Here’s how turning your iPad into a second screen with ‘Sidecar’ works

Apple's iPad can finally be used as a secondary display with the Mac

macOS Catalina Sidecar

Similar to other features coming to Apple’s numerous operating systems this fall, the tech giant is now allowing the iPad to be utilized as a secondary display with its Mac devices.

That said, the functionality has finally arrived, and at least at the outset, it seems great, especially regarding how easy the new feature is to use.

While apps like Duet Display and Luna have offered third-party second-screen support for the Mac and iPad for years, both apps require users to take several steps before they actually work. Sidecar, on the other hand, is baked directly into macOS 10.15 Catalina and iOS 13, which makes it much easier to access for the average Apple user.

One of the first things to note is Sidecar connects through USB-C or wirelessly via Bluetooth. As a result, the feature will only run within roughly a few meters of the Mac the iPad is connected to. You’ll also need to be logged into iCloud for Sidecar to work, says Apple.

Sidecar doesn’t require a dedicated app. The iPad is instead connected to the Mac you’re using via macOS 10.15 Catalina’s ‘display settings,’ which is located in the menu bar.

macOS Catalina Sidecar

This means Sidecar is controlled through macOS rather than the iPad and Apple’s new iPadOS. Whether you’re mirroring or extending the screen, the second Mac display will show up on the iPad like a standard app. This means you’ll be able to swipe up to multitask from the Mac display, and still use features like ‘Slide Over.’

When connected to a Mac, the iPad display acts as a standard secondary screen for the most part. However, with this in mind, there are a few cool new features included in Apple’s Sidecar.

First, Sidecar effectively adds a Touch Bar to your Mac device even if you aren’t using a Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pro. If you’re running a Mac app that supports the Touch Bar then the functionality will appear on the iPad connected to it.

Sidecar also supports the Apple Pencil, but only with the iPad Pro (2018). This functionality allows users to markup screenshots snapped on their desktop with the Apple Pencil, which can then either be saved on the connected iPad or the Mac in whatever folder you select.

Additionally, you’ll be able to use the connected iPad’s touchscreen with many apps. Some of the already announced supported apps include Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, Final Cut Pro, Sketch and more. It’s likely more drawing, sketching and note taking Mac apps will add Sidecar support in the future.

Finally, Apple says you’ll be able to connect both a monitor and an iPad as a secondary screen to a Mac simultaneously.

Interestingly, Apple isn’t yet saying what versions of the iPad will be compatible with ‘Sidecar,’ though given the second-screen experience can be wireless over Bluetooth, it’s likely it will at least make its way to the tech giant’s current lineup of tablets, including the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018), iPad Air (2018) and maybe even the 9.7-inch iPad and iPad mini (2019).

Sidecar is set to launch this fall alongside iOS 13 and macOS Catalina.

Image credit: Apple 

Update 06/24/2019: Apple’s public beta for iOS 13 and iPadOS is now available.