How I Set Up My iPad Pro to Replace a Laptop

It’s a cliché, but the concept of what a computer is is changing. Unless you’re a graphic designer, music producer, or video editor, you probably don’t need a very powerful laptop anymore. And even if you’re one of those things, you can probably do a lot of your work on a mobile device, like a tablet. I made the switch myself, selling my laptop and switching to the iPad Pro as my do-it-all mobile workstation.

Of course, a big part of using a new device to do work is learning how to use it to the fullest. IPad is very easy to use in everyday life, but dig a little deeper, and there are a ton of little tips and gestures worth learning.

Want to know whether or not an iPad could replace your laptop? If you have one lying around, try using it for a day or two and use the tips I use to get the most out of using iPad for productivity.

Get a decent keyboard with a trackpad

ipad pro magic keyboard
Andy Boxall /

If you don’t get anything else from this article, the most important thing I can tell you if you want to unlock better productivity on your iPad is to get a solid keyboard, with a trackpad. Typing on the screen is just not the same as a natural-touch keyboard with a responsive trackpad and allowing for multi-touch gestures.

It’s expensive, but my recommendation is Apple’s Magic Keyboard. The keys on this keyboard feel great, and as you might expect from Apple, the trackpad performs just fine. Say what you want about the floating design, but it’s easy to grab your iPad Air or iPad Pro for normal use, and it lets you type in your lap, without the need for a tablet.

Buy Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Air and iPad Pro

The Magic Keyboard is also very expensive, but luckily there are alternatives. For example, you can opt for a Brydge wireless keyboard, which makes your iPad look like a MacBook, and also has a trackpad in it, although that trackpad isn’t as good as the Magic Keyboard’s.

Buy Brydge Wireless Keyboard for iPad

Use split screen mode

split screen ipados

On a Mac, split screen mode, or even just the ability to open two windows at once, is the way I work. The iPad works a little differently, but you can still use two apps side by side with Split View mode.

Enabling this changes a bit depending on your setup. Without a keyboard, you’ll need the apps you want to use as a split screen in your dock. Then open the first app, swipe up to see the dock, and hold it over the second app’s icon for a second before dragging it to the side you want. It can be a bit finicky at times, but you will get used to it.

A perhaps easier way to use the split screen, and one that doesn’t require you to keep all your apps in a dock, is to activate it with a keyboard and the new iPad search feature. Open your first app, then press CMD + Space on your keyboard to open Search. Find the second app you want to open, then tap and hold the app icon for a second, and drag it to the side where you want it.

In Split View mode, you don’t have to give apps equal space. You can also give the app left or right a quarter of the screen and the other three quarters. Unfortunately, you cannot yet open more than two apps on the screen at the same time.

Use Slideover

slideover ipados

Maybe you need quick and easy access to more than two apps – in which case Slideover is worth tapping into. I personally use Slideover for all of my messages when I’m working – whether it’s Microsoft Teams, Slack, Messages, or even the Mail app. With Slideover, you can import those iPhone-sized apps when you need them and hide them when you don’t.

Activating an app in Slideover is actually very similar to using a split screen app. Swipe up to see the dock or find the app in search, then hold it down for a second and swipe to the left or side of the screen. It should preview in a rectangular shape. Then release and the app will open on top of your other apps. You can then drag it to the top of the window or switch between Slideover apps at the bottom of the window, just like you would on an iPhone.

Activate widgets on the home screen

widgets ipados

If you want quick and visible information, it’s worth taking advantage of the widgets on your iPad’s home screen. Unfortunately, widgets in iPadOS don’t yet work the way they do in iOS – so you can’t just place a widget anywhere you want. But, you can keep your Today view permanently on your Home screen if you want. It’s perfect for things like to-do apps, seeing the weather, etc., without having to open apps to do so.

To see your Today view, swipe right from the left edge of your iPad. You can then swipe down from that view and press the Edit button to select the widgets you want to see, and choose whether or not those widgets always stay on the Home screen. Unfortunately, even when this toggle is on, you won’t see your widgets in portrait mode.

Use the Files app with iCloud

files app ipados

IPad now has a full-fledged file management application in the form of Files. Files have improved a lot over the past few years, and now you can use it to manage all your files, even on other cloud storage services, as well as SD cards and drives. It gets even more powerful if you have a Mac and use iCloud Drive – because that means you can view documents synced from your Mac to your iPad without having to transfer them manually. This includes the files on your desktop, in the Documents folder, etc.

Ultimately, the iPad Pro and iPad Air can handle most productivity tasks with ease, and they should get better, too. At present, applications like Microsoft Word, AirTable, etc. work great – and pro-level apps like Final Cut and Logic are likely to make their way to the iPad eventually. Who knows, maybe it could replace your laptop as well.

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