iPadOS tips and tricks that make your iPad a whole lot more useful

Jackie Dove

With the release of iOS 13 last fall, Apple for the first time broke out the iPad as a distinctive operating system apart from the iOS of the iPhone. While iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 are close cousins, they are designed to diverge in order to give the tablet enhanced capabilities more in line with standing in for your laptop in some instances, and for offering iPad users a more flexible experience.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most from your iPad with version 13.4.1 of the OS. iPadOS 13 works on all iPads from the iPad Air 2 and newer.

The tips and tricks above are some major ones specific to the iPad, but there are also a number of features included in iOS 13 that can also be used in iPadOS. Check out more details about how to use iOS 13’s new features here.

How to use the new Home Screen

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iPadOS home screen
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The iPadOS Home Screen offers more space for apps and lets you permanently position some Today View widgets on the display when the device is in landscape mode. Go to Settings > Home Screen & Dock and tap on More or Bigger. More accommodates up to 30 app icons on the home screen, while Bigger has space for 20 app icons. Tapping More lets you swipe the home screen to the right see the Today View whenever you want.

To customize the interface, swipe up on Today View and tap the Edit button to adjust which apps you can see and in what order. Toggle on the Keep on Home Screen control and use the three-bar icon to the right of each widget to change the order or pin one widget to the top. Widgets show up both in landscape and portrait orientation, though with the latter, you can view either the Today View or the app icons — but not both at the same time.

How to use the floating keyboard

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iPadOS Floating Keyboard

The floating keyboard, a diminutive version of the keyboard on the ‌iPad‌, can be positioned anywhere on the screen. It’s great for one-handed use and less obtrusive positioning. To access it, pinch in on the keyboard until it shrinks or long-press on the keyboard icon to bring up the floating option and then tap it. Spread two fingers to re-activate the full-size keyboard.

How to use QuickPath Keyboard

Apple’s native QuickPath Keyboard lets you swipe your way through connecting letters to form words and sentences rather than jabbing at the glass to type. This machine learning feature recognizes the path of your finger or stylus to form patterns from frequent words and convert them to text. Just glide your finger to form words, stopping briefly to register the next letter. This control is on by default, but it may not be everyone’s favorite thing. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. You can toggle the control off with Settings > General > Keyboards > Delete Slide-to-Type by Word. You will only see that off switch if the Slide on Floating Keyboard to Type is toggled on.

How to edit text

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There are a number of ways to edit text in iPadOS, and these include new ways to copy, paste, undo, and redo. A single tap evokes a cursor that you can move freely at will with your finger to any spot in the text. To select text,  just double-tap on a word, after which you can copy it with a three-finger pinch and paste it with a three-finger spread. A triple-tap selects the whole paragraph.

New undo and redo gestures include swiping left with three fingers to undo, and right with three fingers to redo. All these gestures work more or less as advertised in the Notes app, but we were unable to get them to work in other apps.

How to use multiple windows of the same app

Multiple windows in iPadOS

iPadOS introduced the ability to view and use multiple windows of the same app, which comes in handy for multitasking. You can activate the second window of an app from the dock by first opening one instance of the app, and then holding the same app’s icon in the dock for a moment before dragging it up to the left or right of the display. You can position the second instance to split the screen in half or to occupy one-quarter of the screen.

App Exposé shows you all of the open windows you have for a specific app in Slide Over or Split View. Just tap and hold an icon in the dock and you’ll see all of the open windows. Or you can long-press on an app icon on the Home screen and choose Show All Windows.

How to use multiple apps in Slide Over

Slideover in iPadOS
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With iPadOS 13, multitasking takes center stage with Slide Over. This feature allows you to jump between multiple apps from the same window. First, set the scene with via Settings > Home Screen & Dock > Multitasking and toggle on the three controls to Allow Multiple Apps, Picture in Picture, and Gestures.

Once you launch one floating window, you can drag in an app up from the Dock to add more windows. With multiple apps in Split View, you’ll see a Home bar at the bottom. Swipe horizontally on it to switch between apps in the Slide Over panel.

With an open app, slide up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the dock and then hold another app icon for a second before dragging it over the top of the left or right of the screen. You can then switch between those apps by swiping to the left or right at the bottom of the Slide Over screen.

How to add a mouse in iPadOS

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Apple has finally added mouse support for the iPad in iPadOS. As an accessibility feature, it’s built to emulate touch as opposed to fully bringing mouse support for everyday users. To add a wireless mouse in iPadOS, you need to pair a Bluetooth mouse in Settings > Bluetooth. Switch on your mouse and wait until it connects.

From then, you’ll be able to see a small gray round mouse cursor. You can adjust the visual characteristics of the cursor via Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control, and use the sliders, color, and contrast controls to enlarge and color the round cursor and control how long it stays visible.

How to use Sidecar

Apple Sidecar

Sidecar lets you use your iPad as a second display for your Mac, which can come in handy. To use the feature, you must be running MacOS Catalina on a Mac with a Skylake processor or better. One of the newer MacBooks from 2015 and later should work, but older models may be left out in the cold.

The feature is also only available on iPads that support the Apple Pencil. If you have all the necessary components, tap the AirPlay button in the Menu Bar to find your iPad on the list, and tap it. Your iPad should immediately start working as a second display for your device.