“Should I get an iPad or a Mac?” People ask me this question a lot, and with the latest iPad software update, the answer is a bit complicated.
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over the past few years, it has added more laptop-like productivity features to the iPad, such as mouse support and a file manager. There’s even more in iPadOS 16, available from October 24. The most visible change is a multitasking system called Stage Manager, which allows you to resize application windows and display multiple windows on the screen at the same time.
However, there is a catch. There are restrictions on how windows can be displayed and resized. And the new iPad software is compatible with some older models, but many of the best features are reserved for newer, more expensive iPads.
With iPadOS 16, it’s clear that Apple now has two classes of tablets: the Pros and M1 Air get more advanced features, while the Mini and entry-level iPads — even the latest ones — stick with the traditional iPad.
I’ve been using the public beta version of the software for a few weeks. As a longtime iPad user, I had high expectations for iPadOS 16. Stage Manager won’t convince die-hard Macs that the iPad can replace their laptop. But for people who already work on iPads, the new system is an improvement. And better support for external monitors, which Apple has hinted at but hasn’t implemented yet, could unlock even more productivity.
Check support first
These models can download the update:
- All iPad Pro models
- iPad Air (3rd generation or later)
- iPad Mini (5th generation or later)
- iPad (5th generation or later)
If you’re not sure about your model, check Settings > General > About. You can check for the update in Settings > General > Software Update.
No, there’s still no Calculator app like the iPhone, but there’s finally a fancy new Weather app. The new iPadOS also brings a handwriting straightener that fixes a dropped pen and the ability to transfer a FaceTime call from iPad to iPhone. (This also works on Macs with the new macOS Ventura.)
Many iOS 16 updates are on the iPad – hallelujah, editable news! — but lock screen widgets, the best new feature, are only on iPhones. And you still can’t get multiple user profiles, which would help if you shared an iPad with your kids, for example.
Then try the new power features
If you have a high-end iPad, there’s a lot more to get used to with this upgrade.
Open multiple resizable windows. Before iPadOS 16, you could only view two apps side by side – with a third floating on top. Stage Manager now allows you to view four applications simultaneously.
It’s only available for the latest iPad Air and iPad Pro models with Face ID and the newer design without a home button. (Despite their updated looks, the latest iPad Mini and the all-new redesigned iPad don’t have this feature.)
Enable Stage Manager in Settings > Home screen and multitasking. Eligible iPads also have a Stage Manager icon in Control Center. (Swipe down from the top right corner.)
Now you can start adding windows to your workspace. If you have a docked or Bluetooth keyboard, use the search hotkey (Command + Spacebar) to find the app you want. Once its icon appears, drag it onto the screen and the app will open as a window.
Hover over the corners of the window to adjust the width and length. Resizing is not freestyle like on Mac. There are predetermined shapes and sizes. For example, you can turn your windows into four thin columns, but you can’t make four identical Brady Bunch squares. Tap the three dots at the top of one of the app windows to quickly switch it to full screen.
Some applications also allow you to open more than one window. For example, you can view multiple Safari web pages side by side, but only one Google Docs page at a time.
Use the side dock to store different work surfaces. When Stage Manager is enabled, there is a new side dock. On the left side of the screen, swipe right or move the cursor to that side to expand the dock. Here you can store different groups of windows. You can also add windows to your current workspace by dragging them from the side dock.
I made one stack of windows for writing and exploring and another with my email and other communication apps. They are always available in the dock. If you’re using a trackpad, like on the Magic Keyboard Case, you can quickly switch between spaces with a three-finger swipe. While video chatting in apps like FaceTime, you can still toggle when the video hovers over your windows.
The same Stage Manager system is available on Macs as part of MacOS Ventura, which also comes out on October 24.
Put more things on the screen. This setting increases the display’s pixel density and shrinks screen elements and text so you can squeeze in more content. This is especially useful when you have multiple windows open. For example, in Messages, you will see multiple texts at once. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Display Zoom.
Not every iPad with Stage Manager has a Display Zoom setting—all 11-inch Pros, but only the M1 or M2 versions of the larger Pro, and the M1 iPad Air as well.
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Connect to an external display (hopefully soon). Previously, when you connected an iPad to an external monitor, the larger display mirrored the iPad’s screen.
With Stage Manager, you’ll eventually be able to extend the iPad’s display to a monitor and display up to eight windows at once — four on each screen — plus drag and drop between them. However, only iPads with an M1 or M2 chip will be able to support the extended display.
The extended monitor feature is not here yet. It was available in the earlier iPadOS 16 public beta, but it was buggy and Apple removed it. The company said it will be coming later this year. The delay is a shame as I was wondering if this feature could convert me to an iPad for almost all work. Now I’ll have to wait to find out.
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Email Nicole Nguyen at [email protected]
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