Apple is in the middle of its Worldwide Developer Conference and one of the biggest announcements is the introduction of a brand new operating system for its iPad lineup. Based on iOS 13, the new iPadOS is designed specifically for the unique needs of iPad users and deviates from the iPhone version in a few important ways. We'll get to those in just a minute.
I've long been an advocate of the iPad as a full-time work device. I even wrote an article talking about how it changed almost everything about how I work. When I wrote that article, I was pretty clear that the biggest drawback had nothing to do with the hardware--which is fully capable of anything you could possibly throw at it. The biggest issue was that iOS 12 simply wasn't designed for real work.
Still, I was able to use my iPad Pro mostly full time for most work, with the exception of a few workflows that just weren't quite there. For example, importing photos from a digital camera, or connecting to external storage was either overly cumbersome, or simply didn't work.
And then there was Safari. Let's not even talk about what a pain it was to try to get work done that required access to a CMS or other software online and end up stuck in a mobile browser that simply wasn't up to the task.
Today, all of that has changed. Apple has introduced an iPad version of iOS13, it's brand new mobile device operating system, called iPadOS.
Home Screen and gestures
The changes here are probably the most subtle of all, but you can now pin widgets to your home screen, and increase the number of apps in the grid, giving you access to even more apps without having to swipe through screens. This is especially helpful if you want to be able to group apps based on workflows, giving you quicker access to the tools you use most often.
They also introduced a few new gestures, including three finger pinch to copy, three finger drop to paste, and three finger swipe to undo. That probably seems like no big deal, but if you've ever had to shake your iPad to undo something you accidently cut, you know that it's really a far more intuitive way to work.
You've been able to do limited multitasking before, but now iPad OS allows you to have multiple apps that take advantage of its Slideover feature. This means that you have quick access to apps by simply dragging your finger from the right of the screen, which is super handy for things like Mail, Slack, or Messages.
Previously, you had to go through the cumbersome process of dragging a new app up each time you wanted a new app in Slideover. Now, however, you can have as many as you want, and simply swipe through them like you would at the bottom of the apps on an iPhone.
Split view has gotten an upgrade as well, now allowing multiple instances of apps. That means you can have two Microsoft Word documents side by side, and drag and drop content between then. It also includes App Expose, which includes a swipe up to display all of the instances of a given app.
This may not seem like a big deal, but honestly multitasking was one of the biggest things holding back the iPad Pro from being a real work device.
Files and storage.
The Files app was easily the biggest gripe of most iPad users, and now the two biggest issues have been addressed. The first is that the Files app now supports better organization, including column-view, which allows better access to your files. It also includes file preview and quick actions that include sharing and "make pdf," from within Files.
The second is that it now supports access to USB drives and SD cards. This is means that you can now access your files on an eternal USB-C hard drive or digital camera. This is literally the most requested feature I've ever heard of for the iPad.
In addition, you previously had to import photos to the Photos app first, then move them where you might want them. Now, you can import directly to apps like Lightroom CC, which is my favorite thing ever.
Finally, Safari on the iPad is now a full, desktop-class browser, meaning no more getting forced into mobile sites. That means that you'll be able to access CMS software, or other cloud-based tools that require a real web browser to properly work.
It also means that browser-based software like Google Docs will actually work the way they're supposed to, instead of having to use stripped-down mobile app versions. I don't mind writing in Google Docs, but the commenting is terrible in the app version, for example.
Finally a laptop replacement.
I already felt like the iPad Pro was a legitimate laptop replacement, but that case is now settled. iPadOS brings the last remaining features needed to ditch the laptop, especially since unless you're rocking one of the 2019 MacBook Pros, the 2018 iPad Pros are probably more powerful and more capable anyway.
According to Apple, iPadOS will be available this fall as a free software update for iPad Air 2 and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and later and iPad mini 4 and later.If you're looking for a device that allows you to get real work done anywhere, iPadOS is finally the software that the iPad deserves.