19 iPad Pro software improvements I want to see at WWDC 2016

I love my iPad Pro, and using it as my sole laptop over the last six months has been an exhilarating look at working on the go sans Mac. But it's not without challenges and workarounds. For the iPad Pro to truly take the next step into the laptop computing world, we need more.

Earlier this year, I polled Twitter and iMore readers, asking for their top picks in regards to iPad Pro software improvements. Here are the top twenty improvements we're hoping to see Apple implement as part of iOS 10 when it's previewed later this month.

Multitasking

Slide Over and Split View were great first strides into the world of iPad multitasking, but with iOS 10, it's time to take working in multiple apps to the next level. Splitting the screen in half makes perfect sense for the iPad, and I'm not calling for an iOS future cluttered with windows; as-is, however, Split View is clunky and in need of a turbocharge.

1. Rethink the Split View Controller

There are a few different fixes to make multitasking truly a stand-out part of iOS 10, but the biggest piece of that puzzle is fixing the Split View picker itself. Scrolling through a lengthy list of every app you've ever opened that's Split View compatible was a good hotfix. For iOS 10, I'm hoping for an app picker that's organized, searchable, and even might reflect my home screen. And for even better navigation, let's add a Split View launcher to each app window, rather than Command-Tab (if a hardware keyboard is installed) relegated to switching the left pane, while the right pane uses the default swipe-down screen.

My secret end-game hope is for a more Mission Control-style view of my iPad.

Though I don't expect it to show up as soon as iOS 10, my secret end-game hope is for a more Mission Control-style view of my iPad: Multiple "screens", each of which can hold multiple full apps or two apps in Split View. Instead of switching from app to app with a four-finger swipe, you could switch from Split View to Split View.

2. Multiple versions of the same app in Split View

Sometimes you just want to look at multiple documents in Notes, compare several PDFs or emails, or have two browser windows open at once. There are some apps that attempt to provide this functionality, but you're ultimately using two different programs — not the most user-friendly experience. If iOS 10 let you add multiple instances of each app to Split View, it could open up a lot more flexibility where the user was concerned.

3. Drag and drop between Split View

A no-brainer addition: If I have Photos and Mail open, for example, let me drag a photo from the Photos app to a new Mail message. I get why this wasn't an iOS 9 addition — when you're moving data from one sandboxed application to another, you want to be sure you're not compromising security or providing a messy gesture interaction — but it seems an absolute must-have for advancing the iPad experience in iOS 10.

4. Universal Split View support for system apps

As of iOS 9, you can't use Split View in the Music app, Settings, or the App Store, among others. This is as crazy as some of Apple's apps not being sandboxed on OS X: If it's technology the company wants third-party apps to embrace, all Apple's system apps need to do it. (And it's just confusing to the average user to tell them that only some of their apps can use multitasking.)

Files

From the beginning, iOS has strived to take the file system out of the computing experience, hiding your files inside their respective apps and removing any idea of a Desktop or Finder. But even without those traditional computing methods, users need to work with files, and they need those files to talk to multiple programs. It's just the way of the world. As such, here are a few thoughts on how Apple could let users do more with files without necessarily porting over the Finder.

5. A better iCloud Drive

When Apple introduced the (optionally-hidden) iCloud Drive app that let you see all your iCloud-stored documents, power users rejoiced... only to realize that the app was, in fact, fairly limited in its capacities.

While you can store files, create folders, and open documents in other programs, moving and renaming files is a clunky experience, and only PDFs and images open up in anything resembling OS X's (and iOS Mail's) Quick Look — everything else gets automatically punted to the app it originally belonged to.

Not only could iCloud Drive improve its appearance and organizational options, but features like batch renaming, zipping/unzipping options, offline access, and sharing Drive files could make the app a lot more compelling — and move people away from using apps like Dropbox.

6. Better cross-app file transfer

File transfers are a big part of the iCloud Drive problem: it's currently tricky and weird to move or open files from some programs to others, and certain file formats still aren't usable on the iPad Pro.

File transfers are a big part of the iCloud Drive problem: it's tricky and weird to move or open files between programs.

Mail is the biggest offender when it comes to file movement: Unlike its desktop cousin, Mail has no real way to download multiple attachments, and if those attachments are PDFs or images, they often load inline, confusing users on how to download them or otherwise move them into another program. For example, my mother recently got an iPad Pro for marking up sheet music; she frequently receives emails with 10-12 separate scans of a PDF page. Currently, there's no real way for her to batch download all those PDF pages into PDF Expert or another PDF-combiner; she has to manually tap each one, then tap the share button. It's tedious, and it'd be an easy fix.

7. Upload or share multiple files at once

When iCloud Drive was introduced, Safari also gained the option to upload directly from iCloud — or another cloud-based location, like Dropbox. Unfortunately, most of these screens only allow you to add one file at a time, even when the website form you're uploading to supports multiple file import. (The one exception is importing images directly from your Photos library, but if you do so, you'll be uploading those JPGs and PNGs as "image.jpg"; there's no way to name them before upload.)

Fixing this would go a long way toward improving my online web workflow — and I suspect the workflow of many other folks as well.

8. Support RAW files and PSDs

This is a big one for photographers and designers alike. You can technically import RAW files and PSDs into iCloud Drive or Dropbox, but good luck actually editing in Raw or importing a Photoshop document in any app available on the store today. This isn't due to lack of processing power: If my iPad Pro can edit dual-stream 4K video or create a 40-layer document in Procreate, there's no reason why it shouldn't be able to import a similar document. But right now, there's a limitation on what apps can and can't open; in iOS 10, that needs to disappear, stat.

9. Recognize USB storage

Apple's powered USB adapter provides all the power you need for an external drive; now it's just time for the software to support it.

Another huge boon for those with limited internal storage space or photographers and videographers: Let iOS recognize externally-mounted file systems, perhaps through the iCloud Drive app, and let us add content to them. SD cards can be imported from, and you can recognize some storage options with third-party apps, but those apps are often junky and slow-moving. Apple's powered USB adapter provides all the power you might need for an external drive; now it's just time for the software to support it.

The System

iOS is approaching its tenth iteration, and what better time for an overhaul and rethink than a milestone? When it comes to iPad Pro, the iOS home screen feels hopelessly outdated, and certain system limitations prevent the tablet from really taking hold in certain markets. iOS 10 could change all that.

10. Redesign the home screen

The app grid makes a lot of sense for the iPhone, but on a 12.9-inch screen it looks more like wasted space than actual organization.

I'm pretty sure I've been asking for this since the very first iPad — and its overly-spaced grid of app icons — appeared, but I'm feeling good about this change actually happening in iOS 10. What better time to rethink how apps are displayed on the iPad? The grid makes a lot of sense for the iPhone, but on a 12.9-inch screen it looks more like wasted space than actual app organization. (And, in all honesty, I currently use the Spotlight search bar to launch apps about 95 percent of the time on my iPad Pro, rather than tapping on icons.)

11. Multiple user accounts

While the iPad Pro in our home is solely my device, there are many families and groups who operate otherwise: Anyone with kids knows the pain of endless folders of iPad games, or adults who have to sign in and out of their respective accounts to use iCloud. But I suspect that multi-user support is, at last, coming — in large part due to the education market.

After many pleas for a multi-user option, Apple debuted the feature in iOS 9.2's education package; school administrators with iPads for classrooms can configure them to support multiple children and their data and apps — all without taking up precious storage space on the device.

I'm hoping that this was Apple's initial test run into making multi-user a reality for all iPads, not just education-configured models: The company had to do most of the heavy lifting when conceiving multi-user for education, and now has months of in-classroom usage data to help refine it for the average user.

12. Multi-stream audio for playback and recording

Though it appears halfway into this article, this feature is one of my personal top three for iOS 10 — in part because it's a must-have for podcasters, musicians, or anyone looking to record audio. Right now, the iPad can only pass audio into one app at a time: If you're using Skype, for instance, you can't hop over to GarageBand and record your mic locally.

There are apps like Audiobus that attempt to solve this problem with special code in each app, which allows them to talk to each other; unfortunately, developers on each side of the app need to implement that code before it works — in other words, no Skype audio in GarageBand.

If Apple truly wants to position the iPad as the creative professional's device, giving creative pros the tools they need would be a big step in the right direction.

13. On-device coding

Getting audio right is a big step; letting developers work on the iPad Pro opens up another big sector where the tablet is lacking: coding. Save for a few smart HTML/CSS editors like Coda (opens in new tab), writing any sort of code and committing it to a central database is next to impossible on the iPad — and you're completely out of luck if you want to try writing a program for the iPad on the iPad.

If you want users to build apps for your platform, they should be able to build apps on that platform.

When it comes to bringing something like Xcode on the iPad, I firmly believe the answer is not "if", but "when": It's a huge undertaking — and requires a definitive rethink on how users manipulate their code and interface — but at the end of the day, if you want users to build apps for your platform, they should be able to build apps on that platform. I'm not expecting a full version of Xcode for iPad when iOS 10 debuts, but something like Playgrounds for iPad would be an incredible way of opening the door to coding and compiling on a tablet computer.

14. Improve text selection

Largely, iOS has kept to the same sort of text selection shortcuts throughout its entire life: The tap to select and edit-handle-maneuvering was novel when it debuted, but on an iPad Pro, it can get tricky — especially when in certain apps that want to grab entire paragraphs rather than single words or lines.

The iPad's software keyboard does offer two-finger-tap-and-drag to move the cursor and select, but after doing so, you don't get the same pop-over as you would if tapping and holding on a word; that kills a lot of gains from the precision, since users can't paste data (URLs, for instance) after moving the cursor appropriately. Adding that pop-over after two-finger iPad interactions would solve most of my text-selection woes, but I'd love to see Apple at least entertain a text selection rethink.

Apps

There are absolutely great system and third-party apps for the iPad Pro, but iOS 10 could make both a great deal better. The next big version of iOS gives Apple a huge opportunity to rethink some features in its own apps and vastly improve the third-party ecosystem with incentives and a strong framework for aspiring professional software developers.

15. Support the app ecosystem

If Apple wants professional iPad apps, then developers need to be able to charge pro-level prices and not get punished for it.

The market for excellent, professional iPad Pro apps is a difficult one, and it's one many folks smarter than me have spent thousands of words discussing. App Store economics make it difficult to charge a high price for semi-pro or pro apps, and Apple currently seems uninterested in helping change that. But if the company wants the iPad Pro to flourish, it needs to rethink that attitude.

Hardware is not the limiting factor to great iPad apps — it's all about good developer support. Apple has eschewed the idea of free trials and shareware on iOS in the past, but a redesign of the App Store in iOS 10 might open the door to such things for professional apps. $1 or in-app-purchase games are all well and good on the iPhone, but a professional photography editing program or audio editor can't rely on in-app purchases or yearly subscriptions paying for its development costs. If Apple wants pro software on the iPad, then developers need to be able to charge pro-level prices and not get punished for it.

16. Make the Music app not suck

Right now, the Music app looks like a wide-screen version of its iPhone cousin — all that extra space is filled up with white background, save for a column-view of your personal music, and even that isn't particularly attractive. The Mini-player in full screen is perhaps the biggest example of this insanity: The album art takes up two-thirds of the screen, with tiny touch targets for play, pause, shuffle, and Up Next. Music is also one of Apple's stock apps that doesn't yet support Split View.

The Music app needs to be more functional and less a blown-up clone of its small-screened cousin.

All that needs to change in iOS 10. The app needs to be more functional and less a blown-up clone of its small-screened cousin, and Split View is a necessity. I almost wonder if it would make sense for the Music app to create a pop-over similar to iOS 9's picture-in-picture option: Tap a button to let the Music mini-player hang out as an overlay on any of your apps or Home screen. Maybe pop-over mini apps should be an option for all developers...

17. Let us create Smart Mailboxes and Playlists

When iOS first debuted, it made sense to avoid the advanced-user trickery of the Mac OS's smart searches — the operating system was built for a smartphone, and Mail rules or smart photo searches seemed like unnecessary complications.

As time progressed, Apple added under-the-hood smart mailboxes like the Attachments folder, but the company still hasn't offered customizable smart mailboxes, music playlists, or photo searches. That should end in iOS 10, especially on the iPad Pro: We're losing out on a lot of valuable data by not being able to build our own smart options, especially when those options are niche and may never fall into public favor. (If Apple had introduced smart photo albums back in iOS 7, for instance, it could have avoided years of journalists clamoring for a stock Screenshots folder.)

18. Options for local downloads

I understand why smart caching exists on iOS, especially for lower-capacity devices. But even so, I'd love the ability to mark certain files, photos, videos, music, or mail messages as "always-downloaded" — protecting them from getting cache cleared off the device And being forced to rely on the iCloud-stored version.

There are many reasons to want locally-stored files — going somewhere without Internet access, for instance — and while I appreciate Apple's desire to make things simpler for most users and ensure they don't eat up their storage space, it's also infuriating to those of us who need certain files readily available, Internet connection or no.

19. Turn Markup into its own app

It seems weird to have features like Markup live only inside Mail.

I've been begging for a version of Preview on iOS for at least four years, and I'm doubling down on it for iOS 10: With features like Markup and more users than ever interested in viewing PDFs and marking up documents, it seems weird to have those features live only inside Mail. Instead, a system-wide Quick Look — powered by a new Preview app — would make the process more seamless and give power users a native app to work from. Preview on iPad Pro could also solve a lot of Mail's problems with properly displaying attachments and unzipping files.

Miscellaneous fixes

Like Apple's "tiny things you missed in this version of iOS" slide, I've got plenty of other nitpicks: Mail's terrible multi-folder search, permanently preventing websites from loading the mobile version of a page on the iPad Pro, updates to Pages and Numbers, and (in my dreams) mobile versions of Logic and Final Cut to pave the way for pro apps on the platform. But there are only so many engineers working on iOS 10 in Cupertino and only so many hours in the day and days in the year.

What are your biggest hopes for the next version of iOS and the iPad Pro? Let us know in the comments!

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

35 Comments
  • yup, pretty much agree with all of your suggestions Ren. iOS needs a complete overhaul and rethink it especially for the iPad
  • Agreed. In nearly 10 iterations of iOS nothing has really changed apart from a new coar I'd paint in iOS 7, a lot of things listed here you can already do on Android. It just shows just how far iOS has fallen behind Android now. Sent from the iMore App
  • A useful article but shame the IPad Pros didn't get anything useful from iOS 10!! Why Tim Cook bothers to make a big deal about iPads as computer replacements or being great for enterprise is anyone's guess when they have made no changes to improve productivity.
  • 1000% agree and the bulk of these would almost make me an Apple user. Would love to see all of these on the long term road map.
  • Remember when the Podcast app used to be great? I would love to at least see full-screen video podcast viewing with PiP and split screen.
  • Very much agree with all of this. I do love using my Pro 12.9 with a Bluetooth keyboard, especially for college use, but I can't help but feel that it is capable of so much more if it has the software...
  • my biggest issue with iOS on the 12.9" iPad Pro is the keyboard, The onscreen keyboard is simply not usable. They need to allow it to split like it does on the regular iPads.
  • Hmm. I don't think splitting the keyboard on a 12.9" iPad Pro would be comfortable for typing.
  • I agree with almost all of this but I would settle for just being able to use an external drive with the USB adapter. It would make vedio editing so much better when working with large files Sent from the iMore App
  • I just wish there was consistency between iPad and iPhone versions of the same Apple apps. Where the buttons are, etc. Mail app is terrible about this. Calendar is consistent across both versions. And the notifications in my ear when I'm on the phone are STILL infuriating.
  • Push and alias support for Gmail would be nice in the default Mail app. (People complain about the lack of push all the time, but currently Mail doesn't support Gmail aliases unless you configure your account as IMAP instead of Gmail.)
  • I agree with everything in this list. One feature I would like is how on my 6s Plus I can press and hold on the keyboard and move the cursor
  • If you press two fingers on the iPad keyboard it allows you to move the cursor just like on the iPhone 6s Plus
  • Text selection improvements/redesign would be top for me. File syncing to work just like dropbox so everything in selected folder is there ready for me on the device.
  • With #2, I think that's really up to the developers. Apps are sandboxed and stand-alone. The developers could make editing/reading multiple documents in a single window a reality--much as LiquidText has done in their latest version with PDF reading/reviewing. Great list, though! I want to add for mail: stop treating portrait mode as if it's an iPhone. I want to be able to see the email list in both portrait and landscape mode (especially on the 12.9" Pro) as an option. With the 9.7, I prefer to type in portrait mode with my thumbs, so I'm more likely to be holding it in that direction. To me this is a great example of scaling up the iPhone experience instead of re-thinking the app for the iPad. And YES! THE HOMESCREEN IS TERRIBLE ON THE iPad Pro! Need better Calendar scheduling for enterprise environments where you need to search for free time among collegues. It's possible, but super cumbersome today. And Flash support! Ha! Just kidding about that one. :D
  • Looks like many of the things missing are available in OSX, or is superior to any ios implementation why don't they make touch screen laptops??
    The argument against touchscreen laptops I've seen from apple is vertical touch screens are tiring so nobody wants to use them. That is very true as a principal interface but as an supplement to the keyboard trackpad, or with a detachable keyboard trackpad.....
  • YES to all of those points
  • I'd like to see OS X long key press support come to BT and smart connected keyboards on iOS.
  • You guys want all of this stuff? It's called the MacBook and it's available right now on Apple's website. I have one and it's great. Things like improved Multitasking, File Management, and Coding are all things that work great on a Mac and even if they were available on iOS, I'm not sure I'd even want to do them on a touch screen.
  • Totally agree.
    I'm a happy Surface Pro user (and of course iMore usual reader and sincere fan of Apple design), all I can tell you guys is that the real all-in-one experience is astonishing.
    Apple should build something like that to its users and fans.
    Believe me, sketching on photoshop CS while rendering in 3DSMAX in background (all of it on the move) is priceless.
    Or sketching / pinch zooming in any Office document?
    And I'm talking about full feature software packages, not mobile apps, with real multitasking and all..
    When Apple will bring a touch friendly interface to osx and put it on the ipad pro, well, that will be the new 2007.
  • I love all of these ideas for the IPad Pro in iOS 10. How about Bluetooth mouse support too?
  • I second this motion, along with bluetooth trackpad support. When it is on, a translucent circle could move around the screen to show the pointer location, and when you tap the mouse button/trackpad, it would act like a screen touch.
  • I sure does, especially from a third party app point of view. If I'm using the Google app to search for something, I can't open the link. Apple must open up its APIs to third party developers, that would be what I'd see as progress with iOS because having tried Android and quite liked it (Marshmallow) and returned to iOS and iPhone, the limitations of iOS bother me more than it used to now and it's time to open up iOS a bit while keeping all of what makes iOS such a great platform for novices and all that is good about iOS. Sent from the iMore App
  • Files. That is the beginning and the end of what is needed in iOS. Kludge doesn't begin to describe the lack of a file system with the inherent power of the iPad Pro. The convoluted "sharing" concept is inapplicable to a system designed to at least in part replace your laptop/PC experience. The rest of your suggestions are great, but this one change would be like bringing iOS into the 21st century.
  • Great list Ren. DRAG AND F'ING DROP. Along with that, I'd like to be able to drag something from an app and "pin it" temporarily to an edge (not unlike facebook chat-heads) so I can find another app to drop it into. I'm mostly thinking of the iPhone with that feature, as you could just drag and drop directly into another app with split-view (provided the app supports it).
  • hybridOS?? No seriously, I love that my iPad Air 2 is still hanging strong but iOS is seriously limiting what the iPad can truly do in general, no matter which iPad. And no, I have a MacBook but that suddenly doesn't mean the iPad can't have a hybrid of iOS and MacOS. So even if all the features listed make it to iOS 10 (that would be awesome!!!), as long as the iPad continues to use iOS, it's true power will never be truly unleashed. Why create a beast just to always leave it locked up in a cage??
  • Agree with a lot of your points Ren but I wonder whether Apple with truly develop the iPad to be the powerhouse it can. For productivity and editing it feels like they expect people to use a pc/mac whereby a lot of this can be done on the ipad and its much more portable option. Perhaps the iPad needs its own version of iOS that then sees it as a halfway house between a phone and computer and giving it the ability. Having come from the Android side of things where I was for many years, there are times when it is frustrating using an apple product due to limitations and this is something that needs to be really worked on and improved.
  • Maybe Apple should have a global contest with a $10 million top prize to redesign iOS? Hey, it couldn't hurt.
  • Good list, SC. (Especially with tennis courts as a backdrop!!) iPad Pro-specifics notwithstanding, the areas most in need of improvement: file manipulation (the big one), USB storage, home (and lock) screen customization, RAW/PSD, and refinements to text selection. The sheer breadth and depth of SC's list says more about Apple regard (neglect?) of iOS usability than any keynote yada yada. By the way -- nice ring.
  • My biggest complaint about iPad Pros -- we are being pushed to use these iPads as a computer replacement and that's great and all but when my 84 year old mom has a question or problem doing something on her Pro, there is no way for me to remotely help her like I used to do when she was using a Mac Mini. Does Apple even care about this? They need to develop remote assistance software.
  • When the vast majority of this list can already be done on a Mac, is the iPad the wrong tool for the job? Maybe a MacBook Pro and an iPad with the AstroPad app would work for some people?
  • I agree with everything here especially about iCloud Drive. But I'll suggest even more : iCloud Drive should be accessible via iTunes so I can just drop my documents there and access them through 3rd Party Apps. I use Playerxtreme a lot and Documents, but I would like to just drop my files on iCloud Drive from iTunes and access them with those apps. It needs collaboration features just like Dropbox, I should be able to share files from iCloud Drive with my friends. & Yes! Spilt View and PiP needs more App support. I use an iPad Air now but I would like more multitasking capabilities when I'm able to upgrade to the 9.7" iPad Pro. I like what you typed about the copy and paste feature. I want to the options after selecting text too.
  • Hi allowing photo smart albums to appear and sync across all devices would be something I would like to see,thanks
  • Great ideas BUT shame the iPad Pros didn't get any love from iOS 10!! Why Tim Cook bothers to make a big deal about iPads as computer replacements or being great for enterprise users is anyone's guess when they have made no changes to improve productivity.
  • I agree with all this. This shows how much Tim Cook is letting software wither on the proverbial vine. The only thing I can figure is that Apple is wasting all of its resources developing an electric car because it certainly is not going into SIRI and other Software products. What made the iPhone great was the intuitiveness of using your fingers for controlling a phone. Now they act like it all comes down to the physical design which IMHO is over-rated for the iphone 6/6s series. The success that of the SE which harkens back to the looks of the classic 4 and 5 series phones which Jobs certainly had a had in driving and approving. Ive is over-rated.