At today’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple showed off its new version of macOS, and with it a feature called Universal Control, which lets you use your Mac’s mouse or trackpad to control the cursor on an iPad or another Mac’s screen, reaching into and across multiple devices. On paper it doesn’t sound that groundbreaking, but Craig Federighi did something really cool during the demo: he moved his cursor onto an iPad, then clicked on a photo and dragged it across two other computers to drop it into a Final Cut timeline.
While Logitech’s Flow and programs like Synergy have similarly allowed users to easily jump between computers, it’s usually not this impressive in real life — some solutions require special hardware, some don’t support actually dragging and dropping, and some have complicated setups. Apple’s version seems seamless.
It is worth noting that, according to Apple’s site, there are a few small caveats for Universal Control — it will only work with three devices (so Apple was showing its full capabilities in this demo), and it won’t work on every device getting the new versions of macOS and iPadOS.
Here’s the list of Macs can initiate Universal Control:
- MacBook Pro (2016 and later)
- MacBook (2016 and later)
- MacBook Air (2018 and later)
- iMac (2017 and later)
- iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015)
- Mac mini (2018 and later)
- iMac Pro
- Mac Pro 2019
As for iPads, it’ll work with:
- iPad Pro
- iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
- iPad (6th generation and later)
- iPad mini (5th generation and later)
While the feature does work with iPads, it has to be initiated on the Mac — if you were hoping to sling a file over to your Mac using an Apple Pencil or your finger, you’re out of luck (as fun as that sounds).
Apple says the feature doesn’t require any setup (besides having your two devices being logged in with the same Apple ID and having Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff turned on), but until we actually use it there’s no way to know how quick and reliable it might be. Will it work every single time you set your iPad down next to your iMac, or will you find yourself tapping your fingers on the desk waiting for them to realize that they should be communicating?
Obviously we’ll have to see how Universal Control works in real life, but the demo makes it seem like everything, as the saying goes, just works — Federighi brought the computers close to each other, and could hop between keyboards, mice, and screens. It makes for an incredible demo, which hints at the eternal dream of computing: being able to just use all your devices together, no matter their form factor or OS (though, of course, this version of the dream ignores non-Apple devices).