Category Archives: Tech Tip

Add a Display to Your Mac with Sidecar

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See my other Mac and macOS posts.

Contents

  1. What is Sidecar
  2. How Does it Work?
  3. How do I Set Up Sidecar?
  4. Using Sidecar
  5. System Requirements
  6. Resources

So what is Sidecar

Sidecar is a feature beginning with macOS 10.15 and iPadOS 13. It allows you to use your iPad as an additional Mac display. I am fortunate that both my Mac and iPad are relatively new. If you want to try Sidecar you need to check that your equipment meets the requirements.

Many can take advantage of this feature when they are traveling with their laptop. It can be equally useful, though with your desktop. I have been an advocate of using multiple displays for years to extend my desktop. Recently the adapter driving the second display on my Mac mini failed. While I was waiting for the replacement to arrive, I tried out Sidecar. I have been very pleased with it. So much so that I now set up my iPad as my third display every time I work on the computer. You can see my desk configuration in the photo above. 

I take advantage of the wireless connection over IEEE-802.4 Wi-Fi. That way I can plug in the USB-C cable to charge the iPad while using it as a display. There are times when I experience a little latency. That would be resolved if necessary by using a wired connection. I don’t do that often as the USB-C ports on my Mac mini do not supply enough power to charge the iPad. Since I am not using an Apple Pencil for graphic input this has not been an issue.

If you have one, you can also use an Apple Pencil on the connected iPad. You can use it for pressure-sensitive drawing or sketching in Mac Apps. You can also use the pencil as a pointing device on the display. Any Mac Apps that support drawing tablets should automatically work with Sidecar [1].

In a sense, Sidecar gives the Mac the touchscreen ability that several users have wanted. If you are contemplating buying a Mac Laptop with Touch Bar, Sidecar lets you ‘try before you buy’.

How does it work?

Sidecar utilizes the same technology as in Continuity. It uses Bluetooth to make the initial connection. Point-to-point Wi-Fi is then used for subsequent data transfers. The virtual display technology built into macOS sends the signal to the iPad. This is over an encrypted data stream for security. The low-latency connection sends video to the iPad. Likewise, user input signals are returned to the Mac [5, 11].

How do I Set Up Sidecar?

screen-shot-2021-08-23-at-1.26.56-pmBoth macOS and iPadOS come with everything you need to run Sidecar. Sidecar must be initiated from the Mac. Apple provides a few different ways to connect your Mac to an iPad [2, 5]. I chose to use the System Preference panel method [8]. Just open System Preferences on your Mac and double-click on Sidecar.

At his point you have three options you can enable for your Sidecar display. First, you can optionally show the Sidebar on either the left or right side of your iPad screen. The Sidebar contains some commonly used controls. Use your finger or Apple Pencil to choose them. I have never used the controls so I have opted to disable that feature to gain a little more viewing space.

Some Mac laptops have a Touch Bar beneath the screen on the keyboard. This feature can be optionally added to the top or bottom of your iPad display. The Touch Bar controls will be for the window displayed in Sidecar. The last option is to allow double tap on your Apple Pencil. There are also multi-touch gestures you can use on the iPad display [2].

Using Sidecar

Once Sidecar is set up you can use it like any other display. To choose how the displays are arranged in relation to one another go to System Preferences. Now double-click on Displays and click on the Arrangement tab. Just drag your Sidecar display to where you want it.

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The default mode and my preference is to have Sidecar extend my desktop. If that is the case you can just drag windows between the displays. You can also move the cursor over the green circle in the top left-hand corner of a window (see image above). A drop-down menu will appear and one of the choices will allow you to relocate the window to the Sidecar display.

On the other hand, you might want to use Sidecar in mirroring mode. That way an audience can view your Mac while you draw on the mirrored Mac screen on an iPad. You could also use this on a plane. Watch a video on your laptop while your neighbor watches it with you on the iPad. Best to do that with a cable rather than wirelessly though [12].

You can leave Sidecar on your iPad at any time to access the local Apps. You can take advantage of the iPad’s multitasking so you do not have to terminate Sidecar. Just swipe up from the bottom of the iPad screen. This will take you to the iPad’s Home Screen.

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When you are done using the iPad App just touch the Sidecar icon to resume the Mac Display function. This will likely be in the recent-Apps portion of the iPad dock.

If your iPad has a keyboard such as Apple’s Smart Keyboard then it acts as an additional Mac keyboard while Sidecar is running [10]. You can also use multi-touch gestures on the iPad. Gestures must be enabled on the iPad. Go to Settings -> Hone Screen & Dock -> Multitasking. Make sure that Gestures are turned on (green) [4]. The most common gestures are:

  • Two-finger swipe to scroll
  • Pinch in with three fingers to copy
  • Double pinch with three fingers to cut
  • Three -finger pinch out to paste
  • Three-finger swipe left to Undo
  • Three-finger swipe right to Redo

You can use Continuity Sketch to create a drawing on the iPad and add it to a document on the Mac. You can use your finger or an Apple Pencil in Continuity Mark Up. That will let you sign or mark up documents [5, 11].

System requirements

Not all Macs and iPads can run Sidecar. The general requirements are that:

  1. Both devices must be signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID
  2. If using Sidecar wirelessly the units must be within 10 meters of each other. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff must be turned on.

For a full list of the requirements check Resources 1, 2, & 3 below.

Mac requirements

  1. The Mac must be running macOS 10.15 Catalina or later
  2. The Mac must be a: 2016 or later Mac Book Pro, 2016 or later Mac Book, 2018 or later Mac Book Air, 2017 iMac, 2015 iMac retina 5K, iMac Pro, 2018 or later Mac Mini, 2019 Mac Pro

iPad requirements

  1. IPad must be running iPadOS 13 or later
  2. The iPad must be a: iPad Pro, iPad 6th generation or newer, iPad mini 5th generation or newer, iPad Air 3td generation or newer

Resources

  1. Do your Mac and iPad meet the system requirements for the Sidecar feature? 10–22–19
  2. Use your iPad as a second display for your Mac with Sidecar
  3. Check iPad Mac Sidecar Requirements
  4. How To Use Apple Sidecar
  5. Sidecar Apple Tech Brief 10–19
  6. Sidecar on your Mac
  7. Use your iPad as a second display for your Mac
  8. Everything you need to know about Apple Sidecar
  9. Sidecar
  10. Sidecar: Turn an iPad Into a Secondary Mac Display 10–13–20
  11. Apple Sidecar explained: How Apple is using the iPad to make the Mac even better
  12. Apple Sidecar: Use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac 11–12–19

Visit my macOS Software Directory page and find new software for your Mac. Currently, there are over 870 titles indexed with more than 270 available for FREE

Simple First Shortcut automation for ios

I follow The Loop and a recent post caught my eye. It is a simple Shortcut automation that almost everyone can try and use. This automation detects when your iOS device is connected to a charger and speaks “Charging”. While this is a trivial automation I can see where it will be useful.

Sometimes when I place my iPhone on my W-18 Thunder Plus Qi charging pad it isn’t aligned correctly. This will give a good audio feedback that I have positioned it for charging.

  • Open Shortcuts app on your iPhone
  • Tap the Automation tab in the center of the bottom of the screen
  • Tap the + in the top right corner of the screen
  • Tap “Create Personal Automation”
  • Scroll to the bottom and tap “Charger”
  • Make sure “Is Connected” is selected
  • Tap “Next”
  • In the search field that appears (bottom of screen), type “Speak”. The action “Speak Text” should appear. Tap on it.
  • Tap the “Text” area and type some text to speak, like “Charging”
  • Tap “Next”
  • Tap to turn off “Ask Before Running”.
  • Tap “Done”

I followed these easy instructions and created the Shortcut on my iPhone8. I placed it on my charging pad and after a moment I heard my phone say “Charging”. If you want to start exploring Shortcuts, this is a great first project.

You will find the original article at https://www.loopinsight.com/2021/01/13/a-simple-shortcuts-project/

See my other iOS related posts

Use a Shortcut to Automatically Connect your AirPods

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(See my other Tech Tips posts) – I have AirPods and use them every day. Being stuck at home ‘sheltering-in-place’ I have been using them on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

The problem is that after using them with my Mac, it takes a while to get them reconfigured for my iPhone. Then I saw the article “AirPods: Automatically and instantly switch between iPhone, Mac & iPad” on the Mac Kung Fu Blog. I thought it might have solved that problem.

The described solution is to create a ‘Shortcut’ on your iPhone. When you open one of the designated Apps on your iPhone the Shortcut is triggered. The Shortcut will then connect your AirPods. I won’t repeat the detailed steps listed in the article. It is well written and easy to follow.

I have created that Shortcut (my first) and it seems to work well. You do have to have at least one of your AirPods in your ear. Wait until you hear the tone, then you can open the App on your iPhone.

 

Further Reading

  1. AirPods: Automatically and instantly switch between iPhone, Mac & iPad

Get More from the Textedit App

(See my other Tech Tip related posts) – We have all used the Textedit App on our Macs. But do you know all that it can do for you? The article “10 Things You May Not Know You Can Do With TextEdit On a Mac” helps to fill in some of the gaps in our Textedit knowledge.

I like this short (11:30) video from MacMost which explains some of the features of Textedit. MacMost uploaded the video to YouTube in April of 2020.

I have used Textedit for years, but I learned a few new things from watching this video. Their tagline for the video is:

TextEdit seems like a simple text editing tool, but it actually has some pretty rich features. You can do things like set document properties, edit code, define and use styles, insert images, audio, and video, and even export HTML documents.


See my other Mac and macOS related posts


 

Lost an AirPod? Here is how to find it

UnknownA few days ago I headed to the grocery store to top off our supplies for the week. Following local recommendations, I put on a facemask when I left the car. As I usually do when shopping, I had an AirPod in one ear and was listening to podcasts.

My grocery shopping completed I returned to my car and pulled off the face mask. Twang! The rubber bands holding the facemask on caught on the AirPod and it went flying. I looked around but I didn’t see it anywhere. After taking the groceries into the house, I went back out and searched the vehicle. Nothing!

I remembered that I had seen an article on finding missing AirPods. After a quick search, I found it. I returned to my vehicle and followed the outlined procedure. I was able to locate the missing AirPod by following the sound it was emitting. The sound was discernable at least 4-5 feet from the missing AirPod.

This was very useful as the AirPod wasn’t in the car. I found it along the sidewalk leading into the house. I doubt I would have easily found it had it not been for this procedure.

So how do you find a missing AirPod? (This was done on an iPhone 8 running 13.3.1)

  1. On my iPhone, I opened the ‘Find My’ App
  2. I scrolled down the list of devices and clicked on my AirPods
  3. I then clicked on the ‘Play Sound’ button
  4. In my case, I had lost only one of my AirPods so I was able to refine the search by selecting only the left AirPod to play the sound
  5. Now walk around the area and listen for the emitted sound

Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 9.46.59 AM

iCloud is used to do a device search. When I logged into my Mac I found an email notifying me that a search had been performed.

I hope that this will come in handy for some of you. Far better than replacing an AirPod or buying a new pair.

 

Further Reading

  1. How to Use AirPods: Tips, Tricks and General Instructions

Improve Your Productivity by Remapping that Windows Keyboard

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(See my other Tech Tip related posts) – I recently traveled again to Henderson, NV to visit family. I knew that I would be here for a while, so I brought my Mac Mini. Its size and solid-state drive make it easy to travel with.

I have a monitor available at the location I was headed to but I will need a keyboard and mouse. I chose not to bring the keyboard and mouse from my desk at home. I had secured the cables for those under my desk. I brought along instead a generic keyboard. This Windows keyboard works well, but the key layout isn’t the same as my Apple keyboard at home.

The video above is from the suggested Further Reading

There turns out to be a simple solution for this. Remap the keys to the more familiar Mac layout. I followed the procedure outlined in the video. Now the keyboard layout is Mac-friendly and much easier for me to use.

The desire is to remap the Modifier Keys. On a Windows keyboard those keys on the left-hand side are in the order:

Control Command  Option

On an Apple keyboard the order is:

Control Option  Command

I have been using the Apple keyboard for a decade. It is difficult to change typing behavior. By remapping the Modifier keys my typing becomes more efficient. This also means that I become a fraction more productive.

Further Reading

  1. How-To: Remap Windows keyboards to match the Mac keyboard layout

See my other Mac and macOS related posts


 

Save Email as a PDF with three simultaneous keystrokes

 

(See my other Tech Tips ) – I am always looking for ways to improve my productivity on the Mac. I wanted a method to save an email as a PDF in the easiest way.

If you are in the Mail App you can do this by clicking on File => Export as PDF… I wanted to shorten this process. I set up a keyboard shortcut as described by David Sparks above.

Now when I am reading through my emails, I can save any as a PDF by hitting the Option-Command-P keys. Later I will come back and apply  Tags to those files to organize them.


See my other Mac and macOS related posts


 

Customizing your Mac Mail Signature

I thought that this short video (06:06) from MacMost was a good start to customizing your mail signatures under macOS.

You can actually do far more than that. The Mail signature files for macOS Catalina are found in /Users/[your user ID]/Library/Mail/V7/MailData/Signatures/. This is an HTML file, so you can take advantage of that to further customize your signature. 
 
Select a signature file to customize. Apple’s naming convention for signature files is not intuitive. I recommend that you create a new signature file.
  • Open Mail then go to Preferences > Signatures > enter “+” to add a new signature
  • Type in the text you want to appear
  • Close Preferences
  • Quit Mail
Now in your Finder go to /Users/[your user ID]/Library/Mail/V7/MailData/Signatures/. Select the file with today’s date and open it for editing.  I use BBEdit for this.
 
The file is larger than you might expect. Insert the HTML you want for customizing the signature. I added a table with one row and two data fields. The field on the left has artwork, the field on the right now has my text. Save the file. 
 
In Finder select the updated file and Right-Click (or Control-Click) on it. Select “Get Info”. Now click on the “Locked” box. If you do not do this, Mail will overwrite the changes you made to the Signature file. 
 
Now open Mail and you will find the updated signature is ready for use. One of my signatures now looks like the image below. It now identifies the topics I most often post about on my Blog – Mac & iOS, WWII, and Books. Those interests are also reflected in a simple image.

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 3.46.14 PM


See my other macOS posts


 

Preview has many hidden capabilities for PDF files

(See my other macOS related posts) – I have posted about MacMost before. Today I watched this video “12 Things you may not know you can do with Preview”. I had been familiar with some of the abilities of Preview, but I learned a few new things from this video.

For me, I particularly like the ability to merge PDF files and annotate them with highlights and notes. As I write various articles, this is very handy.

Preview has so many abilities that few people are aware of. Instead of buying Apps, Preview often will give you what you need directly from Apple. You just have to take some time to familiarize yourself with the App. MacMost does a good job of that in this video.


See my new macOS Software Directory and find what software is available for the Mac!

Is Your Mac Ready for macOS Catalina?

go64-mac-icon-100801664-large(See my other Tech Tips posts) – Every time a new version of macOS is released we have to consider “Is my Mac ready for the update?”.

Before you begin your upgrade make sure you have a full backup. Run Timemachine to capture any recent changes in your system. If you have the extra disk (and you really should do this), make a clone of your boot drive with an App like Carbon Copy Cloner. These steps will make it far easier to revert back to your current version of macOS if you run into problems after upgrading to Catalina.

This would also be a good time to ‘Tune-Up‘ up your Mac before you perform the upgrade. In particular, remove unneeded Apps and files.

This year there are two factors to consider. The first is whether or not your Mac hardware is capable of running Catalina. Generally speaking the 2012 or newer Macs are compatible. To find out for sure if your Mac can be upgraded refer to “macOS Catalina is compatible with these computers” from Apple.

The second thing to check is if all of your Apps are 64-bit. With Catalina the older 32-bit Apps will no longer run.

You can check your Apps two ways.

  1. The first way is to check in About My Mac. I wrote about how to do this in April of 2018 in “ARE YOUR MAC APPS ALL 64-BIT?“. I will let you check out that article for the details, but the essence is to go to “Overview:System Report:Software: Applications”. A column there indicates whether each App is or is not 64-bit compatible.
  2. A somewhat easier way to check your system is by using the Go64 App. This App is free (though donations are accepted) and can be downloaded from the vendor’s website. This App is recommended by:
    1. Macworld
    2. MacSparky (David Sparks of Mac Power Users podcast
    3. The Mac Observer
    4. Christian Boyce (Christian will be the featured speaker at the October 8th CapMac meeting in Austin)

Screen Shot 2019-10-05 at 3.28.35 PM.pngIf you download the App, then run it. You will get a report (see example above) of all Apps you currently have installed that are not 64-bit. Clicking on those software packages will provide further information. Links are also supplied for the vendors to facilitate getting the latest version of the software. As you can see I still have several 32-bit Apps on my Mac.

Once you have a list of your non-64-bit Apps you have a few choices:

  1. upgrade all the Apps you regularly use to a 64-bit version
  2. find 64-bit Apps that will replace your current 32-bit Apps
  3. delay migrating to Catalina until you do 1 or 2 above

See my other Mac posts