With the release of macOS Catalina and the new iPadOS for its tablets, Apple finally added a feature, which had only been possible through (pricey) 3rd party apps before — using your iPad as a second screen for your Mac!
This works with absolutely every tablet, which supports iPadOS, which means iPad Air 2 (2014) and up. The connection could either be wireless or — if you demand stability — you can connect the tablet to the computer via your Lightning cable.
How do you connect your Sidecar iPad? Fairly easy — whenever the two devices are in range (or connected), look for the Sidecar icon on your Mac’s top menu bar. Click it and choose the tablet you wish to connect to.
That’s pretty much all there is to it — your Mac screen will flicker and you will soon see the interface on your iPad change. It will sport your Mac’s wallpaper but also have the status bar on top. Now, if you go back to click the Sidecar icon, you will see a bunch of options.
For one, you can choose whether you wish the iPad to act as a second display or mirror your Mac’s screen. By default, it’s set to work as a second display, which acts as if it’s placed to the right of your PC. This means that if you roll your mouse pointer all the way over the right edge of the Mac screen, you will see that same pointer appear on the iPad’s display. By the same logic, you can grab an app window and drag it all the way to the right — voila, your iPad will now display that app, while your Mac screen will be free to use with whatever else you want.
On the iPad
The makeshift Touch Bar
Even if your MacBook doesn’t have a Touch Bar, connecting to an iPad will give you one! Whenever you have an app that uses Touch Bar functions in focus, you will see a thin black stripe on the bottom of the iPad screen, holding controls that were programmed for Touch Bar functionality.
Additionally, you can activate a Side Bar and a virtual keyboard on the iPad screen. The Side Bar will give you access to special keys like Command, Control, and Option as well as an Undo button — just in case you happen to be away from the Mac’s keyboard.
Side Bar, Touch Bar, and virtual keyboard
While in Sidecar mode, you won’t be able to use the iPad with touch input — the only things you can touch and drag are the Side Bar, Touch Bar, and the aforementioned virtual keyboard. That’s why it’s kind of hard to justify using the iPad in “mirror” mode and walking away from the Mac with it. But we guess that feature can have some niche uses.
If you have an Apple Pencil can you use it to double-tap on the iPad’s screen, simulating a mouse click.
You can still use your iPad
You can still navigate to the homescreen on your iPad and use it as you otherwise would. You will notice that there’s a Sidecar icon in your dock now. To return to Sidecar at any time, either tap that icon or open the multitasking menu and expand the Sidecar window.
You can either click the Sidecar menu on the Mac’s status bar and choose “Disconnect” or simply close the app on your iPad. Either action will end the Sidecar session and the two devices can go on their merry way.