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How iPadOS works

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How iPadOS works: Trying to update your iPad , you noticed that you are being offered the installation of a new operating system: iPadOS . Intrigued by this, you immediately opened Google to search for information about it and you discovered that Apple has differentiated the operating systems of the iPhone and iPad, creating a new platform with exclusive features dedicated to tablets.

Well yes! Things are exactly like this: the Cupertino giant has decided to evolve iOS and to create a new exclusive version for iPad, capable of making the most of the hardware of these devices. Don’t worry though: although iPadOS has several new features compared to iOS, the system has remained the same (“under the hood”, on the other hand, there is always iOS) and the compatibility of all pre-existing apps is 100% guaranteed.

That said, I think you might like to find out more about how iPadOS works and how this operating system could change the way you use your iPad. Did I guess? Very well, then take five minutes of free time, read what I have to tell you about iPadOS and try to put my instructions into practice. I assure you that, in the end, you will be able to download, install and make the most of all the potential of this operating system. I wish you a good read and I wish you a very big good luck for everything!


What is iPadOS

Before getting to the heart of the guide and explaining how iPadOS works , it seems appropriate to dwell for a moment on the nature of this operating system and the reasons that led Apple to release it.

To simplify the matter as much as possible, we can say that iPadOS was born from Apple’s desire to underline the maturity reached by its iPads, especially those belonging to the Pro range, which can now do many more things than iPhones.

The goal of the Cupertino giant is to present iPads as real replacements for computers : to do this, the operating system that animates these devices cannot have limited functionality like those of iOS, or rather, it must be able to exploit in an appropriate form factor, such as that of the tablet, which provides a larger screen and the use of components such as pen, keyboard and USB-C port.

Hence the need to separate the iPad operating system from that of the iPhone and iPod touch, characterizing it with features dedicated exclusively to tablets , such as a more advanced management of multitasking, support for Apple Pencil, the ability to use keyboard and mouse, compatibility with external storage drives and much more.

“Under the hood,” however, iPadOS still has the heart of iOS, so iPad apps that were compatible with iOS are perfectly compatible with the new operating system as well. The same goes for devices supported by iPadOS : almost all iPad models that were compatible with iOS 12, even not very recent, can be updated without problems (and without slowdowns) to the new platform.

As for future versions of the operating systems for the iPhone and iPad, their release should proceed in parallel, but there may be exceptions. For example, iOS 13 (the first stable release of iOS 13 for the iPhone) came out before iPadOS, which debuted with the stable release 13.1 (along with iOS 13.1).

So far all clear? Well then I’d say we can take action and see how to use iPadOS.

How to install iPadOS

IPadOS installation

If you are willing to try iPadOS , you need to follow the classic procedure for updating the operating system on your iPad. But first, you need to make sure your tablet is on the list of devices supported by the new platform.

  • iPad Pro da 12.9″
  • iPad Pro da 11″
  • iPad Pro da 10.5″
  • iPad Pro da 9.7″
  • 6th Generation iPad (10.2 “)
  • 5th Generation iPad (9.7 “)
  • iPad mini (2019)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad Air (2019)
  • iPad Air 2

If you have an iPad among those listed above, to install iPadOS , all you have to do is go to the Settings menu of the device (the gear icon located on the home screen) and select the General and Software update items from the screen that opens.

Wait, therefore, for the message relating to the availability of a new version of iPadOS to appear and start the download and installation, first pressing the Download and install button and then Accept and Accept .

Apps, data and settings will remain in place but, to be safe, I recommend that you make a backup of the iPad anyway. For the detailed procedure, I invite you to check out my tutorial on how to install iPadOS.

How to use iPadOS

Once you have installed iPadOS on your iPad, you are ready to take the first steps within this new operating system which, I assure you, will amaze you with its potential and its extreme ease of use!

Home screen e multitasking


The first differences that are noticed using iPadOS are the new home screen and the new features related to multitasking .

The home screen now has an optimized layout, with a tighter grid for app icons and widgets (the same ones that on iOS were confined to a special screen) on the left side.

At the first start, you will have to confirm the display of the widgets on the home screen, answering affirmatively to the warning that you will see appear on the screen. Subsequently, you can customize the list of widgets to be displayed on the home screen or deactivate their vision by scrolling the section of the screen in which they are present and pressing the Edit button at the bottom (or by performing the same operation in the widget center, as was done on iOS).

This will open a menu containing the option to activate or deactivate the display of widgets on the home screen ( Keep on the Home screen ) and the list of available widgets: to select those to be displayed on the Home screen, drag them to the highlighted Favorites panel . Then press the Finish button (top right), to save the changes.

iPadOS Widget

Another interesting novelty (also present in iOS 13 for iPhone) is the dark mode , which allows you to make the user interface of iPadOS and supported applications darker (with black background and buttons / menus with shades of gray and white). To activate the dark mode in iPadOS, go to the Settings menu> Display and brightness and check the Dark box . By activating the Automatic lever , you can also activate the automatic switch from light to dark mode based on the time of day (with the ability to customize this time).

Still on the same screen, by scrolling down, you can choose the type of grid to use for the icons on the home screen and activate / deactivate the display of widgets in the home screen.

Dark mode iPadOS

We now come to the management of multitasking , which in iPadOS has been significantly improved compared to iOS.

To begin with, as already happened in iOS 12, it is possible to view two apps at the same time on the iPad screen, using the Split View function . The Split View allows you to divide the work area into two parts, choosing the display ratio to be assigned to each of the two applications displayed (50-50, 70-30 or 30-70).

To take advantage of the Split View function, open the first app you want to view on the screen, then call up the Dock bar (making a very gentle swipe from the bottom of the screen, in the center, upwards), press and hold on the icon of the second app you want to display in Split View and drag it towards the left or right edge of the display, so that it occupies one of the sides of the workspace. Then release the socket and the Split View display will be activated.

One of the great novelties of iPadOS is that it is possible to use multiple instances of the same app in Split View : this means that you can, for example, open Safari as the primary application and then set a second instance of Safari as a secondary app to be displayed on the other. half of the screen.

Split View iPadOS

Another good news of iPadOS is the enhancement of the Slide Over function (which was already present in iOS 12). If you have never heard of it, with the Slide Over function it is possible to have an app in a floating window, to be recalled if necessary (as a second app compared to the primary one already displayed on the screen or as a third app, if it is already active running two apps in Split View).

The extremely interesting thing is that iPadOS has extended the possibility of using the Split View mode to many apps, introducing support for opening new instances of applications already running: this means that it is possible to open countless instances of the same app by dividing them between Split View and Slide Over.

To set up an application in Slide Over, open any app on the iPad (or two applications in Split View), bring up the Dock bar and drag the icon of the application you want to display in the floating pane to the spot on the screen you prefer. Then release the hold and that’s it.

Slide Over your iPadOS

Once the Slide Over box is displayed, you can activate its automatic disappearance by moving it to the right edge of the screen and then swiping it from left to right (in order to make it “exit” from the workspace). Then, to call up the box, just swipe from the right edge of the screen inwards.

If you want, you can also add multiple instances of the same app in Slide Over. To browse all applications open in this mode, swipe up on the white line you see at the bottom of the application pane currently in Slide Over. To quickly switch between them, instead, swipe from left to right on the same line.

To view, then, a summary of all the open screens for a particular app, make a long tap on its icon on the Dock bar and select the item Show all windows from the context menu.

IPadOS context menu

The context menu also contains other useful functions, which vary from application to application. For example, Safari shows functions to open a new tab , a new private tab , bookmarks , and more.

Finally, I would like to point out the now very famous gesture borrowed from iPhone X and later: that of the swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top (in the center), which allows you to view the menu with the windows of all the applications open on the device.

In this view, it is possible to close the apps simply by moving their thumbnails upwards (an operation which is useless, indeed, harmful in most cases, as I explained to you in a dedicated tutorial).

Writing, text editing and Apple Pencil

Word your iPadOS

Other new features of iPadOS dedicated to productivity are those related to typing and editing texts .

In fact, new gestures have been introduced that make it possible to copy and paste texts in an extremely simple way: the pinch with three fingers , which copies the selected portion of text; the double pinch with three fingers , which cuts the selected portion of text; the opening with three fingers , which pastes the contents of the clipboard and the tap with three fingers which, on the other hand, allows you to display a toolbar (at the top) with icons to undo the last operation, cut, copy, paste and repeat the last operation canceled. You can also swipe left or right with three fingers, respectively, to undo and redo the last action.

These gestures are added to the more well-known ones to select the text (long tap on the first word and drag on the rest of the period to be selected); select entire periods or paragraphs (double or triple tap on the content of your interest), select multiple elements (tap with two fingers and drag) and move the text cursor (long tap on the space bar of the iOS keyboard and drag).

As for the keyboard , there is the introduction of the floating keyboard , which allows you to reduce the iOS keyboard to a small box to be moved anywhere on the screen, and the support for writing by dragging , which allows you to compose the words simply by “swiping” your finger on the letters that make up the letters (without taking your finger off the display).

To activate the floating keyboard of iPadOS, call up the virtual keyboard of your iPad, make a long tap on the keyboard icon (bottom right) and choose the Floating option from the menu that opens.

Drag-and-drop typing should be turned on by default. If this is not the case, go to the Settings> General> iPadOS keyboard menu and move the lever relating to the item Scroll on the floating keyboard to write to ON .

Remaining in the field of “writing”, it should also be noted the possibility of installing custom fonts , via the App Store , to be used later in the supported apps (eg those of word processing). You can manage the fonts installed on iPadOS by going to the Settings> General> Fonts menu .

News also for Apple Pencil which now, thanks to advanced predictive algorithms, reduces its latency to 9ms and sees the appearance of new tools and a new palette .

Support for external devices

IPadOS Bluetooth mouse connection

The transition from iOS to iPadOS marked a major opening by iPad to external devices . The tablets from Apple, in fact, can now finally communicate with USB storage devices, the controllers of the most popular video game consoles, mice, keyboards, external monitors and Macs, acting as secondary displays of the latter. Let’s try to analyze all these features in more detail.

  • Mac Connection – Newer iPads equipped with iPadOS can be used as secondary displays for Macs running macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. The connection can be made via cable or wirelessly, as an extension of the Mac desktop or its duplication.
  • Mouse and keyboard support – While external keyboards have always been supported by iOS (both Bluetooth and hard-wired, in the case of iPads with Smart Connector), iPadOS marked the addition of support for Bluetooth mice. In fact, by going to the Settings> Accessibility> Touch> AssistiveTouch menu , activating the AssistiveTouch function (the one that shows a virtual Home button on the device screen) and going to the Devices> Bluetooth devices section, it is possible to associate a Bluetooth mouse to the iPad and use it to operate the tablet without touching the display.
  • Support for external storage drives – Failure to support USB sticks, SD cards, and other external storage drives has always been one of iPad’s biggest flaws. With iPadOS, this limit is exceeded and, through the File app , it is possible to freely access the content of these devices, to be connected to the USB-C port of the iPad Pro (using suitable adapters, if necessary).
  • Support for video game controllers – iPadOS (and iOS 13) finally introduced support for Bluetooth controllers, including those of popular game consoles, such as PS4 and Xbox One . The controllers must be paired with the iPad (or iPhone) like any other Bluetooth device. For more information about it, you can read my tutorial on how to connect the PS4 controller to the iPhone (the instructions are also valid for iPad).


Safari in iPadOS

Even Safari , the historic Apple browser, has undergone a significant upgrade in iPadOS.

For starters, the iPadOS version of Safari loads all sites in desktop mode by default, and no longer in mobile mode. In addition, it presents a new start page containing the list of your favorite sites, those of the most frequently visited sites and a series of Siri suggestions , including, for example, the list of open tabs on other devices connected to the same Apple ID.

The long-awaited download manager integrated into the browser deserves a special mention , which finally makes its debut on Apple’s portable devices and allows you to download any type of file in a folder, called Download , which can then be accessed via the File app. or the appropriate button (the down arrow ) available in the Safari toolbar, at the top right.

Editing on photos and videos

Editing iOS your iPadOS

iPadOS also brings with it a series of tools to edit photos and videos in an advanced yet simple way.

The most interesting news certainly concern video editing . Now, in fact, by selecting a movie in the Photos app and pressing the Edit button , at the top right, you can access a series of tools for non-destructive editing of the clip.

“Non-destructive” editing means that the changes are applied to the videos (as well as to the photos), but you can retrace your steps at any time and restore the original version of the content.

Among the new changes that can be applied to videos, I would like to point out the possibility to rotate them , flip them , straighten them , correct their perspective , add color filters and more. Find everything by pressing the icons that appear on the left of the screen after tapping the “Edit” button and then using the tools that appear on the right instead.

Other cool features

App File in iPadOS

Finally, here is a review of other interesting features introduced by Apple in iPadOS, thanks to which you can make the most of your iPad.

  • New in the Files app – in addition to supporting external storage drives, the iPadOS Files app also includes other new features, such as the ability to create zip archives, a new column view mode, improved metadata management, support to quick actions, the ability to use search filters and share iCloud Drive folders (the latter function, at the time of writing, is not yet available).
  • Continue with Apple – this is a new secure authentication system that allows you to log in to various external services and websites using your Apple ID instead of Google and Facebook accounts and the classic username / password combination.
  • Apple Arcade – is a new subscription service that, for 4.99 euros / month after the first 30 days of free trial, allows you to access a huge range of games without advertising or in-app purchases. You can access Apple Arcade by selecting the appropriate tab in the App Store.
  • Find My App – is Apple’s new app that brings together the former “Find My iPhone” and “Find My Friends” applications. It therefore allows you to locate your devices and friends remotely.
  • Automation – is a new function of Apple’s Commands app that allows you to automate the execution of certain operations based on specific conditions (e.g. at a certain time of day or evening, when you leave your home, when you activate airplane mode etc.).
  • Full Page Screenshots – iPadOS allows you to take screenshots of full pages and documents. Just do the screen capture normally, open the thumbnail that appears at the bottom left and select the Full Page tab , at the top, on the next screen.

For more information


By now, you should be pretty clear on how iPadOS works and what its main features are. However, if you want to learn more and want to know even more about this operating system, you can “jump” on the Apple website , in the page dedicated to the characteristics of iPadOS.

Furthermore, if you “chew” a little English, I strongly suggest you read the review of iPadOS (and iOS 13) made by Federico Viticci on MacStories : the most complete and exhaustive you can find online.