Apple iPadOS 15: Everything you need to know

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Apple iPad 15 The software update released on September 20th brings various iPads much closer to being stand-alone devices for productivity. The new iPad software makes multitasking easier to understand and has added features that make working with multiple apps easier, such as Quick Notes for some apps and a center window overlay.

multitasking menu

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Apple has been steadily improving iPad multitasking since the first iPad Pro arrived in 2015. While iPadOS 15 doesn’t improve on what multitasking looks like, it does make existing multi-app configurations easier to navigate.

Typing on an iPad.

Split View and Slide Over are still central to Apple’s multi-app strategy, and it’s easier than ever to find them. Now every app has a three-dot menu in the top-center. Selecting that menu shows three icons: Full Screen, Split View, and Slide Over.


After choosing either Split View or Slide Over, the current app will move to the very edge of the screen, and you’ll see the Home screen. Once you tap an app’s icon on the Home screen, Dock, or app library, the two apps will automatically snap to the selected configuration. You can also create split view by dropping one app on top of another in the app switcher.

Split View in iPadOS 15.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

If you want to change which apps in Split View, swipe down from the multitasking menu of the app you want to quit to select a new secondary app. Once you’ve finished multitasking, select the Full Screen option to switch back to single-app mode.

quick notes

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Apple’s Notes app has always prioritized simplicity, providing blank virtual pages to input ideas, thoughts, or sketches for iCloud safekeeping. But with iPadOS 15, Apple is finally giving more depth and organization to its note-taking service.

The Apple Pencil points to the multitasking menu on the iPad screen.

iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey are both adding a new feature called Quick Notes to iPads with A9 or newer chips. Quick Notes is a pop-up window that you can open by swiping up from the bottom-right corner of the screen, or with a keyboard shortcut (globe-q). Quick Notes are continuous overlay windows, so they’ll snap to any corner you drag and stay there until you swipe them away. You can also turn them off using the same keyboard shortcut or by tapping Done.

Quick Notes lets you link to the exact location in the app that was in the foreground when you wrote the note. Say, for example, you’re in the Messages app and activate Quick Notes to help you remember a restaurant suggestion your friend made. If you select the “Add Link” option, that note will include a link to your friend’s message thread.

Your quick notes will be automatically saved in their own notebook in the Notes app. And the Settings app allows you to choose whether the Quick Notes window always starts a new note or resumes the last one. You can also swipe left and right to move between any other quick notes you’ve already saved, so you can have several running at the same time.

Quick Notes on iPadOS 15.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

Quick Notes can be especially convenient for creating a project that draws from information across multiple apps. Instead of ending up with a messy desktop full of shattered windows, you hide everything in the Notes app, including links that can quickly bring you back to the parts of iPadOS where you collected your information. Those links also work on your iPhone and Mac.

The Notes app further expands its organizational capabilities with Tags. Now, typing a hashtag symbol and then a tag word will automatically file that note under a new or existing tag. Tags are a long overdue addition that brings the Notes app closer to specialized note services like Evernote or Bear. Quick Notes will also create custom smart folders based on tags.

new safari design

In iPadOS 15, Safari gets one of the biggest redesigns in years, with a new compact tab bar that lets you maximize screen space. The design isn’t for everyone, so Apple has made it optional, but when it’s turned on, the tab bar and address bar are merged, making for more of what you’re browsing. Can dedicate screen.

The new Safari Tab layout in iPadOS 15.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

Naturally, iPadOS 15 also includes all the other Safari goodness from iOS 15, including tab groups so you can save and organize whatever you’re browsing and keep it in sync across all your devices. It also brings a customizable start page from the macOS version of Safari with support for extensions, both of which are especially useful on the iPad’s larger screen.

center window

The new iPadOS 15 adds floating windows to Mail, Notes, and Messages. Pressing and holding your finger on an individual email, note or message gives you the option to eject it into a temporary window. This center window is similar to slide over, but the overlay hovers over the middle of the screen.

Center window in Mail in iPadOS 15.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

Unlike Quick Notes, the center windows are linked to the app. For example, if you pop out a Mail message in the center window, it no longer stays on your screen when you switch to Safari or the Home screen. The middle window also includes a multitasking menu, so that you can switch to full screen or another view if you need more space, or want to keep the same in another app. In this case, there’s also a fourth icon that lets you center it back.

If this is all starting to sound complicated, that’s because iPadOS is actually adding a lot of depth. But instead of copying the way things have been done for years on macOS and Windows, Apple is rethinking what a productivity OS could be.

app shelf

In iPadOS 15, Apple makes it easy to view multiple instances of a single app. When opening an app with multiple windows, a “shelf” will appear at the bottom of the screen to display all open instances of that application. Shelf also includes the option to create a new window for that app.

App Shelf on iPadOS 15.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

If you want to switch windows, select its corresponding icon in the shelf. Or, you can close an inactive window by swiping up. The App Shelf will disappear after a few seconds, but you can make it appear again by tapping on the multitasking menu.

keyboard shortcuts

Following the 2020 release of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, the iPad is more involved than ever with physical typing and cursor input. As a result, Apple is enhancing that aspect with new keyboard shortcuts in iPadOS 15.

A menu on the iPad screen displays globe-key keyboard shortcuts.

Using the globe key as a new modifier, Apple added new shortcuts to make it faster and easier to navigate around the iPad’s software.

Some of these shortcuts include:

  • sir I
  • app switcher
  • next app
  • previous app
  • Split View and Slide Over Control
  • quick notes
  • show dock
  • control center
  • notification Center

Holding down the globe key in any app will pop up a menu showing which shortcuts you can use, so you can learn these shortcuts without trial and error. You can also hold down the Cmd key in an app to see the shortcuts available for that particular app.

iPhone apps only in landscape

The iPad has always let you run iPhone-only apps, only to be blown away by the bigger screen. But iPhone apps on the iPad were never a perfect experience, especially since you could only use them in portrait mode. The portrait requirement meant they weren’t great for multitasking and they weren’t really compatible with typing accessories like Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

In iPadOS 15, you can now run iPhone apps in landscape mode. This is especially useful for additional social apps, where you’ll be typing a lot.

Other iPadOS 15 Features

The new iPadOS adds a number of iOS features that fall a year behind its iPhone brethren. These include the app library and home screen widgets. You can read about them in our iOS 14 coverage.

The new iPad software also gets the same marquee features from iOS 15, including a new FaceTime upgrade, Live Text, Focus Mode, Mail privacy features, and more. You can read on iOS 15 for more details.

iPadOS 15.1 . What features came with

Not every feature Apple announced for iPadOS 15 built into the initial 15.0 release, so iPadOS 15.1 filled some of the most important gaps, adding SharePlay and support for dragging live text directly from the Camera app. This latter feature came to the iPhone with iOS 15.0, but took a little longer to make its debut on the iPad.

iPadOS 15.2 . What features are coming in?

With iPadOS 15.2 currently in public beta, we’ve already got a glimpse of what Apple’s plans are for this next major release. The most visible of these is a redesigned layout for Apple’s TV app that will make it easier to find what you want to watch.

Apple TV app on iPadOS 15.2.
Jesse Hollington / Nerdshala

The TV app gets the same sidebar treatment that came with many of Apple’s other first-party apps in iPadOS 14, along with separate Movies and TV Shows sections for you to find content to buy or rent on the iTunes Store. helped.

As always, iPadOS 15.2 will also receive the same upcoming features as its iPhone counterpart, including the ability to scan for any unknown Airtags, as well as add a legacy contact to your Apple ID and hide my email address. Support is also included. When composing new messages in the Mail app. Messages also has communications security (but not the more controversial CSAM detection feature that concerns many privacy advocates). There is no information yet about when the final public release of iPadOS 15.2 will arrive.

Coming later in 2021

One of the most important new iPad features will be universal control, which has not yet been released. It was expected to launch alongside macOS Monterey in October, but it doesn’t like that until at least macOS 12.1 appears later this fall. Universal Controls will let you control a Mac and an iPad side-by-side—up to three devices in total—with a single cursor.

Setting it up is as simple as placing the devices close to each other and first moving the mouse or trackpad pointer from the edge of the device’s screen. This…

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