How to use a mouse with your iPad

Apple’s iPadOS 13 — the first version of an independent operating system specifically targeted at iPads — was launched in 2019 and a feature that many had been longing for finally debuted. With the new OS, for the first time, you could use a connected Bluetooth mouse instead of your finger as a pointing device to control the iPad’s functionality. There was joy throughout the land.

This new capability is accessible for any iPad that can run iPadOS 13, which further contributes to the laptop-ization of the iPad. The mouse pointer feature is not touted as a universal new way to use the tablet, but rather is a new assistive feature for people who have problems with the touch interface and is not considered the optimal way for most people to use the tablet. The pointer does not look like a standard cursor — it’s a large shaded circle — which is one reason it’s located among the Accessibility features. But don’t let that stop you from checking it out.

Regardless of whether you are able to operate the tablet just fine with your fingers and gestures, anyone can now use a mouse to get around the screen whenever they choose by adding a mouse as assistive device through the Accessibility settings to access a cursor that you can drag around the screen and click to tap, just like on your Apple laptop. We show you how it works.

Set up the mouse

Make sure you are using a Bluetooth mouse, that it is powered up, and that you have Bluetooth enabled on your iPad.

  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Assistive Touch.
  • Toggle on Assistive Touch if it is not on already.
  • Go to Devices and wait for it to recognize your Bluetooth mouse.

Discover and navigate

After the mouse setup, you will see on the screen a round cursor with a dot in the middle, and you will be able to move it with a mouse click to simulate a tap. Mice are generally configured for the left click to register as a tap, and you’ll find that you can tap on icons and controls for the actions you control the same way as when you tap and drag with your finger. The right-click brings up a menu, letting you access special functions and customize the interface to do things like operate the Home button. If your mouse has a scroll wheel button, you can program it to take you directly to the Home screen. But those are just some ways to do it.

You are free to designate any mouse button as a tap and assign each button to do any number of different tasks, as you wish. You can also designate custom actions, custom gestures, idle opacity, Bluetooth devices like mice, USB assistive pointer devices, or joysticks. Within assistive touch, you can also control tracking speed, zoom pan, drag lock, dwell control, hot corners, and more.

Customize mouse functions

Assistive touch is a deep feature. You can use the mouse right-click or the gray rectangular button at the bottom right corner of your screen to access the menu to reach the Home button, Control Center, gesture controls, and other functions. Certain selections lead to a secondary menu with additional specifications or commands like Screenshot, Multitasking, Dock, Shake, and the App Switcher.

To further customize the feature, go back to Settings > Assistive Touch, where you can view and customize menu functions for each mouse button. For example, you can change the cursor size and color, and the time it takes to fade out at a set interval until you move the mouse. You may want to do that if you’re watching a video or a presentation or just reading. You can also control the speed of the mouse movement to coordinate with your screen size or otherwise suit your preferences. Or you can program mouse buttons to tap or double-tap, long press, show a spotlight, control volume, and a host of other functions.

Will you use it?

Every iPad that runs iPadOS 13 can be set up to connect a Bluetooth mouse. If you aim to use your iPad as a laptop or desktop replacement and are already using it with a Bluetooth keyboard, it’s tempting to add that extra layer of functionality. If you’re focusing on relatively straightforward text, note-taking, or drawing apps, or just selecting video or email, using the mouse with the tablet could come in handy.

If you’re working in apps or playing games where multi-touch features predominate, it may be less convenient to employ a mouse. The excitement around mousing with an iPad is about having expanded choices in how to do things. This is a new feature everyone is free to play around with, and who knows, if it really catches on, perhaps Apple will concentrate on making it flexible for more widespread use in the future.