(Pocket-lint) – While at WWDC 2021 last summer, Apple previewed a new feature for the Mac and iPad called Universal Control. Developers are currently testing the feature, which will allow you to seamlessly control multiple Apple devices – including an iMac, MacBook, and iPad – all with the same keyboard and mouse.

Universal Control will be available to the public via upcoming software updates to iPadOS and macOS Monterey. Here’s everything you need to know about it.


What is Universal Control?

Apple is updating its 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 now available to test via the iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 betas for developers only.

Apple originally intended to release Universal Control last autumn, but it missed that release window. It’s now expected this spring, and the fact it’s available in betas is a good indication it might actually release soon – possibly with the official release of iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 for the public.

If you install the iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 betas, you’ll see three options for Universal Control labeled with beta tags.

How does Universal Control work?

Since Universal Control isn’t officially available, everything described below is subject to change.

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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. Neat!

Although Apple said no setup is required, presumably, your Apple devices will need to be registered to the same Apple ID and running on the same network. We’re also guessing the ability to disable Universal Control will also be buried under your Continuity Settings. We’ll let you know as we learn more.

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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?

When Universal Control becomes available, it’ll work on any Mac capable of running macOS Monterey and any iPad capable of running iPadOS 15.4. 

To see if your devices will be eligible, see our guides:

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.

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