Everything you can do with a trackpad on your iPad

Everything you can do with a trackpad on your iPad
Everything you can do with a trackpad on your iPad (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

iPadOS 13.4 brings with it several updates and improvements, but most prominent of all is full trackpad and mouse support. Now, you can use your iPad like it's a laptop, connecting a trackpad or mouse to it for navigation, content manipulation, and more.

When connected, your trackpad is a first-class pointing device, and in my testing, there's no moment in using a trackpad with the iPad where I felt the need to touch the screen at all. There may be some things that Apple can improve down the road, say, in iPadOS 14, but they've already hit a home run with this new level of support.

While a mouse will work just like a trackpad in most ways, there are certain gestures that you can only do with a trackpad that really make it the c first-class pointing device for iPad. Here's everything you can do with a trackpad on your iPad with iPadOS 13.4.

The cursor

For the most part, using the cursor with a trackpad connected to your iPad works the same way as using your finger, just abstracted away from the screen. For instance, putting an app into Split View multitasking only requires you to click and drag an app from the Dock or a search result next to your current app. But there are some differences of which you should be aware.

  • Transforming cursor: Usually a small circle on the screen, the cursor transforms on most buttons with which you can interact, highlighting a button or app icon instead of just hovering over it. If you've ever navigated the Home screen on an Apple TV, it's a similar highlighting effect.
  • Text editing: When you bring the cursor near text, it transforms into a thin, pill-shaped I-beam cursor. Click and drag it across text to highlight for copying, editing, and more.
  • Right-click: Clicking with two fingers will reveal a contextual menu on a lot of items. Perform this action on an app icon to get the same menu you'd get after a long press. Do this on highlighted text to get options for copying, pasting, sharing, and more.
  • Control Center: Activate Control Center by moving your cursor to the status bar (Wi-Fi, battery indicator) in the upper-right corner anywhere on your iPad and clicking.
  • Notification Center: While on the Home screen, move your cursor all the way to the top of the screen and keep swiping up to bring down the Notification Center. While in an app, highlight the clock and date and click.
  • Slide Over: While in an app, move cursor all the way to the right side of the screen and swipe to the right to open the Slide Over view.
  • Dock: Move the cursor to the very bottom of the screen to bring up the Dock.


  • Tap-to-click: On the Magic Trackpad 2, you can tap to click something instead of fully clicking the trackpad.
  • Scrolling: Pretty basic, but, just like on a Mac, you can scroll through documents and the web using two fingers on your trackpad.
  • Swipe between pages: Swipe back and forward between Safari pages
  • Pinch-to-zoom: Pinch in and out on your trackpad to zoom in and out on maps, documents, webpages, and more, just as you would on your iPad's screen.
  • Return Home: Use a three-finger swipe up on your trackpad to return to the Home screen.
  • Open App Switcher: Swiping up and holding with three fingers on the trackpad will activate the multitasking app switcher.
  • Swipe between apps: Swipe left or right with three fingers to move between apps. This also works for Slide Over apps. Swiping with three fingers over the Slide Over window will move only between those apps.

And this is the list, at least for now. I wouldn't be surprised to see support for new trackpad gestures come to iPads, but I also don't expect a lot of additions, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe the Magic Keyboard, coming in May for iPad Pro, will offer some unique capabilities, but we'll have to wait and see.

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.