Apple has finally brought a cursor to the iPad, but not in the traditional sense. It’s a small, translucent gray circle that morphs into buttons and disappears when you don’t need it. Here’s everything you need to know!
It Works with Any Bluetooth Mouse or Trackpad
You don’t have to buy Apple’s new floating Magic Keyboard case with the built-in trackpad or Logitech’s new Combo Touch keyboard case to access the cursor. As long as you’re iPad or iPad Pro is running iPadOS 13.4 or later, you can get this feature.
All you have to do is supply your own Bluetooth mouse or trackpad. Apple’s Magic Mouse and Trackpad work best (the Magic Trackpad supports some extra gestures). However, you can connect any old PC mouse and get the full functionality.
Head over to the Bluetooth section in “Settings” and pair your mouse or trackpad just as you would with a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
It’s There When You Need It
The first thing you’ll notice about the cursor is it disappears after a couple of seconds. This is so it won’t distract you when you’re trying to read or watch something.
If you want the cursor to remain visible, you can turn off this feature; just navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Automatically Hide Pointer.
It Morphs, For Real
The new cursor disappears in more ways than one. When you hover over a UI element, the cursor actually morphs over the button. It has a neat transition effect when it changes from a gray circle to a gray background for the button over which you’re hovering.
It even has a subtle parallax effect as you move the cursor on top of the button (similar to the navigation of apps on the Apple TV Home screen). This way you don’t have to be precise with the controls and Apple doesn’t have to convert a bunch of big buttons.
If you find the animations too time-consuming or flashy, go to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Pointer Animations to turn them off.
It Makes Text Editing a Hell of a Lot Easier
One of the biggest frustrations with the iPad (or any touchscreen device) is editing text. Apple tried to make things better with new swipe gestures and drag and drop, but nothing works quite as well as a traditional cursor.
And finally, it’s here! When you hover over text, the cursor circle transforms into a familiar text-selection line. From there, just click and drag on the text to select it.
You can click the highlighted text and move the cursor to drag it, or right-click for copying and sharing options.
You Can Right-Click on an iPad
iPad Pro owners have wanted a right-click option for a long time. Finally, you can now access instant context menus on the iPad! Just right-click a link and boom! You see the context menu from which you can open the link in the background.
You can do this in all Apple apps, or even on the Home screen. Third-party app developers will also be able to make use of this new feature and add context menus to more places.
Yes, You Can Control iPadOS via a Mouse or Trackpad
You can use the cursor to do basically everything you used to do with your finger on the iPad. Now, though, it’s much faster with a mouse or trackpad. One click of your mouse or one tap on a trackpad will unlock your iPad, and a second click or tap from the bottom of the screen will unlock it.
And that’s where it gets really interesting. Apple has turned all the swipe gestures into what we can only describe as jam-gestures. Want to bring down the Notification Center? Jam the cursor to the top of the screen and keep pushing up.
You can do the same thing to the right edge of the screen to bring up the Slide Over window.
Keep going to the bottom of the screen and up pops the App Dock. A click on the Home bar (on iPads with Face ID and no Home button) takes you to the Home screen. Click, hold, or drag upward to get to the App Switcher.
From the Dock, you can click an app icon, and then drag it left or right to add it to Split View.
When you want to open the Control Center, just click the status bar icons in the top-right corner.
You can now control the vast majority of iPadOS with a mouse or trackpad. There are still some edge cases, like horizontal scrolling the Home screen pages, that need some work, though.
Extra Trackpad Gestures
If you attach a Magic Trackpad 2 or use a case with a built-in trackpad, you get access to the following additional gestures:
- Swipe up with three fingers: Return to the Home screen.
- Swipe up with three fingers and hold: Open the App Switcher.
- Swipe left or right with three fingers: Switch between apps.
- Pinch in: Close an app and go to the Home screen.
Change the Tracking Speed or Scroll Direction
As we used the new cursor with the Magic Mouse 2 and a Logitech MX Master 2s, we found the tracking speed to be a tad slow. Thankfully, you can adjust it to better suit your needs.
After connecting your Bluetooth mouse or trackpad, go to Settings > General > Trackpad and Mouse. Then, drag the “Tracking Speed” slider right (toward the rabbit icon) for some superfast cursor action.
While you’re here, you might also want to take a look at the “Natural Scrolling” option. It’s been on the Mac for more than five years, and now Apple has brought it to the iPad.
“Natural Scrolling” mimics the touch experience, so when you scroll up with your mouse, you actually scroll down onscreen. You can disable this if you just want it to go up when you scroll up.
Customize Everything About the Cursor
You can change the behavior of the cursor in a lot of other ways, too. For example, you can increase the scrolling speed or contrast, or even add a colored border to the cursor.
Head over to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control to experiment with these options.
The new cursor feature is built on top of the old AssistiveTouch mouse pointer feature. If you want to add new functionality to the extra buttons on your mouse, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch.
For instance, you can customize the scroll button to open the App Switcher. We’ve highlighted how to use the AssistiveTouch section here.