Make the most of mouse buttons in iOS 13

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iPad mouse mappings
The iPad is fantastic with a multi-button mouse.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iOS 13 beta is more or less stable enough for anyone to use now, and one of the main reasons to jump on this great new version of iOS is mouse support. You can connect any Bluetooth or USB mouse to your iPad, and use it pretty much like you’d use a mouse on the Mac.

You can even use a multi-button mouse. And guess what? You can assign all of those buttons to mouse functions. I’ve been using a mouse with my iPad on and off throughout the beta period. During that time, I’ve come up with a shortlist of the most useful mouse button features in iPadOS 13.

Mouse buttons in iPadOS 13

I wanted to set up my mouse to be as Mac-like as possible, while also taking advantage of some neat iPad-only features. There are several deep customizations you can do with the iOS 13 mouse — you can have a button trigger any shortcut, for example, or have it fire off a custom “gesture” from the AssistiveTouch section inside the Accessibility settings.

I didn’t want to get so fancy, though. At least not until I have a good reason to do so. So here are my current mouse button assignments in iPadOS 13:

My favorite mouse button assignments in iPadOS 13.
My favorite mouse button assignments in iPadOS 13.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Button 1

Button 1 is the main mouse button for right-handers; the left button on a two-button mouse. This is mapped to Single-Tap, which is just a regular tap.

Button 2

Button 2 is the right button, and I’ve mapped it to Long Press. This is the iOS 13 equivalent of a right-click. If you long-press on most things in iOS 13, you will get a contextual menu. If you don’t get a contextual menu, you’ll invoke the familiar little black popover. Putting right-click onto the right button of my mouse lets me use my Mac “muscle memory” on the iPad. You can also right-click on Dock icons to bring up their contextual menus — the equivalent of 3D Touch on the iPhone.

Button 3

Now we get to the iPad-only features. Button 3 is mapped to Dock. This brings up the Dock wherever you are. It’s like swiping up from the bottom of the screen, only you can use the mouse. It’s also better than a finger in some apps. Apps like GarageBand, for instance, force you to swipe up twice to pull up the Dock. This is so you don’t accidentally invoke it when playing the on-screen piano, for example. Using the mouse causes no such delay.

On my little Logitech mouse, button 3 is the one on the back of the mouse, below the scroll wheel.

Button 4

Perhaps you already ran out of buttons. If not, try assigning one to Home. This is the equivalent of tapping the home button, or typing ⌘-H on an attached keyboard. On my mouse, this is one of the buttons that falls under the thumb of the right hand.

Button 5

Still here? This is where I run out of buttons, too. My fifth mouse button is assigned to Control Center. It’s possible to pull the Control Center down from the corner of the screen using the mouse, but this is easier. You could also assign Spotlight, or the app switcher, or even set the button to pull down your notifications.

To be honest, I’m wondering if it might not be better to assign something that can’t be gotten to using regular mouse-drag gestures. Control Center and Notifications can both be pulled down from the top of the screen using the mouse, so perhaps the Exposé-like app switcher, or the Spotlight action, might be better.

Wanted: More iOS mouse commands

I have one request for another mouse-assignable action. I’d like to be able to pop Slide Over apps out from the side of the screen using the mouse. Being able to slide out an app, and quickly drag something in or out, all from the mouse, would be a great convenience.

Other than this, though, the mouse support in iPadOS 13 is pretty stellar.