Apple has added trackpad support to the iPad allowing you to connect a trackpad or mouse to your Apple tablet to be able to boost your productivity.
The experience is certainly more "laptop" than you'll be used to, something we've found when using it on the new iPad Pro (2020).
Unlike how a cursor works on a MacBook, iMac, or even Windows PC, Apple has approached how you use and interact with the cursor in a very different way, including how it is shown on the screen when enabled.
The cursor, rather than an arrow, is now a small round circle, and appears as soon as you start to move a connected mouse or touch a connected trackpad.
To aid selection of things further, as soon as you move to hover over an icon or menu item the cursor instantly resizes to the size of that item making selection considerably easier.
On the homepage for example, that means the icons enlarge and jump out a little bit to show you've got it selected, while selecting menu options allows you to quickly jump left to right or up and down a list with ease. It's all very easy.
What makes things easier still is using a trackpad for word processing or spreadsheets. With text the introduction of a cursor allows you to easily select text, while in Apps like Numbers, Microsoft Excel, or Google Sheets you can now quickly select individual cells without having to jab your finger in the general direction of what you want. The cursor makes things a lot more precise.
So how can you get Trackpad support for your own iPad, which iPad devices support it, and what devices can you use with your Apple tablet?
How to add trackpad support for your iPad
Not just available for the newest iPad Pro devices, it will work with a wide selection of existing iPads via iPadOS 13.4. The software update will be available from 24 March 2020.
When using a trackpad or mouse, iPad owners will be able to interact with existing apps according to Apple: "Trackpad support in iPadOS is designed to work great with the apps customers use every day," said Apple in its news release.
"Most third-party apps work with no change at all, and developers can go even further with new APIs that let them deliver unique experiences in their apps."
Apple has said that it has added enhanced features for the trackpad and mouse support in its iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) for the iPad, but hasn't detailed anything specific. It is expected other apps will follow suit.
Which iPad models feature trackpad and mouse support?
Trackpad and mouse support won't be available on all iPad models but it will work with most of them, especially those that have launched in the last couple of years. The full list of iPad and iPad Pro devices with trackpad support are:
- All iPad Pro models
- iPad Air 2 and later
- iPad 5th generation and later
- iPad mini 4 and later
How to use the new trackpad feature in iPadOS 13.4
If you use an Apple trackpad on a MacBook already, or the company's Magic Trackpad 2, you'll be familiar with how gestures work on a trackpad on the iPad. There are a number of secret commands you can master including:
- Go to the Home screen: three-finger swipe up
- App Switcher: three-finger swipe up and pause
- Switch apps: three-finger swipe right
- Right click: click with two fingers
- Dock: move cursor to the bottom of the screen and push past
- Control Center: click on the status bar in the upper right
- Notifications: click on the status bar in the upper left
You can also manage the trackpad settings via Settings > General > Trackpad and here you can set the tracking speed, whether to have natural scrolling turned on or off, and whether to allow "Tap to Click" and "Two-Finger Secondary Click" enabled.
iPad, iPad Pro trackpad keyboards and other devices?
Trackpad support will work with a number of accessories, including Apple's own Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2 and a new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (coming in May). You will also be able to use third-party mice connected via Bluetooth or USB.
Third party keyboards designed for the Apple iPad and iPad Pro with a built-in keyboard are also going to be available if you don't want to go down the Apple Magic Keyboard route.
Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro
Apple's Magic Keyboard will sit at the top of the pile and cost £349 in the UK and $349 in the US. It will come with backlit keys, a build in trackpad, a USB-C port so you can charge your iPad and still use the standard iPad USB-C port for other things.
Combo Touch Keyboard Case with Trackpad for iPad
Logitech has announced the Combo Touch Keyboard Case with Trackpad for iPad will work with the current 10.5-inch iPad Air (3rd gen) and 10.2-inch iPad (7th gen). It will cost £119.95 in the UK and $149.99 in the US when it launches.
Brydge meanwhile has the Brydge Pro+. It will cost £189.99 in the UK and $229.99 in the US and also feature a trackpad built in. It will work with the 12.9- and 11-inch iPad Pro range. It will be available in mid-April.