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This genius app turns your iPad into a Mac drawing tablet

For years, Apple fans have been able to use an iPad as a drawing tablet for their Mac thanks to a piece of software called Sidecar. That’s made by Apple, but now a rival app from Astropad has emerged, and it’s aimed squarely at digital artists and illustrators.

The app, dubbed Slate, allows you to draw on your iPad with an Apple Pencil or your finger and see the results replicated on your Mac’s display. That means your iPad essentially doubles up as a Wacom tablet, which is perfect for creative work on your Apple devices.

A MacBook next to an iPad with an Apple Pencil. The Astropad Slate app is being used, which lets the Apple Pencil control the Mac's mouse pointer.

It can also be used to input your own handwriting, such as when filling out and signing forms. Astropad also explains that the app will let you use your Apple Pencil to move your Mac’s mouse pointer, while you can also use your fingers to perform Mac gestures that would normally be done with a trackpad or Magic Mouse.

Like Sidecar, Slate works wirelessly, so you don’t need to connect a cable between your Mac and your iPad. It’s also compatible with the Apple Pencil’s new hover feature (released in iPadOS 17), which allows a user to preview certain tools or draw with more precision by bringing the Apple Pencil close to the iPad’s surface, without actually making contact.

Sidelining Sidecar?

Apple Sidecar press photo

Apple launched Sidecar alongside macOS Catalina in 2019, and there have long been alternatives to Apple’s app (with several predating it). Those include Duet Display and Luna Display, the latter of which is also made by Astropad.

However, Slate differs from these past efforts in a few ways. For one thing, Luna Display requires a USB dongle to be inserted into your Mac, whereas Slate is entirely wireless.

As well as that, the purpose of apps like Sidecar, Lune Display, and Duet Display is to turn your iPad into a second screen for your Mac so you can extend your Mac workspace onto your tablet. Slate, meanwhile, does not mirror or extend your Mac’s display, and instead enables your iPad to work purely as a drawing tablet. It won’t show your Mac’s contents on your iPad, in other words.

Right now, Slate is being offered through a free public beta. There’s no official launch date or price for the app, and Astropad says the beta will be “open long enough to collect user feedback and work through the existing bugs.” If you want to give it a try, you can download the beta from Astropad’s website.

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