some time with Universal Control, I can confirm that Apple delivered on its long-promised promise. Now available as part of the MacOS Monterey 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4 developer betas, this feature provides the bridge that many have been waiting for Apple to build between Macs and iPads.

If you have an iPad and a Mac, you can use the same mouse and keyboard on both devices so that you can easily transfer files between them. You don’t have to use AirDrop, upload to the cloud, or any other workaround to send photos and videos from your tablet to your laptop and vice versa.

Why is this so? I’ll begin by noting that Apple wasn’t being sarcastic when it said “no setup required.” Login to both devices using the same Apple ID and make sure they are both up to date are all that is required. For the time being, the function is only available to those who are part of Apple’s developer program, but it will become standard on iPads and Macs in the future.

Notes are being typed on the iPad mini using my MacBook Pro keyboard. Photo: Phillip Tracy/Gizmodo

After updating my iPad mini and MacBook Pro to iOS 15.4 and MacOS Monterey 12.3, using Universal Control was a breeze. My laptop’s pointer was simply pulled to the right side of the screen when I put the two devices side by side in front of each other. When I pushed it a little further, the cursor jumped to the iPad mini and changed from a desktop pointer into iPadOS’s small circle instead of slamming into an invisible wall. Using the MacBook Pro keyboard, I started typing on the iPad’s Notes app. Quite simply, it was awe-inspiring.

I moved the round symbol over the invisible bridge using a SteelSeries gaming mouse connected to the iPad mini’s USB-C connection out of curiosity. As a result, the tablet’s icon was replaced by an arrow, which was then shown on the Mac’s screen. To my delight, I realized that while the MacBook’s pointer was being moved by a mouse hooked into the tablet, I could still operate the iPad with my fingers. My MacBook’s proper cursor returned with a simple sweep of the touchpad (while the iPad cursor reappeared on the tablet).

Photo: Phillip Tracy/Gizmodo

It didn’t make a difference whether you were dragging and dropping files or not. My MacBook Pro’s desktop included a few images of this arrangement, and I simply clicked and swiped to transfer them over to the iPad mini. Instantly, the file appeared. Even though I’m not an Apple user — my last Cupertino-designed device was an iPod Touch — features like Universal Control are something that anyone who switches between operating systems should aspire to have access to. Yes, I most certainly do.

This does not mean, however, that the feature was error-free. After updating my devices, Universal Control didn’t begin working immediately. Also, when using a mouse hooked into the tablet to move a file from the MacBook to the iPad, it didn’t work. The hiccup went away quickly, but I’m stumped as to what might have triggered it in the first place. What does Apple recommend users do if they don’t want their cursor to hop across devices, particularly since I noticed that the function worked with devices on opposite ends of a large room.? It’s possible to switch it on and off, but that’s a clumsy workaround that takes away from what makes Universal Control so appealing in the first place: its simplicity. The beta version of this feature just went live, so hopefully the bugs will be ironed out in the coming months.

Photo: Phillip Tracy/Gizmodo

Any “portable” device, such as a laptop or tablet, will necessitate a re-connection each time it comes back into range. On a desktop Mac, if you wish to utilize Universal Control permanently, you may set it up in Display > System Preferences. Cursor and Keyboard (Beta) is a new option under General > AirPlay & Handoff on the iPad Mini.

This feature was supposed to be available last fall, but Apple later changed its release date to “available this spring,” which is when we expect iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 to be officially released to the public.