These small adjustments have turned my iPad into a good laptop replacement

As much as I love my iPad Pro, my use of it has always been limited to a mere multimedia tablet. When it comes to real work, I often turn to a real laptop to get it done. Buying the excellent Magic Keyboard to complement the iPad was the first step to reverse that trend.

But in the end, turning the iPad into a better laptop replacement turned out to be as easy as making the following changes to my workflow, along with some minor tweaks to the settings.

Dock your favorite apps for quick access

The iPad OS Dock with Slide Over Apps Open
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One of my favorite things about macOS and Windows 11 is the dock and taskbar, which let you pin your favorite apps for faster access. Well, with iPadOS 15 bringing some tweaks to multitasking and letting you slide over a third app while multitasking, the dock can be used on an iPad to do the same thing.

I’ve pinned my favorite apps that I use for work to my iPad dock. The list includes Microsoft Teams, Feedly, and Asana, as well as a few other social media apps. With these apps pinned to the dock, when I have two apps in split screen — say two sessions of Safari — I can pull up the dock and then bring out a third app like Teams or Feedly in the center of the screen. This then opens an iPhone-shaped app that Apple calls a Slide Over Mode.

Slide over apps on an iPad Pro on top of Safari.
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This is kind of the same workflow I have on Mac and Windows, where I keep Teams minimized and only get it when I need it. But from there I can repeat the process and open the iOS-like app switcher from any app running in Slide Over mode to switch between other open apps I put in Slide Over mode.

It’s been a great way for me to open multiple apps on my iPad without having to constantly go to my home screen, and it’s saved me a ton of time responding to Teams posts or adding stories to Asana. The apps I need are at my fingertips, and a quick drag away!

Using Safari instead of Google Chrome

Scaling Web Pages in iPadOS in Safari
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A second tip involves using the iPad’s native web browser, Safari. On iPad OS, Safari works great as it automatically gives you the desktop version of specific websites. That means you don’t have to specifically tell the browser to get you a desktop website, like you would in Chrome.

Safari also has a scaling feature that you can use to resize websites to fit more on your screen. It’s at the top of the screen, next to the address bar. Oh, and Safari has multi-window support too, so you can drag tabs to the left or right side of your screen for extra multitasking.

I use the scaling and multi-window support to split Safari windows side by side (just like I would on my Mac.) One side has my WordPress flow and the other side has a space for open tabs and all articles that I follow or refer to as I write. Compared to what I usually have open on my Windows and Mac computer, the difference is barely noticeable when websites are scaled correctly.

Change the text size on the screen to fit more on the screen

Dynamic Type Settings in iPad OS
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Third, one thing about text size. With the iPad Pro at a super high resolution of 2732 x 2048, I’ve always wanted to change the scale so that more things fit on my screen. Windows and Mac do this well, but iPad OS also has a hidden scaling feature. This can make text look smaller, giving you more space in supported apps.

Go to SettingsDisplay & Brightness > Font size, and you’ll see a slider that makes text larger or smaller. Dragging the slider all the way down will adjust the text size in apps that support Dynamic Type. Examples include Twitter, Microsoft Teams, and many other apps. It makes a huge difference in Twitter, for example, as more Tweets can fit on the screen at once. And in Teams, more chat messages appear in the space.

iPad Magic Keyboard customizations

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My last tip is one that pertains to the iPad Magic Keyboard. As we found out when we reviewed it, this optional accessory can really change the way you use your iPad. It “floats” the iPad in the air, while adding a MacBook-esque keyboard and trackpad for you to use. Still, there are some extra tweaks I use to make my iPad feel more like a laptop.

The first of these is key reassignment. The Magic Keyboard does not have an “escape” key, so I remapped the Option key to bring back the lost function. You do this by going to Settings > General Keyboard Hardware keyboardmodifier keys† From there, an unused key can be reassigned to something useful. For me, the Option key has been modified to become the escape key so that I can exit full screen videos on YouTube without having to scroll with the trackpad.

Another customization to the Magic Keyboard includes hotkeys. Like what I’m used to using on MacOS or Windows 11, the keyboard has certain hotkeys that can be used in apps. If you long-press the Command key, you will see a pop-up prompt with keyboard shortcuts.

The iPad home screen with shortcuts.
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For example, in Safari, you’ll see desktop-like shortcuts for copy and paste, as well as shortcuts for opening a new tab, accessing your history, and more. Meanwhile, on Twitter, there are shortcuts for settings, refresh, and search. If you use a mobile device, such as an iPad, these can make all the difference in time savings.

Note that there are also keyboard shortcuts for iPad navigation, just like there are on MacOS and Windows for navigation. Assignmenthuh can take you to the home screen, Assignmenttab can you switch to recently used apps, AssignmentShift3 can take a screenshot, and AssignmentOptiond can show and hide the dock. Additional keyboard shortcuts can be added by going to the iPad’s Accessibility settings.

Let me use my iPad more

With these adjustments, I find that I now use my iPad a lot more for work. They have helped me become much more efficient, although I still have to get used to using mobile first apps instead of desktop apps. But for web-based work, these suggestions can help you make your iPad your main computer.

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