IPadOS16Yesterday, Apple had a keynote event at its Apple Park campus in Cupertino, CA to introduce lots of new products and software features.  It will take some time to process everything that Apple announced, and I expect additional details to surface throughout the rest of this week as Apple holds its WWDC developer conference.  Today, I’m going to start by focusing on the announcement that Apple saved for last in the keynote presentation: the new iPadOS 16.  Combine the new features that are unique to the iPad and the features that are coming to the iPad, iPhone, and/or Mac, and the result is a significant update to the operating system for the iPad, especially iPads that use Apple’s M1 chip (the iPad Pro and the newest iPad Air).  Here are the highlights that I am looking forward to the most because I think that they will enhance the use of my iPad in my law practice or because they will increase the enjoyment that I get with my iPad.

Stage Manager

Up to now, multitasking on the iPad has mostly meant running two apps side-by-side.  There are a few exceptions, like the ability to put one or more apps in Slide Over mode, but there was always a sense that Apple was resisting any move away from a single app on the screen at the time.

Yesterday, Apple introduced a new way to manage windows on the iPad and the Mac for whenever you want to do so: Stage Manager.  With Stage Manager, you can have overlapping windows of different sizes on the iPad, much like you might have on a PC or a Mac.  But it is better than what you are used to doing on a computer.  On a computer, overlapping windows can get confusing when you have a whole bunch of windows on top of each other.  Stage Manager solves this by putting apps into groups.  You can work with one, two, three, or four windows at a time in the main portion of your screen.  To the left, you will see miniature versions of the other windows or groups of windows in order of how recently you used them, turned on their side so that they take up less space:

StageManager

I cannot wait to try this out.  From the first look, this appears to be a great solution for going back and forth between different apps and seeing what is going on in one or more windows while you work in another one.  And I love the solution of just working with one window, or a group of windows associated with a single task, in the main portion of the screen while easily seeing the other open windows peaking out on the left side. 

Another advantage of Stage Manager over the current approach is that right now, when you have two apps running side-by-side, there is often confusion over which app you are using.  If you type on the keyboard, are the letters going to appear in the app on the left or on the right?  With overlapping windows, it is immediately apparent which window is on top.

Now that you can use more apps at the same time, do you need to worry about your iPad running out of memory when you use multiple power-hungry apps at once?  Apple has a solution for that too.  iPadOS 16 adds Virtual Memory Swap for iPads that have the M1 chip, which currently means the iPad Air (5th generation, introduced in 2022), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation,  introduced in 2021), and iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation, introduced in 2021).  With this feature, Apple can use your iPad’s storage instead of RAM to help run software.  Computers have done something similar for a long time, and it’s nice to see Apple borrowing this for folks who want to run multiple apps that each can use up to 16GB of memory.

Stage Manager is optional.  If you prefer to use just one app at a time, you can continue to do so.  But if you want to jump into Stage Manager mode, it looks like you can just use a finger to shove in from the bottom corner of a full-screen app to jump into this mode.

More space to work

With the ability to use multiple windows at one time, you may find yourself wishing that you had more screen real estate.  iPadOS 16 gives you two ways to get some.

First, for the first time ever, you will be able to connect an iPad to an external display without simply mirroring what is on the iPad’s display.  External display resolutions of up to 6K are supported.  Thus, you can put your iPad on a desk in front of an external display and have some app windows on your iPad’s display and a bunch of other apps windows on the monitor behind the iPad.  You can even drag and drop between your iPad’s display and the external display.

External

Because we have never before had this ability, I’ve never before thought about how I might use it.  And I’m curious how it might work in practice.  I’m also curious if an iPad can use an iMac as an external monitor, much like a Mac can currently use an iPad as an external monitor.

Second, even if you don’t have an external display, the new Display Scaling Mode changes the pixel density of your iPad’s display.  That way, you can see even more at one time—although, of course, text and pictures become smaller. 

I believe that both external display support and Display Scaling Mode require using an iPad with an M1 chip, which—as noted above—means the higher-end iPad introduced in 2021 and 2022.

I certainly don’t imagine that I will use these two modes very often.  But in certain circumstances, I can see both of them being incredibly useful. 

Customizable toolbars

On my Mac and PC, I always love it when a program gives me the ability to customize a toolbar so that I have easy access to the commands that I want to use the most.  Traditionally, not many iPad apps have offered this feature, but I love it when I find it.  For example, one of the main reasons that I pay for the PRO version of the fantastic PDF Expert app is that I can create a custom toolbar with the pens and drawing tools that I use the most.  It makes me much more efficient when I am annotating documents on my iPad.

iPadOS 16 will allow you to customize toolbars in apps to display the buttons and actions that you use most often.  Apple only mentioned this feature for a few seconds, so at this point, I don’t know what built-in apps and third-party apps will take advantage of this feature.  I hope that lots of apps gain this feature.

Customize

Other cross-app improvements

The new customizable toolbars feature looks like a particularly useful feature that will make lots of apps better.  There are other system-wide improvements that I look forward to using.

For example, a new multiselect feature will allow you to select multiple items and have a context menu appear that lets you apply an action to all of the items at once.  A new find-and-replace feature in apps like Mail, Messages, Reminders, and others looks like a nice improvement with a search field above the keyboard and an improved interface for finding, moving, and replacing words.  Apple also said that undo and redo will work better in more apps such as Files, Photos, and Calendar.  And a new instant Search feature will show results in apps as you type.

Files app improvements

The Files app will become even more useful in iPadOS 16, adding features such as the ability to change file extensions, view folder sizes, additional options for sorting in a column, and more.  Apple has also improved the open and save panel, including the ability to rename folders inline.

iCloud Shared Photo Library

Now, I want to turn to a few features that technically work on multiple platforms, including both the iPhone and iPad, but which I think will be particularly valuable on the iPad.

Let’s start with photos.  Although I love to take photos on my iPhone, I far prefer to look at them on my iPad because of its large, high-quality screen.  That is especially true if, like me, you have the larger 12.9″ iPad Pro with its Liquid Retina XDR display.  The Photos app on my iPad already works great when I want to see the pictures that I took, but what about when my family and friends want to see my pictures and videos or I want to see the ones that they took?  The new iCloud Shared Photo Library lets you share all or some of your photos and videos with up to five other people.  Thus, if you and your spouse both take pictures at an event or on vacation, you each have access to all or most of the photos. 

Photos

I say “all or most” because you may not want to share all of your photos.  iCloud Shared Photo Library will have different ways that you can manage who can see which photos and videos.  For example, you can choose only to share photos starting on a specific date, or only the photos that have the other person in them, or only the photos that you have both you and the other person in them.  There is also a new icon in the Camera app on an iPhone associated with your shared library.  Turn it on by pressing the icon (much like turning on the flash or other features in the camera app) and then photos that you take will automatically go to the shared library.

If one person in your group edits or deletes a photo, that applies to the photo for everyone in the group.  I’m not yet sure if this means that it also deletes the photo on the iPhone of the person who originally took the photo; I suspect that the edit or deletion only occurs in the shared library, but we’ll see.

Photos2

There are lots of other features also coming to Photos.  A new duplicate detection feature allows you to find duplicate photos and clean up your library.  By default, your hidden and recently deleted albums are locked and you need to use Face ID / Touch ID / passcode to access them—a great privacy feature.  If you make edits to one photo, you can copy those edits and quickly apply them to other photos.  You can sort your People album alphabetically—which is something that I’ve been doing manually for years, wondering every time why I couldn’t do this automatically.  And if you like using the Photos widget but wish that it only showed you photos, you can now disable Memories and Features Photos from appearing in the widget.

SharePlay via Messages

When Apple first came out with the ability to use SharePlay with a video, it didn’t much appeal to me because it relied on FaceTime.  Although I can imagine a circumstance in which I might want to watch a movie with someone else in a different location at the same time, I don’t really need to see their face while I’m watching the movie, nor do I need them to see me.

In iPadOS 16, you can watch a movie or show, or listen to a song, at the same time as others using SharePlay via Messages.  This makes a lot more sense to me.  You can watch a show and send text messages to each other about what you are watching or listening to. 

There are related collaboration features coming to SharePlay via Messages, such as the ability to share notes, reminders, Safari Tab Groups, and presentations with others via Messages.  I have never really collaborated with others this way, so I don’t think I’ll do it in iPadOS 16.  But sharing a movie or music does sound interesting to me.

Copy text and objects

Currently, if you are looking at a picture that contains text in it—like a picture of a sign—you can use Live Text to copy the text and then paste it someplace else.  With the new Live Text for Videos, you can pause a video that you are watching and then do the same thing with any text that is in that frame of the image.  That’s a natural extension of Live Text.

Currently, if you are looking at a picture that has an object in it—like a dog in the middle of the picture–if you want to take just the dog and put him someplace else, like on a page of notes or in a presentation, all you can really do it crop the image to a square around the dog.  You need to use other apps or tools to remove the rest of the background.  But in iPadOS 16, you can now tap on an object in a picture to lift that subject from the background.  This works in Photos, Screenshot, Quick Look, Safari, and other apps, as long as you have an iPad with an A12 Bionic chip or later, such as the iPad Air (third generation, released in 2019).

I love the enhanced ability to copy just the part of an image or video that you want and then use it elsewhere.

Dictation

I often find that it is faster to dictate an email, text message, etc. than to type it.  And since Siri translates your voice to text on the device without sending what you say to the cloud, the system is private and I am comfortable using it for text entry in my law practice.

In iPadOS 16 and iOS 16, Apple has made it easier to talk, use the keyboard, and (on the iPad) use the Apple Pencil all at once.  You can more quickly go back and forth between typing something or dictating something because the keyboard remains on the screen and remains usable even while you are talking.  This will be useful in lots of different apps and allow you to be more efficient when you are entering text, no matter what tool you are using to do so.

Freeform

I’ve noted above the new features that interest me the most.  Another addition in iPadOS 16 looks interesting, although I’m not sure that I will ever use it myself.  it is a new app called Freeform.

Freeform lets you create a white board and share it with others.  Thus, instead of getting together in a room and writing on a board with markers, you can use your Apple Pencil to write on a virtual white board.  I rarely use a white board so I don’t think I’ll get much use out of Freeform, but I’m sure others will appreciate this new app.

Handwriting straightening

Apple says that if you handwrite something in a note, you can select what you wrote and then ask the iPad to automatically straighten your handwriting so that your notes look neater.  I could have really used this feature when I was in grade school being told by a teacher to improve my penmanship.

Other interesting features, especially on the iPhone

iPadOS 16 will get other new features that will be nice on the iPad but especially useful on the iPhone.  For example, in the Messages app, you will (finally!) get the ability to edit or delete a message after you send it (for up to 15 minutes).  I’ll discuss these features in an upcoming post on iOS 16, but they will also be great for iPad users.

Weather app

When the iPad was released in 2010, there was a weather app on the iPhone, but not the iPad.  It has taken Apple a dozen years to figure out how to accomplish this monumental task, but there is now also a built-in Weather app on the iPad.  Just think, maybe in a dozen more years, there will be a built-in calculator app on the iPad too.

Conclusion

I had my fingers crossed that Apple would introduce some features that would appeal to intermediate-to-advanced iPad users.  Apple has certainly done that in iPadOS 16, plus they added some crowd-pleasers that lots of folks will enjoy.  This looks to be a fantastic update that will make all of our iPads even better to use.