Apple has hidden mouse support in iPadOS for a reason

iPadOS 13's mouse pointer is a round grey target for Accessibility users
iPadOS 13’s mouse pointer is a round grey target for Accessibility users (image: 9to5Mac)

Scott Stein writes for CNET:

A better browser, new multitasking, a smoother Pencil… and everyone’s excited by a mouse. Apple’s newest version of the iPad OS is here as a public beta for you to download (on a secondary device, please). And you can, indeed, pair a Bluetooth mouse and use it to control your iPad. It seems, at first, like wish fulfillment. I’ve wanted mouse — or, actually, trackpad — support for years. Seven and a half years, to be precise.

I’m here to throw some cold water on your excitement, because I’ve used what you think is mouse support, but is actually Apple’s Bluetooth pointer tool in Accessibility settings. It’s not the mouse support you’re looking for, or I’m looking for. And that’s okay, because Apple isn’t intending for me to use it… Turning this accessibility-targeted pointer feature into a stand-in mouse for other purposes is a mistake.

If you doubt me, just try it. Set it up for yourself. The cursor is extremely large. It only works with one button-click function, usually simulating what a finger touching the screen would do. You can’t highlight text in the same way as a trackpad, or PC or Mac mouse.

That’s fine, again, because it wasn’t made for me.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s nice to see that somebody gets it!

To us longtime Apple watchers, Cupertino seems to be saying, “Multi-Touch on the screen only when trackpads are not part of the device.”MacDailyNews, November 19, 2008

We find that there are many older users longing to make iPad work like a laptop, because that’s what they know.

Take a look at a twelve-year-old who’s only really ever used an iPad for personal computing. It’s an eyeopener. It’s like looking into the future.

The answer isn’t to try to make the iPad into a MacBook. The answer is to provide all the tools possible in iOS for developers to make robust apps that can take advantage of the multi-touch paradigm. — MacDailyNews, May 16, 2017

Does it make more sense to be smearing your fingers around on your notebook’s screen or on a spacious trackpad (built-in or on your desk) that’s designed specifically and solely to be touched? Apple thinks things through much more than do other companies. The iPhone’s and iPad’s screens have to be touched; that’s all they has available. A MacBook’s screen doesn’t not have to be touched in order to offer Multi-Touch. There is a better way: Apple’s way. And, no Gorilla Arm, either.

The only computers using Multi-Touch properly, using device-appropriate Multi-Touch input areas are Macintosh personal computers from Apple that run OS X (and Linux and can even slum it with Windows, if need be) and iOS even more personal computers (EMPCs), namely: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and iPad mini.

Note that none of this bars a “MacPad” from production. Any iOS-based iPad would become a high quality display (possibly still “touchable,” but likely not due to the reasoning stated above) when docked into a “MacBook” (running OS X, and providing keyboard, trackpad, processor, etcetera). Such a convertible device would negate having to carry both an iPad (car) and a MacBook (truck) around. They’d be one thing, but able to be separated into two, each providing the best capabilities of their respective form factors.MacDailyNews, May 4, 2013


  1. I suspect Apple doesn’t have proper mouse support because they are worried that developers would be too lazy to build proper touch apps but instead just port them over from Mac or PC. that’s one reason why microsoft surface products are sometimes so unpleasant, desktop apps menu boxes etc can be too small for fingers.

    That said if you’re doing something like typing reports, it’s way faster with a mouse. inserting , selecting etc is simply faster and more accurate.

  2. I have never got it. If you prefer using a mouse to touch screen, then use a MacBook. Personally I have never missed a mouse when on my iPad, but virtually always miss touch when using a MacBook (instinctively reaching for the screen to zoom)

  3. I’m hoping this is just the first step.

    They’ve enabled us to connect an external monitor, keyboard and now a mouse. That’s as close to a desktop computer as you can get. I’m hoping they will finally come to their senses and just enable full mouse functionality so we can use it as one.

    I’m not asking Apple or developers to change the way they develop apps, just keep developing touch first apps. I just want to be able to use a mouse to interact with the interface just like I can alternatively use ApplePencil with it.

    The way I see it working is a mouse cursor would automatically appear whenever you touch or move the cursor with a mouse or trackpad. The cursor then fades away after a period of inactivity. This way it doesn’t get in the way if you want to use the touch screen.

    None of this is complicated, it’s a mental block that Apple and many others have. We shouldn’t be scared that enabling a mouse cursor will suddenly break the platform, adding ApplePencil didn’t.

    1. I tend to agree. Particularly with spreadsheets and office applications like Pages and Word. Even if mouse support were available in those applications specifically I think it would go a long way to making the iPad Pro the perfect office tablet. I wrote a strategy document for two hours yesterday and I can’t tell you how many times I had to select text, copy or cut it, or move it around. The purists will always say touch only, but the thing is the hardware is more than sufficiently powerful enough to offer both approaches. And no, it’s not only dinosaurs that are asking for some basic mouse support. I am not sure of the mental gymnastics required to claim that adding mouse support would somehow infect an iPad. Make it optional. Problem solved.

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