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Adobe to test Sidecar iPad support for Lightroom on Mac

Photo editing could benefit from MacOS Catalina's ability to use an iPad as a second display or as a tablet with an Apple Pencil.

This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET's complete coverage from and about Apple's annual developers conference.

Want to a new way to retouch photos on your Mac? Adobe's Lightroom will test Sidecar, a technology coming to Apple's new MacOS Catalina that lets you use an iPad as a second display for your Mac or as an Apple Pencil-equipped tablet for controlling your Mac.

"We'll begin testing opportunities for this workflow when it's more broadly available," spokesman Roman Skuratovskiy said of the option. Lightroom is Adobe's tool for editing and cataloging photos, something like Apple Photos or Google Photos on steroids, and has a starting cost of $10 per month.

Adobe's position on Sidecar is well short of a commitment to support the technology. But it's a cautiously encouraging sign -- along with the fact that Lightroom for Windows and MacOS already supports other stylus-equipped tablets, like those from Wacom, and will support Sidecar with the Adobe Illustrator, Premiere Pro and After Effects software.

Apple's Sidecar app for MacOS Catalina lets you use your iPad as a second screen or as a stylus-equipped tablet for things like photo retouching.

Apple's Sidecar app for MacOS Catalina lets you use your iPad as a second screen or as a stylus-equipped tablet for things like photo retouching.


Apple's Sidecar holds the potential to make the Macs, iPads and software people already have bought become more useful -- especially for the creative types who long have been a core Apple customer. Apple has been trying to keep those customers from defecting to Windows, for example with the release of the iMac Pro, the upgrade of MacBook Pro laptops with the latest Intel processors and the return to an expandable, albeit expensive, Mac Pro coming this fall.

Stylus-equipped tablets can be useful for detailed photo editing tasks like careful retouching, and using Sidecar to do so would mean people using Lightroom on a PC could do so directly on the image they're editing. With styluses on lower-end tablets, the cursor shows on your main computer screen, not on the image itself.

Now playing: Watch this: Sidecar turns your iPad into a second screen

"Some pro users like using these dedicated tablets for precise input on their Mac," Apple software chief Craig Federighi said last week as he announced Sidecar at WWDC, the company's developer conference. "Now, with the iPad and Apple Pencil, you can do that, too. It works both wired and wirelessly so you can get comfortable, and it works across all of your favorite Mac apps that support tablets."

Among Adobe competitors who've pledged Sidecar support are Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, Maxon's Cinema 4D, CorelDraw, Blackmagic's Da Vinci Resolve and Apple's Final Cut Pro.

However, just because Apple offers a new hardware feature doesn't guarantee software developers will support it. Lightroom doesn't support Apple's Touch Bar two and a half years after the first MacBook Pro models arrived with the slim touch display above the keyboard.

"Everything is on a list," said Tom Hogarty, senior director of product management for photography at Adobe, in a May interview, speaking of Adobe's priority for Touch Bar support in Lightroom. "Some things are farther down."

Originally published June 10, 11:37 a.m. PT.
Update, 3:59 p.m. PT: Adds reference to other software that plans to support Sidecar.