iPadOS 14 brings more power and productivity to the iPad

(Image credit: Apple)

While naturally iPadOS 14 will benefit from many of the same new features that are coming in iOS 14 like the new more powerful widgets, the larger screen operating system is getting some new features all of its own again this year. 

Many of these features are geared towards finally offering users the ability to really make use of the larger screen by avoiding apps or elements of apps needlessly taking up the entire screen. Apple also is giving Pencil users a host of new functionality surrounding handwriting recognition. 

Let's take a quick look at everything that Apple introduced exclusively for iPad owners during the WWDC Special Event Keynote today.

Default email and browser selection

This was only part of the slide and not addressed during the presentation, but you will now be able to choose the default email and browser app that you wish to use on iPadOS. While this should have been available long ago, it's amazing to have it finally here regardless.

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple is introducing some new app design tools for iPadOS 14 to help developers consolidate controls and allow users to navigate apps faster and easier. 

The sidebar is one example that Apple demoed in Photos, Music, Notes, and Files. By tapping the sidebar icon in the upper-left corner of the app, you get a slide out menu with controls while still being able to see your full collection of photos, music, notes, or files. This can help you sort the contents of that app or you can even drag and drop from the main view into the sidebar to move things around on your iPad. 

The toolbar was shown off in Files and Calendar, as a place to consolidate the controls for an app to avoid having you hunting around and get everything you need done in one space while still being able to view the content of the app itself.

We expect to see many more of Apple's own apps adopt these designs in the future and of course 3rd-party developers will no doubt make use of it once iPadOS 14 is available in the fall.

Compact notifications

(Image credit: Apple)

Another feature that will probably be greeted with a sigh of relief from many users, is the addition of compact notifications to a number of iPad apps. Calls of course being the primary example with a small notification panel now dropping down from the top of the screen for calls from any app rather than the full screen takeover. 


(Image credit: Apple)

Search is also getting a compact makeover with a host of new functionality. A search bar can be pulled up anywhere and now features Universal Search. This will allow you to use it as an app launcher or to find documents, contacts, web searches, or even find content within apps. 

Both pieces are huge additions that bring the kind of powerful search experience that Apple users are accustomed to on macOS and with the inclusion of web search it is even more powerful on iPadOS. 


(Image credit: Apple)

You would be right to think you are seeing a theme here, Siri has also been shrunk down to give you a small overlay rather than any kind of screen takeover when you need something. 

It will display the relevant content in a small bubble in the lower-right corner of the screen and then get out of your way again when you are done.

Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Pencil had some of the most extensive changes for iPadOS 14 with the introduction of a number of new features centered around handwriting recognition. Scribble will allow you to handwrite text into any text field and it will automatically convert over to text. 

You are also able to easily select handwritten text either by a single tap for an individual word or a double tap to select a whole line of text. Apple finally addressed the lack of an eraser on the Pencil by introducing the ability to simply scratch out text to erase it.

For a technical drawing or something similar you can create basic shapes by simply pausing after completing your drawing and it will be converted into a perfect version of that shape retaining the angle and position that you used. 

(Image credit: Apple)

Things like phone numbers or addresses will also automatically be recognized in handwriting as well now. 

If you need to move your handwritten text into a new app you can simply copy and paste a full block of handwritten text and it will be converted into type automatically.

Augmented Reality

ARKit4 was also announced today which will bring with it a new Depth API that can leverage the data captured by the LiDAR Scanner found on the iPad Pros. 

This should allow developers to create better and more accurate overlays on reality in their apps. 

Location Anchors are also being added in ARKit 4 which for AR experiences that are tied to specific locations will allow developers to be more exacting with the higher resolution map data found in Apple Maps.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.