iPadOS and Catalina: Use iPad as a second screen for your Mac with Sidecar

Since iPadOS and macOS Catalina, it is finally possible to use your iPad as an external screen for your Mac by default. You can easily expand your workspace and the function contains many smart options.

This way you can not only activate the second screen via cable, but it is also possible to extend your Mac screen to the iPad wirelessly. The function works exactly the same as a second screen, however, Apple has added some extras. For example, Sidecar shows the Touch Bar options if desired regardless of which Mac you have.

Supporting Macs and Sidecar Terms

To use Sidecar you need a supporting Mac and iPad, below is a list of Macs that offer Sidecar. In addition, your iPad must be equipped with iPadOS and your Mac with macOS Catalina or newer. The same iCloud account must be activated on both devices and secured with two-factor authentication.

  • iMac Pro
  • 5K iMac 27-inch from 2015
  • All iMac models from 2017
  • MacBook Pro from mid-2016
  • Mac Mini from late 2018
  • MacBook Air from late 2018
  • MacBook from early 2016
  • Mac Pro from 2019
  • All iPad Pro models
  • iPad 6th generation or later
  • iPad mini 5th generation or later
  • iPad Air 2019 or later

Link iPad to Mac for Sidecar

If you meet the above conditions, you can use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac, this can be done wirelessly or via a cable. With wireless it is important that the Mac and iPad are connected to the same (WiFi) network and Bluetooth must be active.

Activate Sidecar on a Mac

You can activate Sidecar in three different ways: via the screen menu in the control panel, the colored dots (traffic light menu) in the button bar or via System Preferences. We explain this further below.

Screen menu: To immediately activate the iPad as a second screen, it is best to use the screen menu. Since macOS Big Sur, these can be found in the control panel. Open the control panel from the menu bar and click on ‘Display’, then you can choose your iPad. Do you still have macOS Catalina? Then click on the rectangle with a triangle in the menu bar and select the iPad. Can’t see the AirPlay menu? Then you can activate it via  ▸ System Preferences ▸ Displays ▸ toggle ‘Show available options for video mirroring in menu bar’.

Traffic light menu: If you want to place an application directly on the second screen, you can do this via the colored dots in the toolbar. Place the mouse pointer on the green (third) circle, wait a few moments and then choose your iPad.

System Preferences : You can also connect the iPad via  ▸ System Preferences ▸ Sidecar. You can also quickly consult this setting by searching for Sidecar via Spotlight.

Using Sidecar on an iPad

Once sidecar is activated you can use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac. Your iPad then serves as an extra desktop (space) to which you can easily drag applications from one screen to another. Via  ▸ System Preferences ▸ Displays ▸ Arrange it is possible to virtually place the iPad screen on the right side of your Mac so that you can more easily drag the content.

Through these settings it is also possible to mirror the image by activating ‘Enable synchronous display’. The iPad and Mac then both show the same screen, which can be useful in a work environment or for presentations.

Control iPad during Sidecar

Sidecar is more than a second screen for your Mac, it also gives the iPad extra functions. For example, a menu bar (Sidebar) on the left or right side of the screen is activated by default where it is possible to display the dock or menu bar, activate special keys and use the keyboard of your iPad as an input source. In addition, some apps can display additional options in this Sidebar.

Please note, it is limited possible to operate your iPad with touch. In most cases, to access the content on the second screen, you will need to use your Mac’s mouse or trackpad. It is not possible to open apps, menus, etc. using your fingers. So the iPad is an external display only and not an extension of macOS.

Consult sidecar settings

  • Open  ▸ System Preferences
  • Click on ‘Sidecar’

You can then choose to switch off the menu bar (Sidebar) and Touch Bar or change the position. You can also deactivate double-tapping on the Apple Pencil .

Support for Apple Pencil, Touch Bar and iPad keyboard

If you have an iPad with Apple Pencil, it is possible to use the Pencil on your iPad in combination with your Mac and Sidecar. Apps such as Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo, DaVinci Resolve, CorelDRAW, Final Cut Pro and Sketch have integrated the Pencil into their Mac Apps.

For example, you can draw and make edits via the Pencil on your iPad and you will see it on your Mac. Click here for an overview of all Sidecar apps.

Since the introduction of the Touch Bar for the MacBook Pro, developers have been able to add special shortcuts to the Touch Bar. When you open an app via Sidecar, a virtual Touch Bar with these shortcuts appears at the bottom of the iPad screen. This happens on any Mac, regardless of your Touch Bar.

Finally, Sidecar also supports an external iPad keyboard such as the Smart Folio Keyboard , which you can use as input for your Mac. It is then possible to click on an item on the screen and then use the iPad keyboard to enter text.

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