I recently purchased a second-gen iPad Pro to act as a laptop replacement. And after I familiarized myself with the OS, the iPad quickly became my general go-to device. I’ve got a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard shipping in from Hong Kong (the Royal Kludge RK61). The idea’s to pair that with a Bluetooth mouse and then use the iPad as my workstation on the go.
We’ll see how well that works out in a month or so. For the time being, let’s have a look at some important tips and tweaks for iPad Pro. I’m currently on iOS 12.4, but I’ve tried out the iPadOS beta extensively. There are slightly different ways to these on both OS versions, so I’ll be addressing both here.
iPad Pro Tips and Tricks
1. Turn OFF Auto Brightness for HDR content
This one might seem a little strange. After all, Apple’s auto-brightness setting is meant to maintain an ideal brightness level, right? Well, for general use, Auto-Brightness is just fine, especially when paired with True Tone. However, it’ll prevent you from fully enjoying one of the iPad Pro’s key display features: support for HDR.
There’s a lot of HDR content on Netflix and I found that disabling auto-brightness was key to getting the most out of the iPad Pro’s 600-nit display. If you’re watching HDR content at night, leaving auto-brightness on will result in the screen dimming, reducing the impact of HDR. It’s easy to turn off auto-brightness. Just go to settings. Then tap on accessibility, tap display and size, then scroll all the way down and tap on the auto-brightness switch. If you’re on iOS 12.4, that’ll be called “Display Accommodations” instead.
2. Reduce the display refresh rate to counteract motion sickness
One of the main reasons I bought the Pro instead of 2019 iPad Air was the 120 Hz Pro Motion display. If you thought 60 Hz displays were smooth, you’re going to be in for a shock. UI interactions feel absurdly slick. But while it’s undeniably cool, the high refresh rate, together with pop-out animations tend to make me feel a bit queasy. Yes, you can get motion sick just using the iPad Pro.
Thankfully, there’s a way to make the most of Pro Motion without feeling the need to puke all the time. Go to settings, tap on accessibility. Then tap on Motion. Here the big three tweaks are “Reduce Motion,” “Prefer Cross-fade animations,” and “Limit Frame Rate.”
Reduce motion and prefer cross-fade animations together make the animations more subtle, with more fade transitions. The Limit Frame Rate option caps the frame rate to 60 Hz. I recommend enabling the first two, but leaving Limit Frame Rate off since that would defeat the purpose of Pro Motion.
If you’re still on iOS 12.4, motion options are a bit harder to reach. The “Limit Frame Rate” toggle is found under Display Accomodations in Accessibility. Reduce Motion has its own sub-menu under Accessibility.
3. Pin Homescreen Widgets to access them more easily
I haven’t owned an Apple product in years–my last one was an iPad 3 that went kaput sometime in 2017. I’ve used a lot of Android devices, including Android tablets, in that time, though. One of the most convenient features that Google introduced was the Newsfeed. You simply swiped right from the home screen and you reached the feed, which had Google Assistant, news articles, and the weather all in hand.
Apple seems to have noticed just how convenient this was since it added its own newsfeed-like feature called Today View. iPadOS on the Pro extends Today View’s functionality by letting you pin up to 3 Today View widgets right on the homescreen.
These will reside next to the apps on your first home screen so you won’t have to swipe further to reach them. To enable this, swipe right all the way to Today View. Tap on edit, then tap on Keep on Home Screen. There is an important caveat here. Keep on Home Screen won’t work if you’ve set the app icon size to “Bigger.” We’ll get to that tweak next.
Keep in mind that this is an iPadOS exclusive tweak, so you won’t have access to this on iOS 12.4
4. Increase or reduce the size of app icons
The iPad’s got a lot of screen real estate so it makes sense to increase the number of app icons per home screen. Earlier, this was limited to 20. With larger-screen iPad Pros, this made very inefficient use of screen real estate. Thankfully, iPadOS has an option that lets you switch between having 20 and 30 app icons per home screen.
To adjust this, you need to tap on Settings, then Display and Brightness. Then scroll all the down and pick either “bigger” or “smaller” depending on what you need. Keep in mind that the “bigger” option will prevent you from pinning widgets to your home screen. I leave it on bigger because I personally prefer the jumbo-sized icons. But this is entirely up to you.
Keep in mind that this is an iPadOS exclusive tweak, so you won’t have access to this on iOS 12.4
5. Use Gestures to improve productivity
The iPad Pro second-gen is one of the very last iDevices to have a physical home button. It’s got a great tactile feel to it. However, having to reach down and push it can be a bit unwieldy at times, especially you’re holding the iPad in your hands. The newest iPad Pros ditched the home button entirely and instead use gesture-based navigation.
This is available on the second-gen Pro too and once you get the hang of it, gestures will quickly become the main way you interact with the iPad.
Let’s start with the easiest one first. A full swipe up from the bottom emulates a home button press and will take you out of whatever app you’re in. A partial swipe, though, will take you to the iPadOS dock. The dock’s another very convenient feature that we’ll be discussing in a bit here.
A long swipe and hold will emulate a double press of the home button. This will bring up the app switcher. The five-finger pinch is still there, but it’s got a twist. A quick five-finger pinch will take you to the home screen. However, a five-finger pinch and hold will take you to the app switcher.
6. Multitasking and Split View
The iPad Pro is pitched as a laptop replacement for professionals. This is my exact use case for the Pro. But robust multitasking support is a must if the device is to make sense for professionals. iPadOS introduces a number of multitasking-friendly features that really let the iPad come into its own as a productivity machine.
The Dock and the newly-improved Split View are the two critical components here. Let’s start with the Dock.
The iPadOS Dock is more than just a quick app switcher
The new iPadOS Dock has a lot in common with the dock in macOS. This is in line with Apple’s aim of making the Pro a laptop replacement and by extension, making iPadOS more Mac-like. What’s special about the Dock is that it can be invoked wherever you are in iOS. You simply have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen. It’s a bit tricky because this is the same gesture to bring up the homescreen. To bring up the Dock instead, you have to swipe up only enough for the Dock to show.
You can use the Dock in fullscreen games, too. Here, swiping up will bring up a tab. You’ll want to short-swipe a second time to bring up the Dock. I tried this out in PUBG Mobile and noticed that doing so doesn’t pause the game, enabling a more seamless experience.
You can pin favorites to the left side of the dock. iOS adds recent apps to the right side
You can pin your favorite apps to the left side of the dock by tapping and holding on the icon and dragging them there. iOS adds your most recent apps to the right side of the Dock. If the Dock was just a fast app-switcher, it’d be a semi-useful gimmick. But it’s actually much more. The dock is central to getting Split View, Slide Over, and real multitasking to work on iPad.
A much improved Split View lets you get serious work done
Split View’s been around on iPad for some time. This allows you to have up to two apps running simultaneously in their own Windows. iPadOS takes this a step further by allowing you to run multiple instances of the same app in separate Windows. My desktop workflow consists of Firefox with WordPress open in one window and another instance of Firefox open in another window for research. The Pro’s enhanced Split View finally makes this possible on iPad. You can have one Safari window open to type in and a second open for browsing.
It’s harder to activate Split View than it should be
How do you activate Split View? To be honest, it’s a bit counter-intuitive. You can’t enable split view from the homescreen when launching an app. Instead, you’ll have to first launch one app, then bring up the Dock. You then tap and hold on the second app’s icon in the Dock, then drag it off whereby it turns into a floating window. If you drag the window all the way to one side, you’ll end up getting Split View. If the second app isn’t pinned to the Dock and if it isn’t in the Dock’s recent apps section, you’ll have to either pin it or launch it ones to get it on the Dock.
Slide Over is also hard to activate but enables truly powerful multitasking
The real magic, though, is what happens if you drag the window to the side, but not all the way. Do this and it’ll turn into a floating Slide Over window. If you have a Slide Over window and a primary app running, you can go back to the Dock and add further Slide Over windows. These stack on top of each other. If you swipe up from the bottom of a Slide Over window, you get the Slide Over switcher, which lets you switch between different Slide Over windows. You can even have the main instance of an app running and a secondary Slide Over window of the same. All this makes for robust multitasking experience.
I’ve been using the iPad Pro second-gen for a little over a week now. There’s been a bit of a learning curve, particularly in terms of getting gestures and multitasking to work. But I’m now fairly convinced that, short of getting a Surface Pro–a hybrid with its own set of major limitations–the iPad Pro’s as good a laptop replacement as a tablet can be.