Apple’s next major update to iOS comes loaded with new features that make the iPad more useful, especially when it comes to multitasking.
Don’t expect your iPad to replace your laptop when iOS 11 launches in the fall, but the update will make the tasks you already use your iPad for feel more fluid. Some features will prevent you from navigating to the home screen as often, while others make it easier to customize how you use your iPad.
Among the most prominent changes: a new Files app for managing documents across devices, a redesigned iPad dock that can fit more apps and a new view for the Control Center and app switcher. A handful of updates are coming to Apple’s own apps as well, including a new indoor navigation feature for Apple Maps as well as more filters to choose from in Photos. Apple is also courting developers to create augmented reality apps for the iPad through its newly announced ARKit tools, which will be launching with iOS 11.
After spending a few days using the public beta, here’s a look at the most useful features we’ve encountered so far.
An Improved Keyboard for iPad
Apple has made it easier to switch between letters and numbers on the iPad’s keyboard in iOS 11. Simply drag down on a key to input the secondary symbol instead of the letter. This saves time compared to the old method, which required tapping a dedicated key to switch between keyboards.
Moveable 'Slide Over' Apps
A feature called Slide Over makes it possible to view a second app in a column along one side of the screen. But with iOS 11, Apple is providing more flexibility by allowing users to move that sidebar to either side of the display.
With iOS 11, shuffling files between apps is easier and faster. Just hold your finger over a photo to select it, then drag it over the app you’d like to move it to. Dragging a photo over the Mail app icon, for example, will automatically open a blank message for sending.
Select Multiple Files at Once
Those who often send photos in batches to friends and family members will appreciate this addition: To select multiple files at once in iOS 11, drag one file and then tap the others to add them to the bunch.
Search for Handwritten Text
If you prefer to scribble notes with the Apple Pencil in lieu of typing, you’ll love this new feature: iOS 11 will support the ability to search for handwritten text through the search field,accessible by pulling down from the top of the screen.
Instantly Access Screenshots
When iOS 11 launches, you’ll no longer have to navigate to your photo gallery to retrieve the screenshot you’ve just captured. Screenshots will appear in the corner of the screen immediately after being taken. From there, you can tap the image to edit or share it, or you can swipe it away to delete it.
A Redesigned App Store
Apple is giving the App Store a makeover. The new version focuses more on curated collections based on interests and categories, and adds a dedicated tab just for games.
Customizable Control Center
Up to this point, iOS users have had little choice over which settings shortcuts were accessible through the Control Center (launched by swiping up from the bottom of the screen). That all changes in iOS 11. From the settings menu, iPhone and iPad owners can handpick which shortcuts to include, with options ranging from an Apple TV remote to a stopwatch, as well as accessibility features.
One new option for the Control Center is a button that allows you to record what’s happening onscreen. Simply tap the icon to start recording, and then tap again to stop.
A Bigger Dock
When iOS 11 launches, iPad owners will be able to pin more apps to the dock, enabling quick access to apps without having to sift through home screens. The new iPad dock supports up to 13 apps (and up to 15 on the 12.9-inch iPad), plus three more suggested by iOS, and you can swipe up to access the dock on any screen, including from within apps.
An Easier Way to Manage Split-Screen Apps
Those who use their iPad primarily for work may find Split Screen mode helpful to keep their email inbox in sight while browsing the web or working on a document in Google Drive. Apple is making it easier to jump into those routines with the new app switcher in iOS 11, which preserves your app pairings. This means if you exit both apps to return to the home screen or launch a different app, you can open both of those apps again with a single tap from the app switcher.