How to Use Your iPad With a Trackpad or Mouse

Illustration to article titled Using Your iPad with a Trackpad or Mouse

Statue: Apple

Apple is promoting its iPads as laptop substitutes for a long time – with docks and split screen views and drag-and-drop operations – and the latest push comes with the arrival of iPadOS 13.4 and the right support for mice and trackpads. Any iPad that can run iPadOS 13.4 can now also work with a mouse or trackpad.

While pointing device support was previously available in iPadOS, it didn’t work particularly well and was hidden on the Accessibility Settings page. With the arrival of the latest iPad Pros and the new trackpad carrying Magic keyboard, it is now much more capable and much more easily accessible.

You need an iPad keyboard with a trackpad (options from third parties available), or a Bluetooth mouse or a standalone Bluetooth trackpad, apparently. You will also need to update to iPadOS 13.4. You then have to open Settings, tap Bluetoothand start the pairing process for your device: turn on the peripheral, turn on pairing mode, select it from the list and you should be done.

Cursor support should start almost immediately – this is one of the major improvements in iPadOS 13.4 over previous versions. The cursor appears on the screen as a gray circle and you can immediately start clicking or tapping to select anything on the screen, be it an app icon or a menu item.

Pointer options with mouse connected.

Pointer options with mouse connected.
Screenshot: Gizmodo

Click and drag is the equivalent of scrolling, and so is a scrolling gesture (for example, with a two-finger gesture on a trackpad or via a scroll wheel on your mouse). If you want to test this, open something like Apple Maps and see how to move around the map. A long click or tap is the same as a long press of a finger.

Move the cursor to the bottom of the screen to open the Dock; hover it over the home indicator (yes that’s its official name) to highlight it, and then you can move it sideways to jump between apps or click on it to go to the home screen. Move the cursor to the top right corner, click on the battery and network status indicator and the Control Center will appear.

It’s the same in the other corner: highlight the time and date in the top left corner with the cursor, click or tap once and the notification center will appear. Meanwhile, you can also use your mouse and trackpad on the lock screen.

You will see that Apple has changed the cursor well as it moves over different parts of the interface. For example, move it over a button and it expands; hover over the app icons on the home screen and the icons get bigger; hover over text and the cursor changes again. You can continue to use the touchscreen even if you have connected a mouse or trackpad.

iPadOS can report on the battery level of your peripherals.

iPadOS can report on the battery level of your peripherals.
Screenshot: Gizmodo

If you stop using your pointing device for a few seconds, the cursor disappears. To make it reappear, simply communicate again with the connected mouse or trackpad. Open Settings and choose Accessibility thereafter Pointer control, and you can adjust the cursor (contrast, color, size, scrolling speed and more).

If you have an input device with several buttons on it, you can customize how it works: tap AssistiveTouch settings at the bottom of the pointer control screen, then choose your device and make your selection. Different buttons can be assigned different functions, from opening the Control Center to repeating a long press.

More customization options can be found if you open General in Settings and choose Trackpad and mouse (or just Trackpad). In this screen you can set options, such as whether right click is enabled on a mouse, and in which direction you want to scroll. The tracking speed can also be adjusted from this screen.

You can check the battery life if you have a mouse, trackpad or keyboard connected via Bluetooth. You need to put the battery widget on your iPad via the Edit button at the bottom of the Today view on the home screen (swipe in from the left if you can’t see the widgets column).

You can customize mouse and trackpad buttons if necessary.

You can customize mouse and trackpad buttons if necessary.
Screenshot: Gizmodo

You will discover all kinds of small shortcuts and tricks along the way. You can open the app switcher by swiping and holding three fingers on a trackpad, or, for example, clicking and dragging the home indicator with a mouse. Click (or tap) and drag to rearrange icons on the home screen.

If you have a keyboard attached, you can use the same keyboard shortcuts you might know from macOS, so if you use the Ctrl key and then click or tap on a link in Safari, you will get the context menu which allows you to copy the link or load it on a background tab.

Text editing is made easier with a trackpad or mouse, as you can imagine: you can select words and sentences more precisely and move elements if you have a good pointing device. All of the usual touchscreen shortcuts are transferred, so you can double-click a mouse or double-tap a trackpad to select a word (the same as double-tap the touchscreen).

Apple is slowly ticking off the reasons why you can’t use your iPad as a laptop: this mouse and trackpad support means far more precision when working with text, surfing the web or editing images compared to using your finger on it prick the screen. The way the new features are implemented is actually really smart, and you’ll find yourself going there often when you plug in a peripheral (although perhaps not in most games).


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