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iPad OS Is Transforming the iPad Into a Laptop

Apple is making big changes to the way we use iPads.


Apple is making big changes to the way you can use your iPad. At WWDC earlier this week, Apple announced that, starting this fall, all iPads will run iPadOS, instead of the iOS that all iPhones use. It’s more than just a rebrand of the operating system, as it’s giving all iPads, whether that’s an entry-level iPad or a full-fledged iPad Pro, some welcome new features that take advantage of the tablet form factor.

A Desktop-Class Browsing Experience

Arguably the biggest promise of iPadOS is that it will continue to creep towards desktop-class browsing experience on your iPad. Instead of serving you the mobile version of a site, like it has in the past, Apple’s Safari browser on iPadOS will treat your iPad as a desktop. At the keynote, Apple’s Craig Federighi even noted that web apps like Google Docs and WordPress will be optimized for Safari on the iPad, too. There will be more desktop-esque keyboard shortcuts that will work on the iPad for the first time. And there be new text-editing gestures that are optimized for the iPad, eliminating the absolute need for a mouse.

Mouse Support Is Coming to iPad

If you’d rather use a mouse, however, rather than depend on these new-and-improved touch gestures, Apple is bringing mouse support to iPadOS. It will support both USB and Bluetooth mice, meaning you’ll easily be able to use your current mouse and thus make your iPad feel more like a desktop computer. (Apple has yet to release a full list of third-party mice that iPadOS will support.)

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A new Home Screen

The first noticeable difference with iPadOS is that, when it’s rolled out, all iPads will have an upgraded Home screen. Instead of apps living front-and-center on the Home screen, iPadOS will allow you to push them off to the side so that can pin your favorite widgets (news, weather, calendar, battery life of your connected devices) on the Home screen, too (this is only in landscape mode). It’s not a major difference in the fact that your iPad will still feel like an iPad, but it’s designed to help you keep track of multiple things.

Better Multitasking

Speaking of multitasking, that’s really what iPadOS and its exclusive features are optimized for. iPadOS will introduce a feature called Slide Over that allows you to swipe the side of iPad and open a separate app in a small window while still viewing whatever app or web page you already had opened. Essentially, it allows you to have two things open at once. In much the same way, Split View allows you to have multiple windows opened from the same app; for example, you can have two different Notes opened side by side, or two Safari windows, or two Mail emails, or two Microsoft Word documents. It works for both Apple’s native and third-party apps.

The Files App, New and Improved

The Files app will be getting a redesign along with some much-needed improvements with iPadOS. There’s a new column view so you can see more files at a time, and there will be a new Downloads folder so you can quickly access new files. iPadOS will support shared folders through iCloud, which is first, making file sharing even more seamless, whether you’re on your iPad or accessing files from your home server. Finally, the Files app will also be able to connect with external hard drives, SD card readers and USB drives.

With iPadOS, Apple is treating its entire line of iPads differently and it feels like a breath of fresh air. For the longest time, unless you had an iPad Pro, using an iPad just felt like using a blown-up version of the iPhone you already had (which meant it was pigeon-holed as a “secondary device”). Now, that’s changing. It’s very unlikely that iPadOS will encourage you to permanently replace your laptop with an iPad, even if it’s with an iPad Pro, but by giving all iPads a more desktop-like experience, the lines are getting blurred just a little more.

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