WWDC: 16+ ways Apple improved iPad productivity

Apple also introduced numerous productivity enhancements that will make iPads even better laptop replacements, which ones make the the biggest difference to enterprise productivity>

What happened at WWDC?

Developers and Apple users will be most interested in two major iPad-related announcements at WWDC: Catalyst and iPad OS.

Catalyst is Apple’s name for the huge-big-massive set of iOS APIs it is bringing to macOS to enable developers to swiftly port iPad apps to Macs, while the re-branded iPad OS reflects that the tablet is now developing a unique identity as a productive tool.

What does Apple say about these improvements?

“iPad transforms how people work and express their creativity, and with iPadOS, we’re taking it even further by delivering exciting capabilities that take advantage of its large canvas and versatility,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

“iPadOS delivers exciting features, including a new Home screen with widgets, more powerful multitasking and new tools that make using Apple Pencil even more natural.”

It all starts at Home

Most iPad users spend most of their time exploring the Home Screen on their device, and Apple makes this more useful in iPad OS with a redesign.

The redesigned Home Screen lets you see a lot more information in one place. You can see the Today View for quick access to informative widgets, and also see more apps on the page.

[Also read: WWDC: What you need to know about Sign In with Apple]

Safari goes full-class

Most iPad professionals use Safari extensively, and many then get a little frustrated at the need to instruct their tablet to download the full desktop version of the sites they visit.

iPad OS fixes this by automatically presenting the full site, optimized for touch.

That’s good for general browsing, but even better if you use web apps like Squarespace or WordPress. (And you can also choose to only see specific sites in mobile view, if you want).

You’ll also find an updated start page when you open Safari. This includes favorites, frequently visited, and most recently visited websites and Siri-suggested sites based on browsing history and links shared with you in Mail and Messages.

Those aren’t the only improvements you’ll find. Safari on iPad also introduces 30 new Safari shortcuts for external keyboards and an all-new download manager.

Safari tab management

Another worthy Safari on iPad feature – better tab management. Just as you can on the Mac, Apple now lets you save a set of open tabs to Bookmarks.

You’ll also find that if you decide to type the address of an open tab in a browser window, Safari will automatically take you to that already open tab.

ipados keyboardApple

You can also use iOS’ new swipe-typing feature with the tiny keyboard.

Text handling

iPad OS means most Apple tablet users will need to re-learn some of the text handling gestures they’ve gotten used to using, but it’s OK – the new gestures are pretty intuitive, one you learn them:

  • Double-tap: quickly select addresses, numbers, email addresses, etc.
  • Tap and swipe: Select text.
  • Triple tap and swipe: Select sentence.
  • Quadruple tap and swipe: Select paragraph.
  • Pinch up with three fingers: Copy.
  • Pinch up with three fingers twice: Cut.
  • Pinch down with three fingers: Paste.
  • Three finger swipe left: Undo.
  • Three finger swipe right: Redo.

You can also invoke a new floating keyboard – just pinch in on the keyboard to get to this. The idea is that this new keyboard design makes it easier to type one-handed.

All about Sidecar

The all-new Sidecar feature enables users to extend their Mac desktop by using their iPad as a second display or as a high-precision input device across creative Mac apps:

What does Sidecar do?

The idea is that a Mac user can use their iPad as an extended display by simply choosing it as an option in the AirPlay menu. With this mode enabled, users can spread their work out across both displays, either mirroring the screen on both systems or extending the display so you have more real estate. Sidecar also lets you use the tablet as a graphics input using a paired Apple Pencil. This lets you write on your iPad to draw, sketch or write in any Mac app that supports stylus input. This also means you can use your Pencil to work accurately in key productive apps, such as Final Cut.

You must be using Bluetooth, a wired connection and both devices must be logged into the same Apple ID in order for Sidecar to function.

What else should we know?

There are some limitations: There is some confusion as to compatibility, some say the feature works with iPad 5 and later, but a highly-placed source also told me Sidecar only works with an iPad Pro. The feature can be used both wirelessly and over the USB-C connection. One neat improvement – when used with Macs that lack a TouchBar, you will find a TouchBar on the iPad display.

Which apps work with Sidecar?

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Affinity Designer & Photo
  • Cinema 4D
  • CorelDraw
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Maya
  • Motion
  • Painter
  • Principle
  • Sketch
  • Substance Designer & Painter
  • ZBrush
  • Adobe will also test Lightroom support for Sidecar.

ipados 13 filesApple

A much better Files App

The Files app continues to improve.

The introduction of iCloud Drive support for folder sharing will make it much easier to collaborate on projects as anyone you’ve provided with access will be able to see the files inside the folder in their own iCloud Drive.

A new Column View makes it easier to find what you need while new QuickActions support in Files makes means you can easily mark up, rotate and create PDF.

At long last! Zip files support

So many enterprises make use of zip files it’s a shame it took Apple this time until it introduced proper support for them in Files on iPad.

This changes in iPad OS, which introduces zip and unzip shortcuts. I don’t think Apple has fixed the challenge of creating and opening password-protected zip files on an iPad yet, however – though I continue to believe it should.

Support for external storage

iPads are also going to get better at working with others in iOS 13, with support for external storage devices, specifically USB-connected storage and SD cards.

That means that when you successfully connect an iPad to an external storage device, (potentially, though not necessarily, using some form of hub) those volumes will appear as options in the Locations menu in the Files app. You can then access those items, select and drag-&-drop them on your iPad.

Including network drives

Enterprise users will be even more interested in another enhancement in the product, which is support for SMB file servers.

That makes it possible to interact with enterprise class network-attached storage volumes, which should be of particular benefit to graphics and video professionals and knowledge workers in enterprise iOS set-ups.

The overall impact of these improvements is that you’ll be able to work with large or secured assets using your iPad. This further erodes the number of tasks you cannot accomplish on Apple’s tablet.

iPads even support a mouse

Apple did its best to obfuscate a new Assistive Touch feature which lets iPad users make use of external mice on their devices.

The company says the feature is intended only for those users for whom such support is mandatory, signalling that it remains focused on touch – all the same, introduction of this limited mouse support will be welcomed by many iPad users, I think.

ipados slide overApple

I’ll probably start using Slide Over more because of this. 

Multitasking improvements

As expected, Apple is making important enhancements to multitasking on iPads, particularly within Split View and Slide Over.

iPad users have long been frustrated that it has not been easy to work with multiple instances of the same app open in Split View.

This is no longer the case. iPad users can now work with multiple files and documents from the same app at once – one in the primary window with additional app windows made available in Split View.

SlideOver becomes much more useful as it is now possible to switch between apps inside it, which leaves your primary project window untouched. You achieve this using the slight swipe up from the bottom of the Slideover window – in demos I’ve seen six apps made available in Slideover, but no maximum number has been announced.

The impact of these improvements is to make it much easier to work within apps, between apps and across apps to get things done.

Of course, once you have all these apps and app windows open you may find it hard to find the window you are looking for. Apple has thought of this: In a single tap, App Exposé provides a quick view of all the currently open windows for any one app with.

Apple Pencil improved

Apple Pencil improvements include a redesigned tool palette (including a pixel eraser) and a smattering of other tweaks.

For example, you can markup webpages, documents and emails using the device – just swipe the Apple Pencil up from the corner of the screen.

Apple has also improved the latency of the device, from around 40 to nine milliseconds.

Drag to create windows

Apple has also made it a little more intuitive to open new windows. You can do this by dragging content into its own space.

What does that mean? It means you can drag a link out of a Message to open it in Safari, or an email address to open Mail. This is quite natural behaviour and should accelerate workflows.

Steve would never, actually he would: fonts

Apple has always had a ‘thing’ about fonts – it’s baked inside the company’s DNA ever since college dropout Steve Jobs developed a passion for them, which informed some of his decisions when it came to Mac.

iPad OS sees iPads gain new font-handling abilities, principally the chance to install (and purchase) custom fonts from the likes of Adobe, DynaComware, Monotype, Morisawa and Founder, all of which will be made available at the App Store.

You’ll manage your installed fonts in a new section inside of Settings.

Even more enterprise-friendly features

Every Apple iOS 13 system will deliver a range of useful enterprise-focused features, not least Sign on with Apple.

These will include data separation for BYOD deployments, modern authentication for device enrolment, managed Apple IDs for business users and API’s enterprises can use to deploy web apps and services to iOS devices that use Face or Touch ID.

Little features, such as the capacity to add attachments to calendar events, to block senders and weak password warnings may also be of use to professional iPad users.

New relationship labels and the capacity to find devices even if they are offline using Bluetooth signals should also come in useful.

You’ll find more information and additional features here.

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