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(Pocket-lint) - Last summer, Apple previewed a new feature for the Mac and iPad called Universal Control. It allows you to seamlessly control multiple Apple devices - including an iMac, MacBook, and iPad - all with the same keyboard and mouse. With the release of macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4 in March 2022, Apple is finally making Universal Control available to use.

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What is Universal Control?

Apple has updated its existing Continuity system with Universal Control. It lets you work with a single mouse and keyboard and move between Mac and iPad for a seamless experience, no setup required. You can drag and drop content between devices, with your mouse moving across all their displays as if they were tethered.

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When will Universal Control be available?

The long-awaited feature is available via iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3, free updates that rolled out to iPads and Macs in March 2022. 

How does Universal Control work?

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No setup required

Apple demoed Universal Control during WWDC 2021. Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi showed how he could use Universal Control to put the finishing touches on a Procreate illustration on his iPad, and then move to a presentation on his MacBook. All he did was set his iPad down next to his Mac. Without any other setup, Federighi touched his MacBook trackpad and moved the cursor toward his iPad, and then the iPad automatically recognised it. 

In our testing, Universal Control even works out when your iPad is in a vertical or horizontal orientation. Neat!

To use Universal Control,  both devices must be signed into the same Apple ID in iCloud and have two-factor authentication enabled. They must also have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff enabled and be within 30 feet of each other. The iPad and Mac must not be sharing a cellular and internet connection, either. 

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Control your devices with a single trackpad and keyboard

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

He also demoed moving the cursor back and forth effortlessly between the two devices. Again, using just his MacBook trackpad, he clicked and closed a Procreate document on his iPad and flicked to return to his iPad home screen. He even swiped between pages of apps. Federighi could also 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 he could drag and drop files between devices. He took a drawing in Procreate on his Pad and dropped into a keynote on his Mac.

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Universal Control works with more than two devices

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

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Which Apple devices offer Universal Control?

Universal Control works on any Mac capable of running macOS Monterey and any iPad capable of running iPadOS 15.4. 

  • Mac: MacBook Pro (2016 and later), MacBook (2016 and later), and MacBook Air (2018 and later); iMac (2017 and later), iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015), iMac Pro, Mac mini (2018 and later), and Mac Pro (2019); and iPad Pro and iPad Air (third generation and later)
  • iPad: iPad (sixth generation and later) and iPad mini (fifth generation and later)

To see if your devices are eligible, see our guides:

Does iPhone support Universal Control?

No. In fact, there are a few situations where Universal Control isn't available:

Best iPhone apps 2022: The ultimate guide

  • iPhone: Apple does not offer Universal Control on iPhone. 
  • iPad to iPad: Universal Control requires a Mac. You can't use it with just iPads.
  • Android and Windows: Universal Control doesn't support Windows or Android.
  • Apple Pencil: No, you can't move your Apple Pencil to your Mac.

Want to know more?

Pocket-lint has feature round-ups on macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15. Apple also has a press release detailing Universal Control here.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.