Thanks to iOS 9, updated versions of popular apps, and new accessories being made available for the various iPad models, the gap between iPad tablets and notebook computers is shrinking fast. The new iPad Pro offers a larger screen, long battery life, and a fast processor, as well as an optional keyboard and stylus designed specifically for this iPad model.
If you're using an iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, or the iPad Pro, iOS 9 brings you new features and functions that make your tablet more useful for business, information gathering, communications, productivity, and organization. When using apps like Microsoft's Office suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint), many people can even leave their notebook computers behind, handling all mobile computing tasks directly from their Internet-connected iPad.
The New iPad-Specific Slide Over Feature
Many of the more recently released iPad models offer three extremely useful new iOS 9 features: Slide Over, Split Screen, and Picture in Picture. These tools take multitasking to the next level by allowing you to view and use two apps simultaneously. In the past, multitasking has been possible, but really only one app could be viewed and used at a time, while other apps ran in the background.
You still can press the Home button twice to access the iPad's app switcher, and then quickly switch between apps that are running in the background. However, the Slide Over, Split Screen, and Picture in Picture features let you view two apps at once on the iPad screen and quickly share content between those apps, greatly enhancing productivity on your tablet.
When using any iPad app with iOS 9, place your finger on the extreme-right edge of the screen and swipe to the left to use the Slide Over feature. A secondary window will be revealed, displaying either the last app used with this feature, or a menu of apps on your iPad that support Slide Over (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Begin running a second app on your iPad within the onscreen Slide Over panel. Here, Microsoft Word is running at left, and a menu of compatible Slide Over apps is shown at right.
Many apps that come preinstalled with iOS 9 support Slide Over (including Contacts, Calendar, Photos, Safari, Messages, FaceTime, Mail, Reminders, iCloud Drive, News, Videos, and Maps), as do a growing number of third-party apps. Figure 2 shows the Photos app (right) and Safari web browser (left) running simultaneously using the Slide Over feature.
Figure 2 Using Slide Over, run two apps at once on your compatible iPad's screen. Shown here, Safari is running at left, while the Photos app runs at right.
Once you open the Slide Over panel that's displayed along the right side of the screen, use that second app as you normally would (except that it's within a smaller panel). To reveal the menu of compatible Slide Over apps, place your finger at the top-center of the Slide Over panel, over the horizontal line icon, and swipe downward. Then use a vertical swipe finger motion to scroll through compatible apps. Tap on the app icon for the second app you want to launch and use.
Slide Over is extremely handy. Suppose you're surfing the Web with Safari or creating a document in Microsoft Word, and you receive an incoming text message that requires a response. Using the Slide Over feature, you can launch the Messages app, view and respond to your message, and get right back to what you were doing. You didn't have to close Safari or Word for that little message interruption.
Take Advantage of the iPad's New Split Screen Mode
When you open the Slide Over view, one app takes up about two-thirds of the iPad's screen, and the remaining third displays the second app. However, by placing your finger on the app divider bar (on the vertical line icon that's displayed near the center of the screen), you can drag the Slide Over panel to the left to increase its size. When the app divider bar reaches the center of the screen, iOS 9's Split Screen mode automatically activates.
Split Screen mode (shown in Figure 3) allows you to run two apps simultaneously on the tablet's display, each within an equal-sized window. These apps run independently of one another, but make it very easy to transfer app-specific content from one app to another, using iOS 9's Select, Copy, and Paste commands, for example.
Figure 3 Using Split Screen mode, two apps run simultaneously, within equal-sized windows, on the iPad's screen. Here, the News app is running at left, while the Photos app is running at right.
Using the Select, Copy, and Paste commands is easier on the iPad now that an icon to access these commands is displayed in the top-left corner of the virtual keyboard. As always, you can also access these commands by placing and holding your finger on text or content that's displayed on the screen, which causes a series of command tabs to appear over the selected content. The command tabs include the Select, Select All, Cut, Copy, and/or Paste commands; the available options will vary based on the app you're using.
Alternatively, you can engage in a text messaging conversation, FaceTime, or Skype conversation (or video call) with someone on one side of the tablet's screen, while surfing the Web, word processing, or handling an unrelated app within the adjacent app window.
To exit Split Screen mode, place your finger on the app divider bar again and swipe either right or left, based on which app you want to close and which one you want to continue using. Keep in mind that the app whose window you close will continue running in the background.
Watch Videos or Use FaceTime with the Picture in Picture Feature
As you're working with any app on your iPad, if you simultaneously want to participate in a FaceTime video call or watch a video (TV show, movie, or music video) that's stored within the Videos app, you can do this by taking advantage of the new Picture in Picture feature (shown in Figure 4).
Figure 4 Watch a video or participate in a FaceTime video call while simultaneously using another app on your iPad's screen, thanks to the Picture in Picture feature. Here, the Picture in Picture video window (with a TV show playing) is displayed near the bottom-left corner of the News app's screen.
When this feature is activated, a smaller, movable window that displays the video is superimposed on the screen, over the app that's currently running. This allows you to continue running the main app unhindered while you view the video window.
One way to use this feature: Launch an app you want to use on your iPad. Access the Slide Over option, view the app menu, and select the Videos or FaceTime app. From the Videos app running within the Slide Over panel, for example, select a TV show, movie, or music video you want to watch. Alternatively, if you launch FaceTime within the Slide Over panel, initiate or answer a FaceTime video call. When the video begins playing within the Slide Over panel, tap on the Picture in Picture icon that's displayed in the bottom-right corner of the screen. A small video window will appear that displays three icons.
You can now close the Slide Over panel, and the video window will continue to be displayed on the tablet's screen. Place your finger within this video window and drag it around to reposition it on your iPad's screen.
If necessary, tap on the video window to make the three command icons appear. The leftmost icon expands the video window to display the playing video in full-screen mode. The middle icon serves as the Play/Pause button. Tap on the close (X) icon to close the video window and stop playing the video.
Once a video begins playing, or while you're engaged in a FaceTime video call, you can continue working with the primary app that's running on your tablet's screen. The video will continue playing within the Picture in Picture window.
Use the App Switcher to Switch Between Running Apps
At any given time while you're using the iPad, one or two apps will be displayed on the tablet's screen. However, many additional apps can continue running in the background. To access or shut down any of these apps, launch the iOS 9 app switcher by quickly pressing the Home button twice (see Figure 5).
Figure 5 Access the app switcher to switch between apps running on your mobile device, or to shut down specific apps.
When you're viewing the app switcher, the iPad displays app icons, along with a screenshot of each running app. To scroll between these apps, use your finger to swipe left or right. To relaunch an app and begin using it, tap on the app's screenshot or app icon. To shut down an app, swipe your finger upward, over the app screenshot.
Simply leaving an app by pressing the Home button doesn't shut down most apps. This action simply sends the app to the background, where it will continue running until you manually shut it down from the app switcher. Turning off the iPad altogether (as opposed to putting it into Sleep mode) will also shut down apps running in the background.
Additional iPad-Specific Finger Gestures
One new finger gesture that's available on the iPad is the ability to move the on-screen cursor around more precisely (when applicable). To do this, place two fingers together on the on-screen cursor, and drag it more slowly around on the screen to move it to the desired location. This feature works with a variety of apps.
A variety of other finger gestures specific to the iPad aren't new to iOS 9, but continue to be useful. For example, from whatever app you're currently running, instead of pressing the Home button to return to the Home screen, place all five fingers on the touchscreen and perform a grabbing gesture by bringing your fingers together.
To launch the app switcher quickly, of course you can press the Home button twice, but another method is to place at least four fingers from one hand on the screen (near the center) and swipe upward. To switch quickly between apps running in the background on your iPad, place four or five fingers on the screen at the same time, and swipe left or right.
Using the iPad with Optional Accessories
A variety of companies offer optional external keyboards and pen-shaped stylus devices for all of the various iPad models. Using an optional keyboard can make touch-typing faster and more accurate, especially when handling a task like word processing, or composing long email messages.
Meanwhile, a growing number of third-party apps for all iPad models are becoming compatible with optional stylus devices, allowing users to handwrite or draw directly on the tablet's screen. This functionality is now also built into the Notes app that comes preinstalled with iOS 9.
Exclusively for iPad Pro users, Apple has released a custom-designed Smart Keyboard accessory ($169, sold separately) that utilizes a proprietary Smart Connector to link the tablet with the keyboard. A growing number of apps are designed to offer specialized keyboard shortcuts and features when used in conjunction with this keyboard.
Meanwhile, accurate writing, drawing, or painting directly on the iPad Pro screen is now possible, using the pressure-sensitive and wireless Apple Pencil accessory ($99.99, sold separately). Many third-party apps for the iPad Pro, including note-taking, drawing, painting, and photo editing apps, are being designed for use with this stylus accessory. Apple Pencil offers far greater precision and versatility than other optional stylus devices released previously for other iPad models.
Using the new navigation and multitasking features offered by iOS 9 for the various iPads, and utilizing an optional keyboard and/or stylus, it's possible to handle a wide range of computing tasks more efficiently than ever before. Plus, as a growing number of third-party apps begin supporting these new features and accessories, iPad users can handle computing tasks that were previously possible only on a high-end desktop computer equipped with costly accessories.
Depending on what computing tasks you need to handle while on the go, chances are that the iPad (especially the iPad Pro) now allows you to leave your notebook computer behind and perform your work using an iPad tablet.
Jason R. Rich (http://www.jasonrich.com) is the author of Que's iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks, Fifth Edition, which covers how to use iOS 9 on all of the various iPhone and iPad models, including the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro. He is also the author of many other Que books, including My Digital Photography for Seniors, My GoPro Hero Camera, and Apple Watch and iPhone Fitness Tips and Tricks. Follow Jason R. Rich on Twitter or Instagram at @JasonRich7.