How to use Universal Control on Macs and iPads

Universal Control demonstrated on an iPad Pro and MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future)

Now everyone can learn how to use Universal Control on Macs and iPads to bring Apple's biggest screens into a tighter harmony. First shown off at WWDC 2021 last June, Universal Control failed to arrive in 2021 alongside the releases of macOS 12 Monterey and iPadOS 15. Now, Universal Control is live in the newly-released build of Apple software: macOS 12.3 and iPadOS 15.4, which came out today (March 14).

Universal Control arrived on iPads and Macs first arrived in the developer beta versions released on Jan. 27, and now it's available for all. And now that we've had time to test it out, we've got to applaud Apple. We didn't want to wait this long, but wow: Universal Control is actually worth the wait. Especially if you don't have a multi-monitor setup.

So, we've gone through the process of testing it out, and now we can guide you through the steps you need to take to use Universal Control — as well as share tips for how to make the most of it. 

Before we dive in, let's talk about how much this feature makes iPads better than ever. While you've been able to use your iPad as a second monitor for a while now, this is even cooler. Why? Because now the keyboard and mouse you use on one of those devices works with the other. This way you can (as I tested) have your iPad Pro next to your MacBook Pro, and just use one of the keyboards and trackpads to operate both. You can even copy and paste across devices.

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How to use Universal Control on Macs and iPads

1. Make sure you have a compatible Mac and iPad. Here are the supported devices:

2. Update macOS to Monterey 12.3 on your Mac. Open System Preferences, click Software update and follow the instructions.

The macOS 12.3 download has started in Software Update

(Image credit: Apple)

3. Update iPadOS to iPadOS 15.4 on your iPad. Open Settings, tap General, tap Software update and follow the instructions.

The iPadOS 15.4 download screen in settings

(Image credit: Apple)

4. Make sure you're signed into the same Apple ID on both your iPad and Mac.

5. Put your Mac and iPad near each other. They don't need to be this close, though.

A iPad Pro and a MacBook Pro next to each other

(Image credit: Future)

6. On your Mac, move your cursor to the edge of the screen closes to your iPad, and move the cursor "off the screen" as if it's going to "jump" to the iPad.

The cursor going from MacBook Pro to iPad Pro using Universal Control

(Image credit: Future)

Ta-da, you're using Universal Control on macOS and iPadOS!

Universal Control demonstrated on an iPad Pro and MacBook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

As for what this can be used for, aside from the utility of controlling both devices with the same keyboard and mouse or trackpad, you can also copy and past content across devices. This way it's even more like the devices are unified!

In need of more iPad tips? Here's how to fix an Apple Pencil that's not working if you're having stylus trouble, or how to screenshot a full page on iPhone and iPad if you want to grab an entire web page in one.

For Mac users, we can help you learn how to split your screen on Mac, how to use Google Lens on iPhone and iPad, how to factory reset a MacBook Pro if you're moving to a new Mac or need to start again from scratch, or how to clean a MacBook screen so you can enjoy your Retina display at its best.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.