Sidecar : the iPad becomes an external display for the Mac

In the series of the small new features of macOS Catalina, here are a Sidecar. No, we’re not going to talk about motorcycles, even if Apple glue the wheels to the Mac Pro. Sidecar allows you to use the iPad as an external screen, how Duet Display or Luna Display, and even as a graphics tablet with the Apple Pencil. A funny coupling, which blurs the boundaries between the different devices, but turns out to be surprisingly useful.

IPad as external display to a Mac with Sidecar.

Have you already handled the screen of your Mac from your iPad, using an application such as Screens ? You have used, perhaps without knowing it, a VNC connection. Well Sidecar… is not a connection to the VNC. Sidecar is rather an extension of the monitor AirPlay : it can’t be enabled from the iPad that you want to use as a screen, but must be enabled from the Mac that it wants to deport the display.

In other words, the Sidecar will not replace Screens to control a Mac mini stashed in a closet. But it will replace the Duet Display to extend the display of a MacBook Pro placed on your desktop. If your MacBook Pro is compatible with this new feature, at least. Only machines with the most recent, those whose graphics chips are capable of decoding a stream HEVC, are compatible with Sidecar :

  • MacBook from the model beginning in 2016 ;

  • MacBook Air, 2018 ;

  • MacBook Pro for the 2016 model ;

  • Mac mini 2018 ;

  • iMac 27″ from the template to the end of 2015 ;

  • iMac Pro 2017 ;

  • and the Mac Pro 2019.

A command line allows you to enable Sidecar on a few older models — but since the processor will have to manage the display, get ready to hear the fans, and especially inveighing against downturns. In this case, we advise you rather use the little dongle of Luna Display, which keep his interest by offering similar functions without putting the processor flat.

Sidecar in the system Preferences.

Since there it is the result of the monitor AirPlay, Sidecar works with, but also without a cable. According to our first tests, carried out with a 15″ MacBook Pro connected first to a iPad Pro with 12.9″ and then the iPad 6, it’s better to use a cable. The connection is more stable, the display is more fluid, and the iPad is recharged to the passage.

But Sidecar is not just a monitor AirPlay, and the iPad is not simply an external screen, which can copy or extend the display of the Mac. The screen is framed by two bars :

  • a sidebar to the left or to the right depending on your preferences, which makes fall the controls under the thumb. At the center, the modifier keys (, , and , that you can lock to connect the shortcuts with a double tap). At the bottom is a shortcut to Cancel, a button to open or close the virtual keyboard, and a button to close the session Sidecar. Finally, a high, a button that is very convenient in extended mode, which allows you to display the Dock on the iPad screen.

  • a horizontal bar at the top or bottom depending on your preferences, which is nothing other than the Touch Bar. When it is positioned at the bottom, its handling is particularly nice, since it adds a touch esc and a row of function keys on the Smart Keyboard.

Simply touch the buttons at the top of the sidebar to make it appear and disappear from the Dock.

The iPad can be used like any external monitor, with the keyboard and the trackpad of the Mac. But it can also be used (almost) like a MacBook touch : the Smart Keyboard or the virtual keyboard to type, two fingers to scroll as on the trackpad, and the Apple Pencil to point and click. Only limit, you can’t directly manipulate the items in the finger, but the interface of macOS does not.

Since the Apple Pencil is managed as a mouse, and all the applications are “compatible” with Sidecar. Developers of applications of graphic design can, however, use the Tablet Events to manage the pressure and the orientation of the Apple Pencil, and even assign functions to the “double tap” on the body of the pen. The following applications provide a good example of this advanced care, which transforms the iPad into a graphics tablet :

  • Affinity Designer.

  • Affinity Photo ;

  • Cinema 4D ;

  • CorelDRAW

  • DaVinci Resolve ;

  • Final Cut Pro ;

  • Illustrator ;

  • Maya ;

  • Motion ;

  • Painter ;

  • Principle ;

  • Sketch ;

  • Substance Designer ;

  • Substance Painter ;

  • ZBrush.

The menulet Sidecar, still since the iPad. Notice, at the bottom, the suggestions for action in the Touch Bar.

While you use the iPad as a screen, iOS still runs in the background. This causes a few moments of floating : when you receive a message for example, you will see two notifications, one from the Mac through Sidecar and that of the iPad. Apple should be able to optimize the operation of a Sidecar, after all, macOS Catalina will not be finalized before this fall.