Use your iPad as a laptop

What's better than a cool gadget? One that doubles as something else.

ipad with keyboard add on
Put a keyboard on it and, just like a Pokemon, your iPad will evolve.Daniel Korpai via Unsplash

Apple has pushed the idea of iPads as laptop replacements for years now, but the release of iPadOS made the device more laptop-like than ever.

The software features a wealth of useful multitasking options and utilities that make Apple's line of tablets a very capable alternative to laptops—whether it’s just for one plane trip or on a more permanent basis.

Add hardware

a person using an ipad with a keyboard on a wooden surface near a laptop
There you have it: two laptops for the price of one laptop, an iPad and a keyboard.Lara Far via Unsplash

Before you dig into the functionalities of this new operating system, you'll need to add some hardware—you can't use your iPad as a serious laptop replacement without a keyboard attachment. Apple makes official keyboard covers for all current iPad models, starting at $160, but more affordable third-party keyboards are also available, like the Logitech Slim Folio ($100 on Amazon), or the Brydge Pro ($150 on Amazon).

Not only do these keyboard accessories make it much easier to type on an iPad for extended periods of time, but they also tap into the iPad's support for keyboard shortcuts. As with any Mac computer, you can use Cmd+C to copy text and Cmd+V to paste text, and the arrow keys will give you greater control over text editing selections as well.

For the ultimate laptop experience, you can also add a mouse or trackpad to your iPad, either via Bluetooth or a USB-C connection. Just go to Settings, select Accessibility, Touch, AssistiveTouch and then Devices.

The Dock

new homescreen on ipados
Your iPad is now more MacBook than iPhone.David Nield

Until now, iPads looked and felt more like an iPhone because they use the same same operating system. But iPadOS has moved the Apple tablet closer to MacOS, making it look a lot more like a MacBook. The main feature responsible for this is the array of icons displayed on the bottom of the screen of all Apple devices, also known as the Dock. On iPadOS, you can see it when you’re inside an app by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. To add an app, tap and hold on its icon, and drag it down to the Dock; to remove a shortcut, tap, hold, and then drag the app icon out.

From Settings in iPadOS, tap General, then Multitasking & Dock to access a handful of options. For example, you can enable or disable Split View and Slide Over modes, (more on those later), and whether to keep recently opened apps on the right-hand side of the Dock or not (we suggest you keep them in place).

Another option you'll want to keep enabled here is Picture in Picture. This will allow video playing in apps such as FaceTime or Netflix to continue playing in a smaller window when you launch another app or go back to the home screen. It's a handy feature if you're trying to do some serious multitasking on your iPad.

Split View

split view on ipad os
Because all you've ever wanted is to read PopSci while you sort your files in the cloud.David Nield

Split View lets you get two apps up on screen side by side. With one app open, slide up from the bottom of the screen to see the Dock, then press and drag another app icon to the left or right edge of the screen. Release the app icon when the screen splits, then drag the black partition line to set how the screen is divided.

You can also have a third window of the same app open in a different space, and navigate to and from it by swiping to the side. This feature is still not available on all apps, but it'll definitely work on Apple apps such as Safari, Notes, or Mail. Try it by dragging an app icon from the Dock to the side of the screen as before, only this time with an app that's already open.

Split View will come in handy when you need to compare two websites, or compose an email while referencing another one. To see all of the open apps and split windows currently running on your iPad, drag up from the bottom of the screen, then keep dragging into the middle of the display—this opens the main multitasking view that lets you quickly jump between apps.

Slide Over

slide over mode on ipad os
You can have one or more apps floating on the right side of your screen.David Nield

Slide Over lets you run apps in little floating windows on top of each other—it's a bit like having a mini iPhone interface open on the right side of your iPad screen. To put an app in Slide Over mode, tap on its icon in the Dock and drag it out, just as you do with Split View—just don’t drag it all the way to the left or right. If you want to create a Slide Over window while using Split View at the same time, drag the app icon on top of the dividing line rather than to either side of the screen.

Tap and hold on the small bar at the top of a Slide Over window to move it to the left or right of the iPad display, or just swipe it off screen completely to hide the Slide Over app. When you want to bring them back, swipe in from the right-hand edge of the iPad screen. To use multiple apps in Slide Over, just drag another icon on top of the window that's already floating on screen.

If you have multiple apps in play in Slide Over, swipe left or right on the bar at the bottom of the floating window to quickly jump between them. Swipe up on that same bar to see a fan-out view of all the apps currently in Slide Over mode (just as you’d see when double-tapping the home button on your iPhone). Tap on a window to jump to it, or tap and swipe up to close it.

Drag and drop

drag and drop on ipad os
That's a hell of a tomato pic. Seamlessly send it to all your friends with Drag and Drop.David Nield

When you've got apps up in Split View or Slide Over mode, try dragging any item you want to transfer from one app to another, like an image from Photos into Mail, or a link from Safari into Messages.

Drag and Drop lets you drag multiple items at once, though it's a little tricky. Tap and hold on an item until it starts floating, use another finger to select multiple items, and drag them all over to another app.

Support for this feature, Slide Over and Split View can be a little hit or miss in apps that aren't made by Apple, because developers won't necessarily have added the necessary flexibility into their apps. However, plenty of third-party apps can work with these modes, and more should fall into line in the future.