For a growing number of people, the iPad Pro is already the only laptop you’ll ever need. This isn’t true for everyone – what on Earth is?
It’s also true that some tasks just can’t be done on an iPad. Things like Xcode development, 4K video editing, and other high-end tasks just aren’t available (yet). And while the Files app provides a rudimentary filing system, some users need Macs to do what they need to do.
All the same, as the promised 2019 release of “Full Photoshop” shows, the list of things iPads can’t do will surely shrink, particularly when you consider the latest range of iPad Pros are an astonishing 32 times faster than the second-generation iPad shipped in 2011.
This is progress at work.
This also means the iPad you buy today will still be supported and provided with additional features in four years’ time. In other words, the list of reasons you shouldn’t use an iPad as a notebook replacement is shrinking.
Who was it who predicted that PCs will always be around, but their unique uses will decline? On with the show:
Take control of your keyboard
Apple’s iPad can understand a good range of keyboard shortcuts. If you are going to use one as an effective laptop replacement, you will get more done if you learn how to use them and what they are.
Here are some of the most important shortcuts you need to learn:
Command-A: Select All.
Command-H: Return to Home Screen.
Command-Space: Opens Spotlight search, like a Mac.
Control-Space: Invokes the keyboard switcher – this is a very important command on which I have more later.
The most useful keyboard command I use?
Press and hold Command and you’ll be rewarded with a list of all the keyboard commands for the app you are currently using.
Apps have shortcuts, too
That last item is super important when using an iPad Pro as a laptop replacement — it makes a huge difference if you can only remember that every app may host its own keyboard shortcuts, and that you’ll find out what these are by pressing and holding Command.
There are lots of unique shortcuts to learn, for example:
In Word: Command-Control-N (or 1,2,3): To cycle between Styles.
In Safari: Command-F: Finds an item on the page you are on. Better yet, Command-N opens a new Safari window in Split View (more on Split View and other iPad multitasking features later in this series).
In Files: Command-Shift-R: To show Recent files.
In Twitter: Command-M: Toggle Night Mode.
Sadly, not every app developer has created keyboard shortcuts for their apps, but it’s very useful to become familiar with those who have. One that I always find useful is Command-Alt-D to show the Dock — it’s more intuitive than swiping up when you’re typing on a keyboard.
iOS Keyboard tips
You may sometimes need to type without using your external iPad Pro keyboard. Here are a few things you may need to know when you do so:
Caps Lock: Enable this by double-tapping the Shift key.
Secret characters: Many characters (including the currency character) on the iPad Pro’s soft keyboard also hide alternatives. To find alternative characters that do exist, just press and hold on any key.
Double-tap the Space bar: To add a period. Or press and hold the period character to access a whole bunch of domain endings.
Use the mouse: Your iPad does actually have a mouse-like touchpad. To use this Just tap and hold anywhere on the keyboard with two fingers, you can now slide the cursor around on screen.
Use the Split Keyboard in your iPad
You may sometimes find typing a little easier if you use the Split Keyboard Apple has hidden inside of your iPad – it’s quite useful when you want to type while sitting down without a table, for example.
- To split your keyboard, open an app and tap a text field and then tap and hold the keyboard icon at the lower-right corner of the keyboard.
- Slide up until the Undock/Split dialog appears, and tap Split.
- (This doesn’t work on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but does work on all the others.)
The split keyboard also has another talent — tap just to the right of the T character, and you’ll find invisible Y, H and B keys (left) and T, G, V keys (right) — you can use these to type a little more fluidly.
Use Text Replacement shortcuts
Automation can augment what you are trying to achieve.
Text Replacements are fantastic to set up for everything from letterheads to technical terms, form documents and more. They are also useful when you want to type email addresses, phone numbers, and the like.
- To create a Text Replacement, open: Settings>General>Keyboards>Text Replacement.
- You’ll see a list of any shortcuts you may already use.
- Tap + (Plus) to create a new shortcut
- You’ll be asked to enter the phrase/word and to enter the shortcut you want.
Create shortcuts for:
- Your company name and address
- Company phone number
- Company email
- Any form letters you regularly use
In the future, whenever you need to type any of those, just type the shortcut and you’ll see the full phrase appear. (Usefully, these Shortcuts that you have created are usually also made available across all the other Apple devices you use that are logged into your Apple ID.)
Dictation — the underestimated jewel
Apple’s iOS does not utilize a conventional GUI but augments this with touch, gesture, voice, and more.
Those additional user interface elements don’t just disappear when you replace your laptop with an iPad, and it is vital that you learn to move fluidly between them logically, using the best available option to get things done.
Why hunt around for apps when you can ask Siri to open them for you? And why write lengthy documents when you can use the powerful Dictation tools inside iOS to type them for you?
To enable Dictation on your iPad:
- Open Settings>General.
- Tap Keyboard, and then toggle Enable Dictation to on (green).
When you want to dictate, and you are using the built-in iOS soft keyboard, just tap the microphone button at the bottom, to the left of Space.
Tip: When using an external keyboard, tap Control-Space to toggle the Keyboard Viewer. You can either select the Emoji keyboard and tap ABC at the bottom left of that keyboard to access the keyboard toolbar or remain in the same language keyboard as you are using to access that toolbar. Now tap the downward pointing chevron to access the soft keyboard, and tap the Dictation tool. I realize this is all a little complex, but it gets easier once you learn your way around.
Dictation isn’t dumb (though it lacks the ability to delete, which is annoying). You do sometimes experience some lag between speaking and seeing words appear on the page, so try not to speak too fast to give the system a chance to catch up.
These are some of the commands you should know when dictating on an iPad:
- New line: Move to next line
- New Paragraph: Create new paragraph
- Caps on/Caps Off: Capitalize
- All Caps: Makes next word upper case
- Space bar: Space
- No space: No space between words.
- Period/Full stop: Type a period.
- Comma: Type a comma.
- Quote/End Quote: Type a quote
- Exclamation Point: !
- Question Mark: ?
I made a handy list of Dictation commands you can download from here.
Use Predictive Text
Predictive Text is Apple’s gentle way of helping you type faster and more efficiently.
It works like this:
As you type, the AI inside your device tries to figure out what you want to say and suggests the next word you may want to type. To use that word, you must tap it on the screen. Now, most of the time I find that I type so much faster than the time it takes to use this feature, but it’s very useful when you are writing complex technical terms.
Predictive Text is always available if you happen to be typing with the iPad’s built-in keyboard, but if you want to access it while using an external keyboard (from Apple or form anyone else) you should follow the steps described in Dictation above:
- Tap Control H, stay in your current keyboard, and use the Predictive Text items in the persistent toolbar that now lives at the bottom of your iPad Pro’s display.
You can also access Undo, Redo, Clipboard, Bold, Italic, and Underline tools here, or invoke the soft keyboard by tapping the downward-pointing chevron.
Next up: In the next episode, we’ll look at the iPad Pro’s built-in multitasking features and offer up a few Settings that you really should know about when using one of these powerful machines as a laptop.
I’ll let you know when I publish the next article in this series: Please follow me on Twitter and join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.