How to Use Handoff on Your iMac

By Mark L. Chambers

Handoff is the perfect name for this El Capitan feature, because it actually transfers what you’re doing on your iOS devices to matching applications on your iMac!

Suppose that you’re using Maps on your iPhone, and you realize that you’d rather view the location on your iMac’s larger screen (as well as print it on the USB printer connected to your iMac). If you’re within Bluetooth-signal range of your iMac, Handoff is ready to go: An icon for the OS X version of Maps automatically appears on the left side of the Dock in El Capitan. One click of that icon, and your iMac opens Maps and displays the same location!

You’re not restricted to one application, either. Each time you open an application that Handoff supports (such as Safari and Mail), El Capitan offers you the chance to open the matching application on your iMac and displays the current data from the iOS app. All this is completely trouble-free: There’s nothing to configure or set.

Caveats? Only three right now:

  • Bluetooth is required. Bluetooth networking must be turned on for both the iOS device and the iMac for Handoff to work, and the iOS device must be within a 30-foot radius of your iMac. (That’s the maximum distance over which Bluetooth hardware can broadcast; walls and other obstructions reduce that range.)
  • You need the right hardware. To use Handoff, you need an iPhone 5 (or later), a fourth-generation iPad (or later), any iPad mini, or a fifth-generation iPod touch (or later). On the computer side, you must have a 2012 model iMac (or later) that includes Bluetooth LE hardware.
  • iOS 8 is a must. Handoff is compatible only with iOS devices running iOS 8 or later.

Handoff works in the other direction as well, allowing you to pick up where you left off on your iMac application by transferring the active session to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Swipe the icon that appears on your iOS device to start the ball rolling.