How to use your iPad as a Secondary Display for your Mac


If you are a full-time professional content creator and spend most of your time in photo or video editing apps, then you already know how much difference it makes with a second display. In case you use a 2016 or newer Mac device, you can use the USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 interface to connect a secondary display to your device for a wider screen real-estate. However, those displays come with a pretty hefty price tag and it’s more expensive for the portable ones.

But what if you have an iPad lying around? Can you use it as a secondary display? The answer is: Yes. Now with the release of macOS Catalina and iPadOS, Apple has released a feature called Sidecar.

With Sidecar, you can use an iPad as a secondary display for your Mac device. It is one of the most widely requested features by the Apple user community and now it’s finally deployed with Apple’s new operating systems. The Retina displays on iPads are sharp and bright enough for a portable display. Apple’s Sidecar feature can either extend or mirror your Mac desktop without any hassle.

If you have a Sidecar-compatible iPad and Mac device and want to try out the feature, then you can continue reading this guide on how to use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac.


Before using your iPad screen as a secondary display for your Mac device, here are a couple of things you have to confirm:

Device compatibility

Here are the Apple devices that support the Sidecar feature:

Mac Devices

  • 2016 MacBook Pro or later
  • 2016 MacBook or later
  • 2018 MacBook Air or later
  • 2016 iMac or later
  • 2015 iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch)
  • 2017 iMac Pro
  • 2018 Mac mini or later
  • 2019 Mac Pro

iPad Devices

  • 3rd Gen iPad Air
  • 5th Gen iPad mini
  • 6th Gen iPad or later
  • iPad Pro (All models)

Update your Software

Apple’s Sidecar feature is only available on macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13.1 at the time of this writing.

If you haven’t updated your Mac device to the latest version of Apple’s operating systems, go to the Apple menu > About this Mac > Software Update and click Upgrade Now to install macOS Catalina on your device.

To update your iPad to iPadOS 13.1 or higher, head over to the Settings app > General and tap Software Update.

Additional Things To Do

  • In order to use Sidecar, you have to sign in to iCloud with the same Apple ID on both devices.
  • To use Sidecar over a wireless connection, turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Apple’s Handoff feature on both devices. Also, disable Wi-Fi Sharing on both of your devices.
  • Both devices must be within 30 feet of each other in a wireless connection.

Connect your iPad to your Mac Device

Extending displays with Sidecar

If you have the supported Apple devices, then you can seamlessly connect your iPad to your Mac device and use it as a secondary display. Here’s how to do it:

  1. To get started, connect your iPad to your Mac with the USB to lightning cable that shipped with your iPad. You can use Apple’s USB-C to USB adapter to connect it to your 2016 Mac device. In case you own a 2018 iPad Pro, you won’t need an adapter as it already comes with Type-C to Type-C cable in the box.
  2. After connecting the iPad to your Mac device, click the AirPlay icon on the right of the menu bar on your Mac.
  3. Now select your iPad from the options. It might take a few seconds to connect.
  4. Your iPad will now work as an extended secondary display to your Mac desktop. You can move windows and mouse cursor between both displays.

Basic Sidecar Controls

To move windows, open an app window and hover the cursor over the green full-screen button. Click Move to xxx’s iPad to move the app window over to your iPad screen.

In case you want to mirror your Mac display on the secondary screen,

  1. Click the blue rectangle icon in the top menu bar to return to the AirPlay menu.
  2. Click Mirror Built-in Retina Display to mirror your display.

If you want to end your Sidecar session,

  1. Return to the AirPlay menu. 
  2. Choose the option to disconnect. Alternatively, click the Disconnect button in the sidebar on your iPad screen.

Using the Sidebar

Sidebar in iPad

When you move an app window to your iPad screen, the sidebar on the left offers common controls including Command, Shift and other actions for easy access.

  • First icon: Tapping the first icon at the top of the sidebar shows or hides the menu bar when viewing a full-screen window on the iPad screen.
  • Second icon: The second icon is used for toggling the Mac Dock on your iPad.
  • Third icon: It is the Command key. You can lock the key by double-tapping on the icon.
  • Fourth icon: It is the Option key.
  • Fifth icon: It is the Control key.
  • Sixth icon: Used for the Shift key.
  • Seventh icon: Used to undo your last action.
  • Eighth icon: Toggles the on-screen keyboard on and off.
  • Ninth icon: Disconnects your iPad from your Mac device.

In case you want to change the sidebar’s position or disable it, open the Apple menu > System Preferences and select Sidecar.

Using the Touch Bar

Touch Bar For Different Apps

Even if you don’t have a Touch Bar equipped MacBook, you can use Sidecar for a Touch Bar on your iPad screen. It works just like the original Touch Bar, and you can also use the Apple Pencil to tap its controls.

You can disable the Touch Bar or change its positioning from Sidecar Preferences.

Using Apple Pencil with Sidecar

With Sidecar, you can use your iPad to write notes, mark up documents, sketch or draw in creative illustrator apps, or edit photos with an Apple Pencil. You can also click, point, drag, or select objects on your Mac device using the Apple Pencil.

Marking Documents with Apple Sidecar

Using Gestures

Sidecar allows you to utilize iPad’s multi-touch gestures to perform the following actions on your Mac device:

  • Scroll: Swipe with two fingers.
  • Cut: Pinch in with three fingers twice.
  • Copy: Pinch in with three fingers.
  • Paste: Pinch out with three fingers.
  • Undo: Swipe left with three fingers, or double-tap with three fingers.
  • Redo: Swipe right with three fingers.

Sidecar Preferences

To change sidecar-related settings,

  1. Open the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Click Sidecar.

These are the settings you can change to adjust your Sidecar experience:

  • Show Sidebar: Untick the checkbox to disable Sidebar or change its positioning using the on-screen arrow keys.
  • Show Touch Bar: Toggle the Touch Bar and change the position.
  • Enable double tap on Apple Pencil: Keep it ticked to allow supported apps to perform custom actions double-tapped on the side of a 2nd gen Apple Pencil.
  • Connect to: Choose an iPad to connect it to your Mac device with Sidecar, or click Disconnect to stop using Sidecar.

    Sidecar Preferences Menu

Wrapping Up

In this article, we have highlighted Apple’s Sidecar feature on macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13.1. With Sidecar, you can use your iPad’s Retina display as a secondary screen for your Mac device. It is a very useful feature for those who do most of their creative work on Apple devices. We have provided detailed instructions in this guide to help you utilize the Sidecar feature and boost your productivity. If you have any queries, let us know in the comments below.

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