Sidecar: Use iPad as a second screen on Mac

If you walk through any modern office today, you’ll notice that most people prefer to use more than one screen. Sometimes it’s a desktop computer with two screens of the same size; sometimes it’s just a laptop connected to an external monitor. 

Starting 2010, iPad has entered our lives as the third type of screen, besides an external monitor or laptop. But for a long time, it has been used exclusively for entertainment or creative purposes. It wasn’t until the release of iPad Pro in 2015 that people began to think that the iPad could be used for something more productive than watching movies.

The iPad second screen revolution

The appearance of external Bluetooth keyboards has certainly helped the iPad to become a more professional machine: lighter and more portable than a regular laptop. But it was the large screen (13-inch iPad Pro) that instilled the idea of using iPad as a second monitor.

Naturally, a few third-party apps have entered the market offering the iPad second screen functionality and become really popular with designers, developers, and project managers alike. The only downside, as it always is with third-party apps in the App Store, was lack of complete integration within iOS and macOS. That is until now — Apple decided to include the iPad second screen feature natively in the new macOS Catalina coming this fall (with public beta release already available).

Update your iPad to iPadOS 13

First thing first, to use Sidecar you need your Mac to be running macOS Catalina and your iPad on the not-yet released iPadOS 13. We’ve already covered how to get your Mac on the macOS Catalina public beta. So here’s a rundown on upgrading your iPad:

  1. Go to beta.apple.com and tap Sign Up.
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID and accept all the policies.
  3. Navigate to the iOS tab ➙ download and install the profile.
  4. Agree to all the terms and restart your device.

Launching Sidecar on older Macs

Although not yet explicitly confirmed by Apple, it seems like Sidecar won’t be available on any Mac released before late 2015. So if you’ve updated your iPad but don’t see the Sidecar option, there’s an easy hack to help your overcome this hurdle:

  1. Open up Terminal.
  2. Type in:

    defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display AllowAllDevices -bool true;

    defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display hasShownPref -bool true;

    open /System/Library/PreferencePanes/Sidecar.prefPane

  3. Hit Return. The Sidecar option should now appear in System Preferences.

How to use Sidecar on your Mac

Using iPad as a second screen to your Mac is just as easy as any other external monitor. If you’re not using a cable, make sure your iPad is within 30 ft. from your Mac before continuing.

There are actually two ways you can connect:

  1. Open Sidecar in System Preferences.
  2. Choose your iPad In the dropdown called “Connect to”.
  3. Check any other applicable options on the right. 

The other way to connect is using AirPlay: 

  1. Open AirPlay either from your menu bar or via System Preferences ➙ Displays.
  2. Select your iPad from the AirPlay Display dropdown menu.

In both cases, you should see your screen blink then your iPad mirror your Mac’s screen. Alternatively, you can use the same AirPlay menu to either keep mirroring the main screen or choose to extend it.

Update apps for Sidecar support

Even though you can use Sidecar with your iPad right away as a simple screen, Apple has built in a handful of extra features that make full use of the iPad's native capabilities to benefit your workflow. 

For example, Sidecar allows you to sketch right in the Mac apps as well as mark up documents. Besides, you can use gesture-based shortcuts and imitate Mac’s Touch Bar on the iPad’s screen even if you don’t have it on your Mac! 

However, the additional features will only work on the latest versions of the apps you have installed. So after updating your Mac to macOS Catalina — don’t forget to update the apps too. But instead of launching every app separately and checking if an update is available, use an automatic solutions instead:

  1. Download a CleanMyMac X free version.
  2. Open the app and go to Updater under the Uninstaller tab.
  3. Select everything available and click Update.

Ease the strain on your Mac’s battery

Having a second screen, even if it’s just an iPad, takes its toll on your Mac’s battery life. Running two screens at the same time requires much more energy — not ideal when you’re working on the go. 

To prolong your battery life, you need to counter the additional pressure on your processor. How? By clearing out all the junk that has accumulated on your Mac over the years: system cache, user logs, bits of defunct apps, etc. Good news is CleanMyMac X can do it all in one click:

  1. Use the same free copy of CleanMyMac X as above. 
  2. Navigate to System Junk ➙ Scan. 
  3. Review Details and pick the stuff you no longer need, then click Clean.

You might be surprised to see that your Mac carries gigabytes of data it no longer needs. Getting rid of it would go a long way in giving your processor a break and thus prolonging your battery life.

Now you’re ready to extend your Mac workflow with iPad through Sidecar. Use gestures, draw, and fit even more apps in this additional screen real estate. Just don’t forget to check CleanMyMac X once in a while to keep your processor optimized.


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