I finally got Universal Control—and I like it

I’m late to the party on this one, but I just Friday updated MacOS to a version supporting Universal Control. That’s the feature where you can control both a Mac and iPad using your Mac keyboard and trackpad. You can also use it to control multiple Macs, which I haven’t tried. I’m just using it with the Mac and iPad.

I like it. I primarily use it to have messaging conversations on my iPad while continuing to work on the main Mac display.

And I’ve put a few widgets on the iPad homescreen—clock, calendar showing my next appointment, and weather. This saves me having to squint to see that information in my menubar. I didn’t need Universal Control to display the widgets, but I figure, well, as long as the iPad is right there why not.

Only two complaints:

  • Often I find the mouse cursor is still parked on the iPad, so when I Cmd-Tab I change apps on the iPad when I meant to do it on the Mac.
  • The iPad takes up valuable desk real estate that would otherwise be used by a snack or coffee.

I may also use Universal Control for Tweetbot for Twitter, because Tweetbot is better on the iPad than it is on the Mac.

Apollo for Reddit is also better on the iPad than the native Reddit experience on the Mac—but Reddit is better on the big Mac display, so for now at least when I’m redditing in my office it’ll be in the web browser.

Universal Control is similar to Sidecar, an earlier MacOS feature. Where Universal Control lets you control the Mac and iPad with a single keyboard and trackpad, Sidecar extends the Mac display onto the iPad.

Universal Control is better than Sidecar because Sidecar is, well, too fiddly.

I’m using Universal Control on a 2018 iPad that I wasn’t previously using for anything. I had meant to sell or give away. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t do that. It’s my Universal Control iPad–lives in my office on my desk at all times. Whereas the 2020 iPad Air that replaced the 2018 iPad lives most of its life next to the couch.

My iPad saga over the last four years has been complicated. It started with a 2018 iPad, which was going slow when I had a lot of browser tabs open, so I replaced it with a 13" iPad Pro in 2020. I really lusted for that big display, and I rationalized it by thinking it would be my backup computer. At that time, I was freelancing.

Last year, I got tired of that big, clumsy iPad Pro so I traded it in on the iPad Air.

I’m happy with the iPad Air, but now I kind of wish I had the big iPad Pro and an iPad mini. No, I’m not talking myself into another trade-in. The iPad Air really is an ideal size compromise for me–wide enough for actual work, small enough to hold in my hands in portrait direction, which is how I use it most of the time.


Sidecar is the one that gets triggered by hovering over the green “window button”, and then waiting for the icon to change, to initiate, correct? At least, that’s the only way I found how to do it, in all several minutes of testing.

I appreciate sidecar for what it offers, but if it’s the one described above, it is fiddly.

UC’s “popping through” the screen is delightful, or should that be, whimsical — but then it does introduce a range of other complexity with those icons that appear, to allow control of the iPad with a non-native controller…

Regardless, must still play around with them both some more, to learn their ways.

Linking another thread on Universal Control to your post, @MitchWagner, so it’s all accessible in one place:

Getting adjusted to where the mouse is residing at any given moment has been something I’ve struggled with as well, but that seems to me to be just a function of living with a multi-display set-up. If only the mouse (and maybe the keyboard focus) could automagically go to the screen that I was directly looking at, all my troubles would be solved.

I find that I put my snack and coffee behind the iPad. Not perfectly convenient, but I have found that I am less prone to spilling my coffee with it in that position.


Thanks for the linking.

And I don’t like to have obstacles between me and coffee.


I totally hear you on that.


Time for a bigger desk methinks …


It isn’t a question of desk space. It’s a question of arm length.

Sidecar is the feature that lets you use your iPad as another display for your Mac. I know there’s some way of activating it with the ‘green “window button”’, but it’s also something that can be set up/initiated in the Displays section of System Settings, where you simply tell the Mac to use the iPad as display. That’s how I do it when I need it (not often, but when I do (travelling), it’s great to have).

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