How to Use Sidecar - Turn Your iPad into a Mac Display [2024]

How to Use Sidecar - Turn Your iPad into a Mac Display [2024]

With Sidecar, you can transform your iPad into a second display for your Mac, boosting your productivity and creating a seamless computing experience. This comprehensive guide will walk you through setting up Sidecar, customizing your workspace, and leveraging advanced features to unlock the full potential of this powerful tool.

What You Need to Get Started

To use Sidecar, you'll need a compatible Mac and iPad running the latest software versions.

Compatible Mac Models

  • MacBook Pro (2016 and later)
  • MacBook (2016 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2018 and later)
  • iMac (Late 2015 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • Mac mini (2018 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2019)

Compatible iPad Models

  • iPad Pro (all models)
  • iPad (6th generation and later)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later)

Software Requirements

  • Mac: macOS Catalina 10.15 or later
  • iPad: iPadOS 13 or later

Ensure both your Mac and iPad are updated to the latest software versions for optimal Sidecar performance and compatibility.

Setting Up Sidecar: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Initial Setup

  1. Enable Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff on both devices:

    • On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth and ensure Bluetooth is turned on.
    • On your iPad, go to Settings > Bluetooth and turn on Bluetooth.
    • On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Wi-Fi and connect to a Wi-Fi network.
    • On your iPad, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and connect to the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac.
    • On your Mac, go to System Preferences > General and check that "Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices" is enabled.
      turn on handoff on mac
    • On your iPad, go to Settings > General > Handoff and turn on Handoff.
      turn on handoff on ipad
  2. Sign in with the same Apple ID on both devices:

    • On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Apple ID and ensure you're signed in with your Apple ID.
    • On your iPad, go to Settings > [Your Name] and ensure you're signed in with the same Apple ID as your Mac.
      check apple id

Enabling Sidecar

  1. Connect your iPad to your Mac:

    • If using a wired connection, connect your iPad to your Mac using a USB-C or Lightning cable.
    • If using a wireless connection, ensure your iPad and Mac are within 10 meters (30 feet) of each other.
  2. Enable Sidecar on your Mac:

    • Go to System Preferences > Sidecar, or click the AirPlay icon in the menu bar and select your iPad from the list.
    • If prompted, click "Connect" to approve the connection request on your iPad.
      enable sidecard on mac
  3. Configure Sidecar settings (optional):

    • In System Preferences > Sidecar, you can customize settings like showing the Touch Bar, sidebar position, and enabling Apple Pencil double-tap.
      condigure sidecar settings on mac

Your iPad should now be set up as a second display for your Mac. You can drag windows between displays, use Apple Pencil for input, and access Mac apps on your iPad.

Connecting Your iPad to Your Mac

Connecting Wirelessly

  1. Make sure both your Mac and iPad are signed in with the same Apple ID and have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on.

  2. On your Mac, go to the Control Center (top right menu bar) > Click the Display icon > Select "Connect to" and choose your iPad from the list.

  3. Alternatively, click the AirPlay icon in the menu bar and select your iPad.

  4. Your iPad will now extend or mirror your Mac's display wirelessly. Keep the devices within 10 meters for best performance.

Connecting with a Cable

For a more stable wired connection:

  1. Connect your iPad to your Mac using a USB-C or Lightning cable.

  2. Your iPad should automatically appear as an extended or mirrored display option in the Display menu in Control Center or AirPlay menu.

Accessing Through System Preferences

You can also access and configure Sidecar through System Preferences:

  1. On your Mac, go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Sidecar.

  2. Select your iPad from the list and choose display settings like extending the desktop or mirroring.

  3. You can enable the Touch Bar, show the sidebar, and other options here as well.

The wired connection provides a more reliable experience by charging your iPad and reducing lag or dropped connections compared to wireless.

Customizing Your Sidecar Experience

The sidebar on your iPad provides quick access to common Mac controls like the menu bar, Dock, keyboard, and modifier keys (Command, Option, Control, Shift). You can show/hide the sidebar and position it on the left or right side of the iPad screen from the Sidecar settings.

The Touch Bar appears at the bottom or top of your iPad, displaying contextual controls based on the active Mac app. Even if your Mac doesn't have a physical Touch Bar, you'll see these controls on the iPad.

Mirroring vs Extended Display

By default, Sidecar extends your Mac's desktop to the iPad, treating it as a separate display. However, you can also mirror your Mac's display on the iPad by clicking the AirPlay icon and selecting "Use as Mirror Display". This is useful for presentations or sharing your Mac's screen.

Adjusting Settings

You can customize various Sidecar settings from System Preferences (or System Settings on macOS Ventura) > Sidecar:

  • Show Sidebar: Position it on the left, right, or turn it off
  • Show Touch Bar: Display it on the bottom or top, or disable it
  • Enable double tap on Apple Pencil: Allow apps to perform custom actions when double-tapping the Apple Pencil

    Additionally, you can arrange the iPad display relative to your Mac's display for a seamless experience when moving windows between them.

    Advanced Sidecar Features and Tips

    Using Apple Pencil with Sidecar

    Sidecar allows you to take full advantage of the Apple Pencil for enhanced productivity on your iPad when used as a second display. Here are some tips:

    • You can use the Apple Pencil to select, scroll, and annotate content on your iPad just like you would with your finger or mouse on the Mac.
    • Double-tapping the Apple Pencil allows you to quickly switch between tools in apps like PDF Expert.
    • You can adjust the intensity and double-tap configurations for the Apple Pencil in the app settings.
    • Apps like Affinity Designer let you draw and illustrate directly on the iPad screen using the precision of the Apple Pencil.
    use apple pencil with sidecar

    Using Photoshop with Sidecar

    You can utilize your iPad as a drawing tablet for Photoshop on your MacBook by utilizing a feature known as Sidecar. Sidecar enables you to extend your Mac desktop onto your iPad, essentially transforming it into a second display or a drawing tablet. To utilize your iPad as a drawing tablet for Photoshop on your MacBook, follow these steps:
    • Ensure that your iPad and MacBook are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and logged in to the same Apple ID.
    • On your MacBook, click on the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, then select "System Preferences."
    • In System Preferences, click on "Displays" and then select the "Arrangement" tab.
    • You should see an option to enable Sidecar in this menu. Click on it to connect your iPad to your MacBook.
    • On your iPad, you should see a sidebar pop up on the left side of the screen. You can choose to mirror your MacBook display or use it as an extended desktop.
    • Open Photoshop on your MacBook, and you can now use your Apple Pencil or your finger on the iPad to draw directly onto the Photoshop canvas.

    Please note that Sidecar requires a Mac running macOS Catalina or later and an iPad running iPadOS 13 or later. Additionally, not all features of Photoshop may be fully supported when using Sidecar, so you may want to experiment to see what works best for your workflow.

      Gesture Controls and Keyboard Shortcuts

      Sidecar provides a Touch Bar and sidebar on the iPad for quick access to controls and shortcuts:

      • The sidebar shows icons for showing/hiding the menu bar, Dock, and keyboard on the iPad display.
      • You can tap modifier keys like Command, Option, etc. in the sidebar to use keyboard shortcuts.
      • The Touch Bar displays app-specific controls that change based on the active app.
      • If your iPad supports multi-touch gestures, you can use them to navigate, zoom, and perform actions.

      Managing Your Second Display

      To get the most out of Sidecar's second display functionality:

      • Use the "Extend Desktop" mode to spread out app windows across both displays for increased workspace.
      • Mirror your Mac's display onto the iPad when you need to share your work or operate your Mac remotely.
      • Arrange and position the displays side-by-side or stacked using System Preferences for an optimal layout.
      • Set up keyboard shortcuts and customize the Touch Bar for quick access to frequent actions.
      • Manage display settings like resolution, brightness, and orientation from your Mac's System Preferences.

      By leveraging the unique capabilities of the iPad and Apple Pencil alongside traditional mouse/keyboard input, Sidecar can significantly boost your productivity across creative and productivity workflows.

      Troubleshooting Common Sidecar Issues

      Checking Compatibility

      Ensure your Mac and iPad meet the compatibility requirements for Sidecar:

      • Mac: MacBook Pro introduced in 2016 or later, MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later, iMac Pro, iMac introduced in 2017 or later, Mac mini introduced in 2018 or later, Mac Pro introduced in 2019 or later
      • iPad: iPad Pro, iPad (6th generation or later), iPad mini (5th generation or later), iPad Air (3rd generation or later)
      • Both devices must be signed in with the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication
      • macOS Catalina 10.15 or later on the Mac, and iPadOS 13 or later on the iPad

      Restarting Devices

      A simple restart can often resolve Sidecar connectivity issues. Restart both your Mac and iPad, then try enabling Sidecar again.

      Ensuring Proper Connections

      Make sure your Mac and iPad are on the same Wi-Fi network and within Bluetooth range (about 30 feet). Sidecar requires both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

      Checking for Updates

      Update to the latest macOS and iPadOS versions to ensure you have the latest Sidecar improvements and bug fixes.

      If iPad Doesn't Show in AirPlay Menu

      If your iPad isn't showing up in the AirPlay menu on your Mac:

      • Make sure Sidecar is enabled on your iPad (Settings > General > AirPlay & Handoff)
      • Check that your iPad has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled
      • Sign out of your Apple ID on both devices, then sign back in

      Fixing Lag or Disconnects

      If you experience lag or disconnects with Sidecar:

      • Move your iPad closer to your Mac
      • Close any unnecessary apps on both devices
      • Connect your iPad to your Mac using a cable instead of wireless

        If issues persist after trying these steps, you may need to reset the NVRAM/PRAM on your Mac or contact Apple Support for further assistance.

        Creative Uses of Sidecar

        Sidecar is a powerful feature that allows you to use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac. Here are some creative ways to maximize productivity and transform your workflow using Sidecar:

        Decluttering Your Main Display

        One of the best uses of Sidecar is to declutter your main display by moving tool palettes, reference materials, or secondary apps to the iPad screen. This keeps your primary workspace clean and focused on your main canvas or project.

        For example, video editors can use Sidecar to preview footage in Final Cut Pro while keeping the editing timeline on the main display. Graphic designers can move tool panels to the iPad, leaving more space for artboards on the Mac.

        Using Apple Pencil for Tablet Input

        Sidecar enables using the Apple Pencil for precise tablet input within Mac apps for the first time. This is a game-changer for creative professionals like digital artists, designers, and architects who can now sketch, draw, and mark up directly on the iPad while using powerful desktop software on the Mac.

        Multitasking and Reference Materials

        With an extended desktop, you can keep reference materials like websites, documents, or inspiration images open on the iPad while working on your main project on the Mac. This streamlines your workflow by eliminating constant window switching and improves multitasking.

        Portable Second Display

        Sidecar turns your iPad into a portable second display that you can take anywhere. This is incredibly useful for working on the go, whether at a coffee shop, during a commute, or while traveling.

        The Sidecar sidebar provides quick access to modifier keys like Command, Control, Shift, and Option right on the iPad. The Touch Bar at the bottom offers app-specific controls, even if your Mac doesn't have a physical Touch Bar.

        In summary, Sidecar opens up new possibilities for creative professionals, enhances multitasking, declutters your workspace, and provides a portable second display for increased productivity anywhere.


        Sidecar is a game-changing feature that seamlessly integrates your iPad with your Mac, providing a versatile second display and enabling new levels of productivity and creativity. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can unlock the full potential of Sidecar and elevate your workflow like never before.

        Experiment with different settings, leverage the Apple Pencil for precise input, and explore creative use cases to find the setup that works best for you. Remember, the key is to declutter your main display, multitask efficiently, and take advantage of the portability and touch capabilities that Sidecar offers.

        If you encounter any issues or have additional questions, feel free to leave a comment below. And don't forget to share your Sidecar experiences with others – who knows, you might inspire someone to embark on their own productivity journey!


        What Macs and iPads support Sidecar?

        Macs from 2016 or later running macOS Catalina (10.15) or newer support Sidecar, including Intel-based and Apple Silicon Macs. Supported iPads include iPad Pro, iPad 6th generation and later, iPad mini 5th generation and later, and iPad Air 3rd generation and later.

        How do I set up Sidecar?

        1. Sign in to both your Mac and iPad with the same Apple ID
        2. Connect the Mac and iPad using a USB-C or Lightning cable
        3. In the AirPlay menu on your Mac, select your iPad and choose "Use As Separate Display" or "Mirror"
        4. Additional settings can be adjusted in System Preferences > Displays

        Can I use Sidecar with different Apple IDs?

        No, both devices must be signed in with the same Apple ID to use Sidecar. Managed Apple IDs are not supported.

        Does Apple Pencil work with Sidecar?

        Yes, all generations of Apple Pencil are supported depending on the iPad model. The Pencil provides pressure sensitivity in drawing apps like Photoshop and Pixelmator.

        What apps work with Sidecar?

        Full desktop versions of apps work with Sidecar, allowing you to use the iPad screen and Apple Pencil. Apps like Photoshop, Pixelmator, and Illustrator work seamlessly with pressure sensitivity enabled.

        How do I troubleshoot Sidecar issues?

        • Ensure both devices are signed in with the same Apple ID
        • Make sure your Mac and iPad meet the system requirements
        • Check that your iPad is not locked or in Do Not Disturb mode
        • Try reconnecting the devices with the cable
        • Restart both devices if needed

        If you continue to have issues, contact Apple Support for further assistance.


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