Apple’s Universal Control Offers Significant Productivity Benefits

Apple, iPad, iPad Pro, WWDC, Universal Control, Mac, macOS, iPadOS

Apple’s Universal Control lets you use the same keyboard and mouse to control up to three Macs and iPads (one of which must be a Mac) when you’re at your desk. I think the new feature brings some serious improvements when you have to get the job done.

Universal Control is now available

Announced at WWDC last year, the long-awaited usability enhancement for iPad owners using Macs took months of testing and building before finally being released this month. You must be running iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 (or later) on your iPad(s) and Mac(s) to use it.

To enable Universal Control, you must first make sure all the devices you want to use have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; that they are all logged into the same iCloud account; and you are using two-factor authentication to protect this account.

You can also connect your Mac to an iPad using a USB cable if Wi-Fi isn’t available.

How to prepare Universal Control for action

You will then need to adjust the following settings:

On your Mac(s):

Open System Preferences>General then tick the “Allow transfer between this Mac and your iCloud devices” box. You must then open System Preferences > Displays and press Universal control…. Check the three boxes there.

On your iPad(s):

Open Settings > General > AirPlay & Transfer and switch Delivery and Cursor and keyboard to On (green).

Once your devices are activated, you need to place them close to each other. You can use one iPad and two Macs or one Mac and two iPads — or one of each — with this feature.

  • When they are close together, simply move your cursor to the left or right side of the screen closest to your iPad.
  • A white bar should appear on your Mac with a similar bar appearing on your iPad. Press the white bar (off your Mac’s screen) and your iPad’s white bar will show a bump containing a circular mouse pointer.
  • Keep moving your cursor and it will be enabled for use on this iPad.

Once you’ve connected your devices, look at the top of your Mac’s menu bar where you’ll find a To display Object. Open it and you will see all the devices connected to your Mac.

How to use universal control

When using Universal Control, you’ll see the round pointer Apple uses to denote a cursor on the iPad (on Mac, the cursor will appear normally). You can use your tablet’s pointer as if it were your finger, to tap, double-tap, drag, and more.

But it does not stop there. You can also use your Mac’s keyboard with your iPad. Put it all together and you can see how easily you can now migrate between all the different devices from just one keyboard and mouse, allowing you to work in a completely different way.

It allows you to keep your fingers in one place and helps minimize moments of hesitation when moving between the two operating systems.

In use, I encountered no problems, even during the beta period. Sometimes I need to remember which edge of the Mac window I should use to access the correct device, because only the left and right sides of the window can be used for this.

How I use Universal Control

The work I do tends to be quite research intensive. I’ve already got used to using Spaces and mission control to create different offices for different projects.

For me, this approach has always been somewhat marred by the need to check emails and other incoming communications, as these apps get lost in different windows as I often move them between spaces. I know I should create a mission control space for communications, but I tend not to.

Universal Control means I can manage all my communications using an iPad window, while concentrating on the task at hand on my Mac. It also means I can use iPads for additional research. This is the setup that works for me; now everyone can find their own way to use their iPad and Mac more effectively.

What are the benefits of Universal Control?

The extra space and utility provide a satisfying productive experience that’s also far more affordable (and far more portable) than a two- or three-monitor setup, especially on a small desk.

There are professions where access to additional windows and the ability to control peripherals from a keyboard and mouse is a huge advantage. Think of the video news professionals trying to record and edit live clips in the field. As long as they can set up a local Wi-Fi connection (or use a USB cable), they can get an extra computer to work with their Macs.

Not all use cases are creative. There are plenty of business travelers for whom the ability to efficiently carry a three-monitor computer and three configurations in one laptop bag will be rewarding.

Developers will certainly benefit – and the fact that devices continue to offer their own individual utility (an iPad is still an iPad, the Mac remains a Mac) raises all productivity-related boats.

Is there a way to do this Continued useful?

Once you start using Universal Control, you’ll be able to use your Mac’s keyboard as if it were connected to your iPad. If you’ve never used a keyboard with an iPad before, or never figured it out, it’s worth learning the keyboard commands for both devices.

Here are 30 keyboard commands for Mac. Some commands work the same on iPads and Macs — Command space will call Spotlight search, for example, while Command-Tab will open an App Switcher window on an iPad, just like on a Mac.

Apple has also facilitated discover keyboard shortcuts that work on your iPad and in specific iPad apps – just press and hold the Order key. This will show you generic iPad shortcuts or shortcuts specific to the app you’re in when you press and hold Order.

You will see a globe symbol used in these shortcuts. the FN the bottom left key of a Mac keyboard can be used instead – so Fn-Q on your Mac keyboard will open a quick note on the iPad when signed into Universal Control.

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