Continuity properties are some of my favorites ever. You know, those that let you easily move between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad. Like AirDrop a video, or copy some text from one device to another. So if all Apple had done this year, a Continuity Display feature was created where you could easily expand or mirror your Mac screen on the iPad, I would have been the first ice cream day at the summer level happy and called that day.
But, what Apple has actually given us in MacOS Catalina is Sidecar, and there's a lot more. Well, hold on again. In some ways, Sidecar is just the continuity screen feature many of us want for a while now. It basically only makes iPad an extended desktop or mirrored desktop for your Mac.
Sidecar Mirroring & Extending
Just click on Monitors in the Mac menu bar, or click and hold the green traffic light in the upper left of any window and you are on Sidecar. It works wired or wireless. You can use a USB A to Quick Cable for older Macs and iPads, or USB-C to USB-C to the latest, or anything in between, depending on your current equipment.
When plugged in, the iPad will charge. But when you're wireless, you're free. It works like most other continuity functions. Bluetooth LE handles discovery and handshaking, your Apple ID and proximity handle authentication and security, and Wi-Fi handles move all data back and forth.
My understanding is that it works by tapping video and writing back and forth from Mac to iPad, including using Apple's custom built-in HEVC code decoding blocks to accelerate on iPad and on the T2 chip on Macs equipped with them. .
And yes that means you can pick up your iPad and walk around with it if you want, even if you are currently limited to 10 feet or about 30 feet. But it should be enough to get to a sofa, balcony or sun lounger in the immediate vicinity.
In mirror mode, what you see on your Mac is what you get on the iPad. As simple as that. You can use it if you – or anyone else – literally get your Mac in your hands … or just tilt a screen in a different way.
In Extended mode, your iPad works just like an external monitor. You can enter a Mac app or any Mac app window you want there. So you can put two different Safari windows on the two different screens to compare them, group all your productivity or creative applications on the main Mac screen and all your chat and info apps on the iPad screen. You can put your main edit window on your Mac screen and all your pallets on your iPad screen. You can even set the menu bar and Dock on each screen, whatever you want.
Surely, you can use basic multitouch gestures if you really want or want. need to. Swipe, scroll and squeeze to zoom, the old chestnut. And you can also use the new iOS 13 multitouch editing movements. Three fingers to copy, cut, paste, undo or repeat.
But get the Apple pencil for an iPad that supports it and you can do just about anything. It's as precise as a mouse, but far more natural and manipulable.
Apple has built-in continuity support for Markup and Sketch in Notes. So you can drag a PDF over from Mac, fill it out using pencil on the iPad, and then send it back.
Or you can choose Insert from iPad> Add sketch, draw a chart, map, or, you know, Batman, add some handwriting, then click Done and drop it right into your document.
Sure, you can do all that directly on the iPad, no Mac or Sidecar needed. But if you're already using your Mac, if it's already where the content is, if you're in the middle of a big multi-app project, it's just a very convenient … convenience to have available.
Where Sidecar surpasses convenience and becomes a necessity is when using applications that do not run directly on the iPad. As complete on Photoshop and Illustrator, Cinema 4D and Maya, Final Cut Pro X and Motion. Basically, all apps that already support tablets like Wacom automatically support Sidecar. And that's phenomenal.
Mostly because I used Wacom Intuos and Cintiq boards for years when I was still working on design. And Sidecar feels just like that, only better, because no digitization layer, not air gap, no object and an Apple pencil that goes from an already excellent 20-millisecond latency down to a straight-up stupefying 9 milliseconds with this fall's iPadOS update.
Since context swapping sucks, Apple has also added a few tools on the screen to minimize the number of times you have to go back to the Mac keyboard.
First, a sidebar that gives you easy access to your Common modification keys – command, option, control and shift. It is also to regret, right there, and an overly easy to change menu, dock and keyboard hides on or off.
The second is a touchline. Yes, just like the MacBook Pro, but you don't need a MacBook Pro to get the touchline on Sidecar. It appears for every Mac. On it you will find buttons for tappable buttons for common shortcuts and functions, no matter what the app thinks is most important to make it most accessible at any time.
Again, so you can just press them with pencil instead of having to run back to the keyboard. Really time-saving, very slim.
To continue …
Now Sidecar does not make any third-party video card or VNC or Remote desktop application, including support for Windows and work on Macs that do not I do not have a primary display. So you can't use it with your Mac mini or old or upcoming Mac Pro.
But that does what Apple tends to do with new baseline OS features – providing the baseline OS feature with ease and integration that tends to come only from Apple.
Read full MacOS Catalina Preview