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Learn how mouse support can change the way you use your iPad

When Apple announced iPadOS earlier this month, none of the company mentioned an important new feature: mouse support. Apple certainly has good reasons to bring users' attention to the touch interface, but the ability to use a mouse can fundamentally change how users work on the iPad Pro. Here's how it works and how to get started.

First, you must run the public beta version of iPadOS 13, which is now available for installation by all users. (This also works technically on iOS 13, if you really want to use a mouse on your iPhone.) The usual reservations regarding beta software are: It is currently a super buggy. So do not try this on a primary computer unless you have a good reason, and make sure you back it up first.

Next, you need to enable mouse support because it is disabled by default and buried in the Accessibility menu. The feature is an extension of AssistiveTouch that has been on iOS for many years and is most often used as a floating start button on the screen. Follow these steps:

  • Open the App Settings
  • Go to Accessibility
  • Go to Touch in the Physical and Motor section
  • Enable the AssistiveTouch switch
  • Go to pointing devices

At this point, your pointing device must be operational. You can use a mouse via Bluetooth or USB. If you use the former, make sure it is paired. I had no problem getting my Logitech MX Master up and running. Assuming you do not have a USB C mouse nearby, you will need a USB A-C adapter to connect a standard wired mouse directly to the USB-C port on the iPad Pro. I tried a Mad Catz RAT and the tracking actually felt smoother than the Logitech. It's possible that wired mice will work better with the faster refresh rates on Apple's ProMotion displays, but I'm not sure.

I also tested Apple's Magic Trackpad and it worked fine on a USB C to Lightning cable, but I could not find a way to pair it wirelessly. I'll also say that the cognitive dissonance, using a touch surface as a mouse for a touch OS, seemed to be overcoming a lot, especially since Mac gestures like two-finger scrolling do not work.

You probably Want To disable the regular floating AssistiveTouch button, tap the Always Show Menu button. The button will still be displayed if no pointing device is connected. There are several other options that you can customize to suit your needs, such as: For example, the tracking speed (complete with cute turtle and rabbit symbols) and the cursor's appearance.

If you think, "this certainly sounds like a lot of steps to enable something that can be as basic to the user experience as mouse support. "Well, you would not be wrong. Apple does not yet see this as a mainstream feature and will not transfer it to humans.

Does that mean it's not for you? Not necessarily. There were countless times when I wanted to have a mouse or a trackpad for my iPad. Apple's historical argument for not selling touch-screen laptops was that it was a pity constantly having to reach up from the keyboard to touch the screen. This is true, but given the lack of a trackpad, it's even more true on the iPad Pro than on touchscreen Windows laptops.

For tasks like text editing that require constant, precise adjustments as you type, a pointing device is much more natural at the same level as your keyboard. Mouse support in iPadOS is quite rudimentary at the moment, but already solid enough to improve my workflow. I've used my iPad Pro today with three separate tracking devices, and I think it's a pretty good start, though it does not always work the way I wanted it to.

The first thing you will do. Note that the cursor is very large – it is a large, semi-opaque circle with a dot in the middle. This is probably because iOS is designed as a touch-first operating system for fingerprint input. However, I would appreciate it if only a small dot would be displayed. The benefit of the large cursor is that it helps you better understand how iPadOS mouse support works at the most basic level: you only get one virtual finger.

Clicking with the mouse, in other words, is like tapping the screen. This means you have to get used to different gestures. Of course, there is no concept of right-clicking in iPadOS, but by default the right mouse button is set to display a customizable menu with shortcuts. It is much more convenient to right-click on the Control Center icon than to move the cursor to the upper-right corner of the screen and, for example, drag it down. Other mouse buttons can also be reassigned. Clicking with the mouse wheel returns you to the home screen by default.

This is useful because it can be difficult to handle iPadOS gestures with the mouse. I only had one day to practice, but it does not feel very natural to pull up the dock from the bottom of the screen or wipe apps. On the other hand, things like text selection with a mouse feel a lot better than ever with a finger. Apple has made improvements in this area for iPadOS, but these improvements are even more useful with a separate pointing device.

And if, like me, you're one of the 37 people in the world who ever use their iPad Pro With an external USB-C monitor, the mouse function is a total game changer. The support of the iPad monitor does not reflect much more than the display, which meant there was no way to interact with anything while actually looking at the monitor. You would have to look at the iPad itself to use touch. Now I can use my iPad Pro at a comfortable eye level on my desk. That's exactly what I'm doing now. It is great!

It's also something I do not do often, since I have a MacBook Pro next to me and it makes much more sense to use it at my desk most of the time. But it's cool that it's possible at all. If you're using your iPad Pro as your main computer, especially if you're writing a lot or editing text, the new iPadOS mouse support is definitely worth checking out.

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