When Apple first launched iPadOS at its developer's conference earlier this month, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that the iPad was finally getting the operating system it deserved. The iPad Pro's, in particular, were far more powerful than the software was capable of taking advantage of, and this update brought pretty much all of the most anticipated features.
After 10 days of using the beta version on an 11'' iPad Pro, I stand firmly behind my earlier conclusion that the iPad is finally ready to replace your laptop. What I didn't realize at the time was that there's one feature that stands above the rest: the new Siri Shortcuts combined with the widgets on the home screen.
Most of the major changes relate to multi-tasking, dark mode, the improved home screen, the desktop-class browser, and external drive access. All of those things are great. I especially like the expanded functionality in Slide Over, which allows you to pin certain apps to the side and hide or reveal them with a swipe over from the edge.
But none of those compare to the Siri Shortcuts and the widgets on the home screen. Okay, so technically that's two features, but in reality, they combine to form functionality that supercharges productivity on your iPad. Here's why.
You can easily build multi-step workflows.
Siri Shortcuts, introduced in iOS 12, are a way of building workflows that you can trigger with a command via Siri. For example, I have one on my iPhone when I say "Hey Siri, I'm headed home," it will send a text to my wife to let her know I'm on my way and open the maps app with directions from my current location.
There are pre-designed shortcuts you can use, or you can easily create your own for tasks you do on a regular basis. I also created one for my new article workflow that creates a Trello card, sets a due date, creates a task in Things, and starts a new note in Evernote for collecting research. All with one voice command, or tap.
Home screen widgets help you save time in big way.
That's where the iPadOS introduction comes in. The newly designed home screen allows you to show widgets. Along with your calendar, weather, or any number of other widgets like your mail, you can create a widget with your top Siri Shortcuts.
That means that on my home screen, I have a nice button sitting there for "New Article Setup." Every time I want to start a new article, or even just create the process so that I can come back later, I tap that button and it'll do all the work for me. Well, all of it except the writing.
I also have one created for playing my "Favorites" playlist in Apple Music, and one for sending me a list of cards from Trello as a PDF via email. As additional developers open up their apps to Siri Shortcuts, I suspect that a lot more of the regular tasks you perform every day will be able to be delegated to Siri.
This is a really big deal. For a lot of people, in order for the iPad to really be a work device, it needed to streamline processes that aren't quite as easy to navigate on the smaller touch interface. Siri Shortcuts solves that problem, at least for most of the simple workflows I find myself doing as a part of my regular routine.
The real game-changer is being able to pin to the home screen the ones I use most. In fact, it's a way more significant productivity boost than just being able to open multiple windows of the same app or having the interface automatically switch to dark mode.