We are getting ever-closer to a world where the iPad can fully replace the need for a laptop or desktop. Let’s face it, not all of us can “Viticci” the situation and relay on a myriad of shortcuts to get work done on a daily basis.
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But the great news is that Apple continues to push updates to make your iPad more useful than ever. These incremental updates end up changing how we interact with our iPads, allowing us to leave the MacBook behind.
The latest of these updates came with iPadOS 13.4 which introduced proper mouse and trackpad support. With the launch of iPadOS last year, you could do this, but it was hidden under the Accessibility features. As for now, you can find all the necessary features right in the Settings app.
How to activate and use the new trackpad features
Obviously, the first step to taking advantage will be to pair your favorite Bluetooth mouse or the Magic Trackpad 2 to the iPad. Once connected, the new controls will be found in Settings > General > Trackpad.
But without diving deeper, here are the gestures that are currently supported by the Trackpad:
- Go to the home screen: swipe up with three fingers
- Switch apps: swipe left or right with three fingers
- Right Click: click with two fingers
- Show Dock: quickly move the cursor to the bottom of the screen
- App Switcher: swipe up with three fingers and hold
- Slide-Over: quickly move the cursor to the right-side of the screen
Although we have used both the Magic Trackpad 2 and the MX Master 3, we have found to prefer the trackpad. The entire experience just feels smooth and with the trackpad, you get the same feeling that you did when you were touching the iPad’s display. That’s not to say that pairing a mouse won’t feel as great, it just comes down to personal preference.
Are there any other features that can be used?
Now that you’ve spent some time going through and messing around with the gestures, you may be wondering if there’s more. Luckily, there are some customization options that are available.
- Adjust Scrolling Speed
- Enable/Disable Natural Scrolling
- Enable/Disable Tap to Click
- Enable/Disable Two-Finger Secondary Click
Apple seemingly thought all of this out to the point where we are ecstatic to be provided with some ways to change how we use the iPad. For instance, instead of being forced to actually click the Trackpad, you can just tap when clicking, which is much more natural. Plus, who doesn’t love being able to switch to Natural Scrolling while browsing Safari or your favorite RSS reader?
Can you customize the new cursor?
But the fun doesn’t stop there as Apple added a few more settings to adjust. But these are primarily focused on the cursor itself, ensuring you get the best experience that you are hoping for.
Here’s how to access those options:
- Open the Settings app on your iPad.
- Scroll down and tap Accessibility.
- Tap Pointer Control.
After entering the Pointer Control area in the Accessibility settings, you are presented with a few more options. Here are the areas that you can adjust:
- Increase Contrast: Makes cursor darker and less transparent
- Automatically Hide Pointer: Select the length of delay before the pointer disappears.
- Color: Change the color of the cursor itself.
- Pointer Size: Adjust the size of the cursor.
- Pointer Animations: Toggle animations for the cursor altogether.
- Scrolling Speed: Slider to choose how fast or scroll you want to scroll.
Which apps take advantage of these new features?
As is the case with many new features, there is a bit of delay between when Apple makes it available, and when the developer implements it. For many apps, you will notice that the cursor automatically snaps into place when necessary, or transforms based on what you’re working with.
But as of late, more apps have been integrating the new cursor settings to a point where new updates have been unveiled. Here are the few updates that have been updated to take advantage of the new mouse and trackpad controls.
In previous iterations of Darkroom, you were limited to using either your finger or Apple Pencil to edit your photos. With version 4.5.5, Darkroom now lets you make the same edits with the help of your trackpad or mouse. As an added bonus, this version also reduces the amount of memory used by the app, with the hope of reducing potential crashes.
Unsurprisingly, Brett Terpstra’s NetNewsWire was compatible with the new pointer features from 13.4. You’ll get the basic button and text selection options automatically but there is also support for trackpad gestures. This includes swiping with two fingers to show actions that can be taken for specific articles in your RSS feed.
At first glance, this is just an app to listen to Irish radio stations, but Broadcasts is much more than that. You can add just about any radio station, while featuring drag-and-drop for episode artwork. And the interface works automatically with the new features, as the cursor instantly snaps to various parts of the interfaces.
Fantastical has been a favorite of mine to keep track of calendars for years. I’ve tried other apps and have always come crawling back. With the latest update, you can see why as the developers added cursor support for iPad users. Just move your cursor over various dates and aspects of the app, and see the cursor snap to the selection, while highlighting the dates.
If you need to control a remote desktop, Screens 4 is arguably the best way to do so. Previous iterations forced you to stick with using the Apple Pencil or your finger while interacting with your remote desktop. With the update to version 4.9.13, mouse and trackpad support has arrived, including support for left/right clicking, drag and drop, and scrolling (provided you have a Magic Trackpad 2). With Screens you can make your iPad really feel like a complete Mac replacement.
Surprisingly, Apple waited a little bit after the launch of 13.4 to bring support to some of its own apps. But the latest version of Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and iMovie all bring full mouse and trackpad support. This is sure to make editing your documents and movies even easier with the iPad then ever before.
You may notice that there is no specific mention of any text editors here. That’s because Apple has done a great job at integrating this automatically for many apps. So when you hover the trackpad cursor over some text, the cursor transforms into the text line that you are accustomed to seeing. Apps like Drafts, and Ulysses already take advantage of this out of the box. We are hoping to see more updates in the future come with gesture support so you can access different aspects of apps more easily.
When you first start tinkering around with various applications, don’t be surprised if there is already functionality with the new cursor. Many third-party apps support some of the new features out of the box, but there are some limitations such as gestures.
Now that 13.4 is in the hands of developers, we expect to continue seeing updates released which take full advantage of the gestures. Let us know what you think about these new gestures and what you hope to see from some of your favorite apps.
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.