How to Use Your iPad as an External Mac Display With Sidecar

iPad used as second screen with Sidecar on macOS CatalinaApple

The new Sidecar feature of macOS Catalina extends the display of your Mac to your iPad. With this one, you can use your iPad as a secondary monitor or as a mirror screen that works with Apple Pencil and accessories such as a mouse and keyboard.

How Sidecar works

Once you have macOS Catalina installed on your Mac, you can connect your iPad to your computer and use it as an external display. It works as well in wired mode as in wireless mode.

If you connect your iPad using a USB-C or Lightning cable, the connection is faster and more stable. But for most users, the wireless connection will work just as well. There is no big gap between Apple and its own Wi-Fi-based AirDrop peer-to-peer connection.

Sidecar UI showing Safari running How to create a website

Because of the peer-to-peer connection, Sidecar only has a range of 10 feet. If you change rooms, you will notice a shift, then a warning on the screen asking you to get closer to the Mac.

If you want to use the iPad as a portable screen for a Mac in your home, you should look at: Luna Display that runs on a Wi-Fi network and has a longer range.

Once Sidecar is activated, the iPad works as a simple monitor. You will see a sidebar with commands and shortcuts, with a virtual touchbar at the bottom of the screen. You can use Touch, Apple Pencil and a mouse to control the display of the Mac on your iPad.

Sidecar UI showing virtual touchbar

Although the touch interface works, it is not intuitive. If you were hoping that Sidecar will turn the Mac into an iPad where you can use your fingers to tap the screen and move, this is sadly not the case. The user interface elements of Mac were small enough for it to work reliably.

So when you tap the screen with a finger or you try to scroll with a finger, nothing happens. You must use two fingers to scroll. And the only way to click or press items is to use the Apple pencil or a mouse connected to the iPad (which makes a cursor appear on the screen). Of course, the keyboard and trackpad of the Mac work reliably.

the Apple Pencil also can not be used to navigate the user interface. It can only be used to click and select items on the Mac. Apple Pencil does not shine when it is used to draw on screen in supported applications. It works natively for the Mark the feature in Preview with third-party applications such as Affinity Photo, Adobe Illustrator, etc.

This means that to successfully use Sidecar as a secondary screen, you have to get used to a new model of interaction. Slide your finger with two fingers to navigate, click and select using Apple Pencil or a mouse. New text selection and editing gestures iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 also work here.

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Sidecar compatibility

The Sidecar feature is supported on the following Macs running macOS Catalina:

MacBook Pro introduced in 2016 or later
MacBook introduced in 2016 or later
MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
iMac introduced in 2016 or later, plus iMac (Retina 5K, 27 inches, late 2015)
iMac Pro
Mac mini introduced in 2018 or later
Mac Pro introduced in 2019

And on the following iPads with Apple Pencil support being run iPadOS 13:

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

Before you start using Sidecar, make sure both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and that both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are enabled on both devices.

How to install Sidecar

The process of connecting to Sidecar is the same for both wired and wireless connections. If you want to use the wired connection method, first connect the Mac to your iPad using a compatible cable.

You can start the Sidecar connection in several ways. The best way is to use the AirPlay option in the menu bar.

If you can not find the AirPlay icon in the menu bar, you can enable it by selecting System Preferences> Monitors and checking the option "Show mirroring options in the menu bar, if any". .

Show Mirroring Option for AirPlay

Now click on the "AirPlay" button in the menu bar. Here, select your iPad.

Click to activate Sidecar from the AirPlay menu

And that's all. The Sidecar feature is now enabled and your iPad will start working as an external screen. You can now drag windows from your Mac screen to the iPad.

Alternatively, you can also go to System Preferences> Sidecar, then click on the "Select Device" drop-down menu and select your iPad from the list. Sidecar should now work on your iPad.

Sign in to Sidecar from System Preferences

How to use and customize Sidecar

Although you can simply use the iPad as a secondary monitor, macOS has specific commands to enhance your experience.

First, you can switch to mirror mode to control the Mac from the iPad. This can be useful while staying in the room but not sitting in front of the computer.

To do this, click the "Sidecar" button in the menu bar after connecting the iPad. Then click on "Mirror Built-in Retina Display".

Sidecar options in the menu bar

The Sidecar user interface on iPad is quite simple. You'll see a sidebar on the right and a virtual touchbar at the bottom (even if your Mac does not support the touchbar).

Sidecar iPad UIApple

At the top of the sidebar, you'll find options to show or hide the menu bar and dock so you can enable full-screen mode on the Mac.

In the middle you will find your modifier keys: Command, Option, Control and Shift. You can press a key twice to lock it.

At the bottom you will see the Undo, Keyboard and Disconnect options.

The "Keyboard" button brings up the compact floating keyboard of the iPadOS body language. You can use the "Disconnect" button to terminate the Sidecar connection.

You can also customize the Sidecar user interface available on the iPad. On your Mac, go to System Preferences> Sidecar.

Click Sidecar from the system. preferences

From there, use the drop-down menu next to "Show Sidebar" to move the sidebar from left to right. You can also move the touch bar up or down from the "Show Touch Bar" option.

In addition, you can uncheck the "Show Sidebar" and "Show Touchbar" options to disable both items.

Sidecar Options in System Preferences

If you are an avid Apple Pencil user, you can also check the option "Enable Double-tap Apple Pencil" to use the double-tap gesture as a right-click option on the Mac.

To disconnect Sidecar, select the "Disconnect" button in the lower right or left corner (depending on your preference) from the iPad screen.

Press the Disconnect button to stop the connection to Sidecar.

You can also go to the "AirPlay" menu in the menu bar of your Mac and click on the "Disconnect" button.

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