What's the difference between Universal Control and Sidecar
What's the difference between Universal Control and Sidecar

There are two separate features on Mac and iPad: Sidecar and Universal Control. Both allow you to conveniently use two devices together, but they work differently.

In this article, we will tell you all about the Universal Control feature and how it differs from the Sidecar feature that has been available since 2019.

What is the essence of the Universal Control function?

iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3, which are currently in beta testing, include Universal Control to control multiple Macs and iPads with a single mouse and keyboard.

With Universal Control, you can use the same cursor and keyboard to control both Mac and iPad at the same time. This way you can manage multiple Macs or a laptop and a tablet. To do this, the devices must be a maximum of 10 meters apart.

How is Universal Control different from Sidecar?

The Universal Control feature allows you to use one mouse and cursor on multiple Macs or Macs and iPads. For example, the trackpad and keyboard of your MacBook Pro can be controlled by your iPad. Using the iPad, you can also control a laptop if a keyboard is connected to the tablet.

The Sidecar feature works differently. It only allows you to use the iPad as an additional display for Mac. The iPad screen can mirror the contents of the Mac screen, or it can be turned into a second screen with extra space. The Universal Control feature does not stop iPad into an external monitor for Mac. If you want to cast content from your Mac screen to iPad, you will need the Sidecar feature.

Due to the fact that the Universal Control function combines two different operating systems (macOS and iPadOS), there are some nuances. For example, when dragging a photo from a Mac to an iPad, on the tablet, you first need to open the Photos app. You can’t add an image directly to the iPad home screen.

Sidecar turns iPad into an external monitor for Mac. With this feature, you can drag application windows from Mac to iPad and vice versa. You can interact with two screens using the Mac trackpad.

Features and limitations of Universal Control

The Universal Control function does not need to be configured, it works automatically. However, there are still a couple of options, and you can also turn it off. In the current beta, you can disable the option to connect the cursor from your Mac to other Macs and iPads nearby. You can also prevent your computer from connecting to devices it has previously connected to.

You need at least one Mac to use Universal Control. It can’t be used on just two iPads. However, the feature supports multiple Macs without using an iPad. There are no more device restrictions. With Universal Control, you can only share your mouse/trackpad and keyboard between multiple devices. It does not support Apple Pencil, etc.

With the Sidecar feature, you can use your Apple Pencil as an alternative to your mouse for clicks, highlights, and more. When using the function, the stylus essentially turns into a mouse or trackpad.

In programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, the ‌Apple Pencil‌ can do even more. You can draw with a stylus in programs, i.e. feature turns your iPad into a graphics tablet for Mac.

The Sidecar feature can also display the Touch Bar at the bottom of the iPad screen, just like on a MacBook Pro. Even if your Mac doesn’t have this panel, you can still add it to your iPad.

side car universal control
  • Turns iPad into an additional monitor for Mac.
  • Can stream content to iPad from Mac.
  • Expands the screen space of macOS.
  • Supports Apple Pencil as an input device.
  • Lets you add the Touch Bar to the iPad screen.
  • Needs to be configured manually.
  • Supports connecting only one iPad.
  • Allows you to manage multiple Macs and iPads.
  • Supports both macOS and iPadOS.
  • There are restrictions on dragging and dropping files.
  • Does not support Apple Pencil.
  • Requires at least one Mac.
  • Does not support macOS trackpad gestures on iPad.
  • Works automatically.
  • Wireless connection only.


Sidecar or Universal Control – what to choose?

Which function to use depends on your goals. If you want to expand your macOS desktop space without needing to use iPadOS, Sidecar is the better choice. If you want to use Apple Pencil and iPad to draw in Mac programs, this is also the only option.



If you want to control multiple Macs and iPads with one mouse and keyboard, you need the Universal Control feature.

If you have enough tablets and computers, you can use the Sidecar and Universal Control functions at the same time for maximum productivity. For example, you can connect your Mac to one iPad using Sidecar and another iPad or Mac using Universal Control.


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