All-new Apple iPadOS boasts redesigned home screen and Mac-like features

Forget iOS, iPads will now run iPadOS

Apple iPadOS

Apple iPad no longer runs iOS – the mobile operating system that has powered every iteration of the iPhone and iPad since their inception in 2007 and 2010, respectively. 

While iPhone will continue to be powered by Apple iOS (and will be getting a truck load of new features in the forthcoming iOS 13), the hugely-successful tablet range will now run an all-new operating system, dubbed iPadOS.

The announcement came during the opening keynote of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California today. The week-long event enables developers to learn about the next operating system updates in the pipeline so they can update third-party apps to support the latest features at launch.

The launch of iPadOS isn't that surprising. For years, Apple has been adding new capabilities and features to iOS that were only accessible on iPad, like the ability to run multiple apps side-by-side, a redesign of the Dock, and the ability to split the keyboard down the middle to use two-handed, to name just a few.

Apple iPadOS has a lot in common with iOS 13 (a system-wide Dark Mode for one), but also brings a slew of productivity-focused features that should enable those with an Apple iPad Pro to get some real work done on-the-move.

One of the biggest visual changes to iPadOS compared to iOS is the inclusion of widgets on the home screen. On iOS, users need to swipe to the left to open a list of app widgets. On iPadOS, these are always visible alongside the grid of apps. 

Apple iPadOS

Speaking of the grid, Apple has reduced the space between each app icon – so iPad owners will be able to cram in a few more applications on each panel of the home screen. Admittedly, this isn't quite the ground-up visual redesign that was rumoured ahead of WWDC – it's still mostly a uniform grid with no spaces possible between the applications – but it's definitely a start. 

iPad owners can now work with multiple files and documents from the same app by loading multiple screens in Split View. Until now, it was only possible to divide-up the screen with two different apps. iPadOS also includes App Exposé – a quick preview of just the open windows for any one app with a simple tap, so you can quickly cycle through all of the Microsoft Word documents you have open, without having to trawl through Spotify, Safari, Mail, Messages, or anything else that might be running.

Apple iPadOS

If the feature sounds at all familiar, it's likely because it's already baked into macOS, showing just how close the iPad is getting to the traditional desktop experience.

Speaking of, the Files app gets a serious upgrade in iPadOS, with support for folder sharing in iCloud Drive for the first time. That means anyone with access to a shared folder will see it in iCloud Drive and will always have the ability to access the latest version. iPadOS also supports external drives – so you can plug in a USB drives, SD cards or log into an SMB file server within Files.

There's also a new Column View with high-resolution previews to help iPadOS users navigate directories and quickly see file sizes, picture resolutions, video file lengths, and more. In a macOS-esque move, this view also supports Quick Actions such as mark up, rotate and create PDF.

iPadOS also introduces local storage, zip and unzip, and 30 new keyboard shortcuts, including one for undo – so you don't have to shake the tablet like you're in a fit of rage to reverse an accidental delete anymore, which should save a good number of iPad owners from some shifty looks on the bus.

Apple will also improve copy and paste on iPadOS, so you can use a three-finger pinch to copy and a three-finger spread to paste text, photos, and more. That should dramatically speed up document editing.

Custom Fonts can be installed for use across iPadOS now from boutique and major vendors such as Adobe, DynaComware, Monotype, Morisawa and Founder. These will all be available within the App Store.

Apple iPadOS

Starting with iPadOS, Apple Pencil becomes even more integrated. iPad owners will be able to quickly annotate and send entire webpages, documents or emails by swiping Apple Pencil from the corner of the screen. A redesigned tool palette is included to offer access to tools, colour palettes, shapes, object eraser, and a new pixel eraser for removing any part of a stroke and a ruler. Apple Pencil latency has been dropped to 9 milliseconds thanks to some under-the-bonnet tweaks in iPadOS.

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said: "iPad transforms how people work and express their creativity, and with iPadOS, we’re taking it even further by delivering exciting capabilities that take advantage of its large canvas and versatility.iPadOS delivers exciting features, including a new Home screen with widgets, more powerful multitasking and new tools that make using Apple Pencil even more natural."

iPadOS will be available as a free software upgrade for Apple iPad Air 2 and newer, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and later, and iPad mini 4 and more recent.

Provided Apple sticks with its typical release schedule, we'll likely see iPadOS start to roll-out to compatible iPad models in September or October 2019.