An iPad with keyboard and mouse.

You can now control your iPad with a mouse, and it does much more than just simulate taps and scrolling. If your mouse has extra buttons, you can customize them to perform powerful actions in a single click.

Connecting a Mouse to Your iPad

If you haven’t yet connected a mouse to your iPad, keep in mind it will only work on iPadOS 13 and up. So, if you want to use a mouse, update your iPad to the latest version of iPadOS.

Most people connect a mouse to their iPad wirelessly via Bluetooth. Others use a wired connection via a Lightning to USB or USB-C to USB adapter, depending on which port their iPad has. Mouse compatibility varies by manufacturer. If you’ve connected a trackpad, you can control your iPad with gestures.

While you’re at it, you can also swap the left and right mouse buttons. This means the left button will then perform the right-click action, and the right mouse button will perform the standard-click action. This is particularly handy if you’re left-handed.

RELATED: How to Use a Mouse With Your iPad or iPhone

Customizing Extra Mouse Buttons

In iPadOS, you can also assign different functions to any extra mouse buttons (beyond just the Primary and Secondary). For example, many mice include a third button you access by pushing down on the scroll wheel.

To customize extra mouse buttons, you have to enable an accessibility feature in iPadOS called AssistiveTouch. It provides a shortcut menu that allows you to perform certain complex functions from a centralized interface. It’s worth exploring in more detail. For now, though, we must enable it for custom buttons to work.

To activate AssistiveTouch, open “Settings,” and then swipe down the list. Tap “Accessibility,” and then tap “Touch.”

Tap "Accessibility," and then tap "Touch."

In the “Touch” menu, tap “AssistiveTouch.”

Tap "AssistiveTouch."

Toggle-On the “AssistiveTouch” option.

Toggle-On "AssistiveTouch."

After “AssistiveTouch” is enabled, a movable menu button (a rounded, dark-gray rectangle with a white circle in the middle) appears near the edge of the screen.

This button remains onscreen in every app, so you tap or click it from anywhere to activate AssistiveTouch. When you do, a pop-up menu appears with various options, including going to the Home screen.

The AssistiveTouch button on the Home screen in iPadOS.

RELATED: How to Use an iPhone with a Broken Home Button

Now, let’s move on to customizing mouse buttons. While you’re in Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch, swipe down and tap “Devices.”

Tap "Devices."

You see a list of your connected pointing devices. Tap the mouse with the buttons you want to customize.

Tap the device you want to customize.

Tap “Customize Additional Buttons.”

Tap "Customize Additional Buttons."

The “Customize Button” pop-up appears. Click the button on your mouse you want to customize.

The "Customize Button" pop-up.

A menu appears with many powerful options, including “App Switcher,” “Control Center,” and “Home.” For a full list of what each option does, see the section below.

Tap on the option you want, and then tap the name of your pointing device at the top to navigate out of the list.

Mouse button customization options under "Accessibility."

From now on, whenever you click that mouse button, it will perform the action you chose. For example, if you picked “Home,” clicking the button will take you directly to the Home screen.

If you’d like to customize other extra mouse buttons to do other tasks, just repeat the same steps above, but click that button when the “Customize Button” pop-up appears.

What the “Customize Button” Options Do

You can assign the following actions in the “Customize Buttons” menu to any extra mouse buttons:

  • “Single-Tap”: Performs a single tap in the spot where your mouse pointer is located.
  • “Secondary Click”: Right-click.
  • “Open Menu”: This opens the AssistiveTouch menu as if you tapped on the AssitiveTouch menu button on the screen.
  • “Accessibility Shortcut”: Performs the shortcut you set in Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut.
  • “Analytics”: This undocumented command apparently gathers usage analytics stored on your iPad and submits them to Apple. To enable it, go to Privacy > Analytics and Improvements > Share iPad Analytics.
  • “App Switcher”: Takes you to a screen full of all open apps so you can quickly switch between them.
  • “Control Center”: This activates “Control Center“.
  • “Dock”: Brings up the Dock at the bottom of the screen, which is useful when multitasking.
  • “Double Tap”: Performs a double-tap wherever your mouse pointer is located.
  • “Hold and Drag”: Click the extra button once, and then release, to move your mouse and drag an interface element around the screen.
  • “Home”: Brings up the Home screen.
  • “Lock Rotation”: Locks screen rotation so it won’t change from portrait to landscape mode, or vice-versa.
  • “Lock Screen”: Instantly locks your iPad, basically putting it in Sleep mode.
  • “Long Press”: The equivalent of holding your finger down on the screen for a few seconds, and then releasing it.
  • “Move Menu”: Moves the onscreen AssistiveTouch button to the current location of your mouse pointer. Click it again to release the menu, and it will stay in the same place.
  • “Notifications”: Displays the Notifications screen. You can toggle it Off again with another click.
  • “Pinch”: Brings up a pair of circles connected by a line representing two fingers. You can position the circles with your mouse, click the primary mouse button to place them, and then move your mouse to simulate pinching by varying degrees. Click the Secondary button to dismiss this option.
  • “Pinch and Rotate”: Similar to “Pinch,” except you can also rotate the orientation of the two “finger” circles. Click the Secondary button to dismiss this option.
  • “Restart”: Opens a dialog from which you can restart your iPad.
  • “Rotate”: Rotates interface elements onscreen (such as a photo). It works similar to the “Pinch” option, except the distance between the two “finger” circles never changes. Click the Secondary button to dismiss it.
  • “Screenshot”: Captures an image of the current screen and saves it in “Photos.”
  • “Shake”: Simulates shaking your iPad, which is most commonly used to “undo” an action. You can go to Accessibility > Touch > Shake to Undo to disable this option.
  • “Speak Screen”: Activates the Speak Screen feature, which reads aloud the entire contents of the current screen via text-to-speech synthesis. To make sure this option is enabled, go to Accessibility > Spoken Content > Speak Screen.
  • “Spotlight”: Opens Spotlight Search so you can search for apps, documents, or messages on your iPad.
  • “Voice Control”: Activates the “Voice Control” feature, so you can navigate your iPad via spoken commands or dictate text. To enable this option, head to Accessibility > Voice Control.
  • “Volume Down”: Decreases the volume one increment per click.
  • “Volume Up”: Increases the iPad volume one increment per click.

Near the bottom, the “Customize Button” menu also includes “Scroll Gestures” to simulate swiping the screen in various directions.

There are also “Dwell Controls” which you can primarily configure in Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch. These allow you to select onscreen elements simply by pausing the pointer over them, which is particularly helpful for people who can’t push buttons.

This Is Only the Beginning

When paired with a keyboard, a mouse can unlock amazing productivity gains on your iPad. It can be especially helpful with tasks that require many precise taps to get things done, like spreadsheets or photo editing. Have fun, and happy clicking!

RELATED: How to Swap Left and Right Mouse Buttons on an iPad

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a Staff Writer for How-To Geek. For over 14 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.