What is Apple Universal Control and how does it work?

(Pocket Ribbon) – At WWDC 2021 last summer, Apple previewed a new feature for the Mac and iPad called Universal Control. Developers are currently testing the feature, which allows you to seamlessly control multiple Apple devices — including an iMac, MacBook, and iPad — all using the same keyboard and mouse.

Universal Control will be available to the public through: upcoming software updates for iPadOS and macOS Monterey. huhThere’s everything you need to know about it.


What is Universal Control?

Apple is updating its continuity system with Universal Control. It lets you work with one mouse and keyboard and switch between Mac and iPad for a seamless experience, no installation required. You can drag and drop content between devices, moving your mouse over all of their screens as if they were tethered.


When will Universal Control be available?

The long-awaited feature is now available for testing via the iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 developer only betas.

Apple originally planned to release Universal Control last fall, but it missed that release window. He is now expected this springand the fact that it’s available in betas is a good indication that it may be released soon – possibly with the official release of iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 to the public.

If you install the betas of iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3, you’ll see three options for Universal Control, labeled with beta tags.

How does Universal Control work?

Since Universal Control is not officially available, everything described below is subject to change.


No installation required

Apple demonstrated Universal Control at WWDC 2021. Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi showed how to use Universal Control to put the finishing touches on a Procreate artwork on his iPad and then move on to a presentation on his MacBook. All he did was put his iPad next to his Mac. Without any other setting, Federighi touched his MacBook trackpad and moved the cursor to his iPad, and the iPad automatically recognized it. Neat!

While Apple said no setup is required, your Apple devices must presumably be registered with the same Apple ID and running on the same network. We also suspect that the ability to disable Universal Control will also be buried under your Continuity settings. We’ll let you know when we know more.


Control your devices with one trackpad and keyboard

During Federighi’s presentation, his MacBook cursor jumped completely from his laptop to the iPad screen. He could then use the cursor to control the tablet.

He also demonstrated effortless movement of the cursor between the two devices. Again, using only his MacBook trackpad, he clicked and closed a Procreate document on his iPad and swiped to return to his iPad’s home screen. He even swiped between pages of apps. Federighi was also able to control his iPad with the MacBook’s built-in keyboard. He opened Spotlight and then typed Notes to open that app. He then used the Command tab to switch back to Procreate.

Finally, Federighi showed how to drag and drop files between devices. He took a drawing in Procreate on his Pad and started a keynote on his Mac.


Universal Control works with more than two devices

One of the coolest parts of Universal Control is that you can use it with multiple Macs and iPads – not just two. During Federighi’s presentation, he showed how Universal Control can work simultaneously on an iMac, MacBook and iPad. Using the MacBook’s keyboard and trackpad, he controlled his nearby iMac. He also switched to using the iMac’s keyboard and mouse. With that, he dragged a text image in Procreate on his iPad across all three devices to Final Cut on his iMac.

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September 24, 2021


Which Apple Devices Offer Universal Control?

When Universal Control becomes available, it will work on any Mac that can run macOS Monterey and any iPad that can run iPadOS 15.4.

Check out our guides to see if your devices qualify:

Want to know more?

Pocket ribbon has function roundings on macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15. Apple also has a press release on Universal Control here.

Written by Maggie Tillman.

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