It seems that Apple is finally taking the iPad lineup serious as a productivity model. We were provided Pro-level hardware late last year, and with the release iPadOS, we are one step closer to a Pro-level software experience.
However, the fun didn’t stop there as Apple also included some awesome integrations between macOS Catalina and iPadOS. One of which is Sidecar, which allows you to essentially turn your iPad into a secondary display for your compatible Mac.
- 1 Seeing error message “you can’t open the “Sidecar” preferences pane because it is not available to you at this time?”
- 2 How to connect Sidecar
- 3 How to disable Sidecar via Terminal
- 4 Conclusion
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In addition to just turning your iPad into a secondary display, Apple also made it possible to do the following with your iPad:
- Mirror content to display the same content
- Use Apple Pencil with various apps via Sidecar
- Create content with iPad and Apple Pencil and insert it into any document on Mac
This added functionality is fantastic for those who own both a Mac and iPad and want to be able to turn the iPad into a product similar to the Wacom tablet. Unfortunately, Apple has decided that this feature should not be available to everyone who can run macOS Catalina.
Seeing error message “you can’t open the “Sidecar” preferences pane because it is not available to you at this time?”
Check if your Macs is officially compatible with Sidecar
During the initial iOS 13/iPadOS investigation, developer Steve Troughton-Smith found a list of both the Macs that are compatible and incompatible with sidecar. Here are the Macs that are compatible “out of the box”:
- Late 2015 27” iMac or newer
- 2017 iMac Pro
- Mid 2016 MacBook Pro or newer
- Late 2018 Mac mini or newer
- Late 2018 MacBook Air or newer
- Early 2016 MacBook or newer
- 2019 Mac Pro
Now, the list of Catalina-compatible macOS devices is actually much larger, opening an opportunity for older Macs to be compatible with Sidecar.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as Apple made a seemingly-arbitrary cut off for Catalina computers that are not “compatible” with Sidecar. Troughton-Smith provided an extensive list for everyone to see which devices are blacklisted.
Sidecar supports iMac 27" (Late 2015) or newer, MacBook Pro (2016) or newer, mac Mini (2018), Mac Pro (2019), MacBook Air (2018) , MacBook (Early 2016 or newer), and blacklists all the devices in the screenshot pic.twitter.com/DHNDyI98WV
— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) June 5, 2019
How to enable Sidecar on an incompatible Mac
Okay, now for some good news.
Stroughton-Smith was able to find a workaround that might enable Sidecar. In our testing with various Mac models and years, this trick worked on some and not on others–with little rhyme or reason. But it’s worth a try!
If it doesn’t work, the most common experience is Sidecar showing up in Preferences, but your iPad doesn’t show up in the devices dropdown menu.
In order to try and enable Sidecar on your Mac if it isn’t on the list, follow these steps:
- Connect your iPad to your Mac with a cable
- Open Terminal from your macOS Catalina computer
- Type “defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display AllowAllDevices -bool true; defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display hasShownPref -bool true; open /System/Library/PreferencePanes/Sidecar.prefPane” into Terminal (without the quotes)
- Press Enter
- Enter your password if you are prompted
Once you have input that line of commands into Terminal, your System Preferences opens up. From there, if it worked, you see a new option next to Displays called ‘Sidecar’ and you too can enjoy the fun.
How to connect Sidecar
Provided that you have the macOS Catalina and iPadOS betas installed, you can now access Sidecar easily. Open up the System Preferences, tap the Sidecar icon, and enter the settings.
From there, you will want to click on the dropdown menu under “Connect to”. Select the device that you are looking for, and then watch the magic happen.
Apple has also included a few additional settings for you to tinker with after Sidecar is enabled
- Show Sidebar: on the left/on the right
- Show Touch Bar: on the bottom/on the top
- Enable double tap on Apple Pencil
- Show pointer when using Apple Pencil
You will have to tinker with these settings to find the best layout for your needs. But regardless, after Sidecar is enabled and turned on with your iPad, you will have the most portable two-display set up, all courtesy of Apple.
How to disable Sidecar via Terminal
If you have played around with Sidecar and realize that it really doesn’t work for you, then you may want to disable it. There’s a chance Apple could end up closing this loophole in the future regardless, but for now, you may want to close it yourself.
In order to do so, follow these steps
- Open Terminal from your Mac
- Type “defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display AllowAllDevices -bool false; defaults write com.apple.sidecar.display hasShownPref -bool false” into Terminal
- Press Enter
- Enter password if prompted
You may want to restart your Mac really quick after the terminal commands have been completed. This will wash any remnants of Sidecar clean so that you don’t have to worry about any issues with future releases of macOS Catalina.
The inclusion of Sidecar likely meant the end of the line for apps like Duet or products such as Luna Display. However, with the self-imposed cutoff for older macOS devices with Catalina, those not ready to deal with faulty keyboards will be able to rely on those products for the time being.
We really wish Apple had just made it possible to use Sidecar with all Catalina-compatible computers, but we can’t get everything we want. Hopefully, future releases of Apple’s latest software don’t block this workaround from being useful, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see that happen either.
Let us know if you have run into any issues when trying to use Sidecar and we’ll be more than happy to try and help. In the meantime, stay tuned for more iOS 13, iPadOS, and macOS Catalina content coming soon.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.