Apple has finally taken some decisive steps. A few days ago, it had released the beta version of a feature-packed operating system (OS) for its iPads and currently allows all to instal the prerelease software for a taste of things to come. The company has also come up with the iOS 13 public beta for iPhones, but the OS for tabs - officially called iPadOS 13 - has our attention for several reasons. Apple's iPad is an incredible piece of hardware, packing in great display, powerful chip, long battery life and several productivity apps. It does exceptionally well in areas such as content creation and consumption, and the productivity factor has not been neglected either. In fact, with the addition of a detachable keyboard and stylus support, it joined the league of workhorses. But the lack of a dedicated OS held it back. Moreover, some experts observed that Apple was unsure whether to treat the iPad as a giant phone or a touch-screen Mac. Now that the latest upgrade is here, all performance issues will be taken care of and the iPad may soon evolve into a premium primary device.
What Has Got Better
Multitasking: Earlier updates enhanced multitasking, but even then, one could not view multiple apps side by side, which was a big productivity hindrance. What if I have to work on two Word documents simultaneously and need to put them next to each other for quick data matching? Well, Apple has finally addressed this problem, and I was able to work with two notes, two Safari windows and two Word documents, opened side by side. Better still, one can stack multiple apps in Slide Over and quickly switch between them. Every time I opened a combination of apps in split-view and pressed the home button, the combination stayed in the background and could be accessed from the multitasking window. Drag and drop between the apps also worked smoothly.
Gestures: It is hard to believe, but something this small can enhance user experience. The old techniques are there, but Apple has added a new set of three-finger gestures for copy, cut, paste, undo and redo. Three-finger pinch-in can be used for copying; three-finger double pinch is for cut and to paste, tap and do a three-finger pinch-out (expand). Instead of shaking the iPad for undo, a three-finger swipe left (or three-finger double tap) comes handy. Three-finger swipe right can be used for a redo. Similarly, tap twice to select a word, thrice to select a line and four times to select the entire paragraph. You can also get a full-page screenshot. The preview of the screenshot (captured using home and power button in iPad 12.9-inch 2017 model) had a 'full page' option on the top. It works on web pages in Safari but not on Facebook or Word documents. Using the on-screen 'floating' keyboard is convenient as you can shrink it with a pinching motion. I pinched in with two fingers and it reduced the size of the QuickType keyboard for one-hand typing (even swipe-typing worked well).
Desktop-type browser: Earlier, most websites treated the iPad Safari browser as a mobile interface and loaded no-frill mobile versions. Now, Safari on the iPad tells sites it is equivalent to Safari on the Mac, and hence, full desktop versions can be featured. The biggest plus point of a desktop-type browser is that Web apps such as Google Docs, Grammarly and WordPress will work seamlessly and your browsing experience will be less stilted. Although it worked well most of the times, mobile sites still loaded now and then. Also, most desktop sites require mouse input. So, Apple has developed an additional layer that makes touch input feel like mouse input during Web browsing.
Widgets: Another welcome addition is the Today View on the left of the home page. It allowed me to add widgets and pin apps such as e-mail, calendar, weather, shortcuts, podcasts, screen time and more. This makes things super convenient and one need not switch between apps all the time. Within the e-mail widget, I was able to create a VIP list for accessing important e-mail messages from the home screen itself. Besides, I was able to have a quick look at what my day would look like, thanks to widgets data. You can also deactivate Today View.
External drive support: A much-needed update that will enhance productivity as users will be able to connect hard drives, SD card readers and even USB drives for data transfer. For older iPads, you can use pen drives with lightning ports. The iPad Pro models (2018) have Type-C ports and connecting should not be difficult. Apple says iPads will not be affected by bad sectors when connecting to external drives and. It worked flawlessly in demos, but my SanDisk pen drive with lightning port could not be connected.
Apple Pencil and mouse support: Apple Pencil is an excellent stylus for note taking or sketching, and here we see further improvements. The tool palette is a great addition. The latency on the Pencil has been reduced as well. What is more interesting is the mouse support, be it wireless or dongle-based, and you get a circular cursor. The setting for mouse pairing is hidden and can be activated from Accessibility settings under AssistiveTouch. I tested a Bluetooth mouse and it worked better than I expected. Using the mouse, one can unlock the device, access home page, Control Center and notifications, and navigate through all apps - definitely a convenient input mechanism after years of exposure to touch.