When Apple debuted iPadOS at WWDC 2019, it was the surprise that a lot of us iPad devotees had been waiting for: a separate operating system for the iPad. While the first iteration, iPadOS 13, shared a lot of features with that year's release of iOS, the two are starting to diverge slightly. For instance, we see this in the iPad's recent adoption of full trackpad and mouse support, which isn't present on the iPhone.
While many iPad fans are used to waiting two years between substantial, iPad-specific updates, in branching off iPadOS into a distinct piece of software, Apple has set a certain level of expectation. For instance, macOS doesn't always have massive updates year to year, but it's always in the keynote and always gets some feature of note.
Given that the iPad is a more popular line of devices than the Mac at this point, I have little doubt that Apple will make time for it during its keynote for WWDC 2020. But what do I want to see from iPadOS 14? What do I want?
Well, here are my priorities, my wishes, for where Apple can go next with its tablet software. Some of it's very practical, some may be a little fanciful, but hey, it's a wishlist, right?
Keyboard and trackpad
I'm of the opinion that Apple hit it right out of the park when it introduced full trackpad and mouse support to the iPad with iPadOS 13.4. But just because something starts excellent doesn't mean it can't get better, and I'd love to see Apple take these features, particularly trackpad support, to their next level.
With that in mind, here's what I'm looking for in the next evolution of keyboard and trackpad support for the iPad.
Customizable keyboard shortcuts
I don't mean the ones you can customize by turning on Full Keyboard Access. I don't want a highlight always on my screen. No, I mean full-on Alfred- or Keyboard Maestro-style user-defined keyboard shortcuts for anything in the system.
For instance, when using a keyboard, I'd love to be able to hit Control-Option-A to open the AirDrop menu and share whatever I'm looking at to a device near me. Or hit Options-S to open Safari or Control-Command-S for Slack.
More ways to invoke Slide Over apps
Building off of my wishes for keyboard commands, there should be more ways to bring over your Slide Over apps that aren't moving your cursor all the way to the right side of the screen, then just going a little further. Same with dismissing them. A keyboard command — or trackpad gesture – would be a great way to do this. Speaking of which...
Edge gestures for trackpad
Trackpad support on iPadOS is currently in an excellent state. It's a great first full run. As more apps implement support, it gets even better, giving iPad users more options for navigating their devices.
But Apple can do more. My suggestion would be edge gestures. Currently, on macOS, a two-finger swipe to the left from the right edge of the trackpad slides over the Notification Center. On iPadOS, I purpose that a similar gesture could bring in Slide Over apps when you're inside an app.
Going further, I think you could build in more gestures of a similar nature. For instance, a two-finger swipe down from the top edge will bring in Notification Center, while the same from the bottom will invoke the dock. Finally, when you're in an app, a two-finger swipe from the left edge of the screen could automatically invoke the widget view.
Shortcuts might be my favorite thing on both iPhone and iPad. It lets me build tools to help my devices better work for me. Of course, there are improvements that I'd like to see made, particularly on the iPad.
I'd like to see Shortcuts gain actions for more platform-specific actions on the iPad. In particular, though, I want actions that deal with the iPad's unique windowing mechanics: Split View and Slide Over.
Right now, I can create a shortcut that just opens an app. I'd love to see shortcuts that let you open two apps side by side in Split View directly. You'd specify the two apps in the shortcut beforehand, and then when you run the shortcut, up they pop together.
I'd also like to see a shortcut action (if Apple's not going to add this functionality to iPad multitasking itself) that, when activated, slides an app into the right or left Split View position, with a similar shortcut action for Slide Over. You'd be able to designate the app the shortcut activates ahead of time, or, naturally, choose the Ask Each Time parameter so you can choose from a list whenever you activate your shortcut.
All of these functions would be particularly useful, especially considering my next wish on the list.
Currently, if you activate Full Keyboard Access on your iPad in the Accessibility menu in Settings, you can set specific key combinations on an external keyboard that activates certain functions on your iPad, including shortcuts. But enabling Full Keyboard Access can be a hassle, and anyway, shortcuts don't really run like I would like them to at present, anyway.
For instance, if I activate a shortcut using Full Keyboard Access right now, I see a notification with a "Run" button. I then need to tap that button to execute the shortcut.
Instead, I'd like to be able to set a keyboard command for a shortcut in the Shortcuts app. You used to need to manually set the phrase used to activate a shortcut with Siri, and while that requirement's gone away, I'd like to see a similar functionality come back for keyboard commands. Then, once you've activated your shortcut, it could run without you having to confirm (or maybe make that a toggle in the shortcut, too).
I'd love to pair this functionality with the next wish on my list, should it come true, as well.
Run in the background
I'd love to run a shortcut without being dragged into the Shortcuts app each time. While that's not really a problem for the shortcuts I use with Siri on my iPhone, I generally tap shortcuts to run them on my iPad, and I'd really love not to have to jump to Shortcuts every time I do.
Take, for instance, my AirPods Pro shortcut. It's just a little button I made that has my current device connect to AirPods Pro if it isn't already connected to them. I use it on both my iPhone and iPad through a button on the Home screen, and when I tap that button, I'm immediately thrown from wherever I was previously to the Shortcuts app.
It would be great if, instead, Shortcuts could just run things in the background. It could work like this: I tap the button, a notification from Shortcuts pops down to tell me my shortcut is running, then a second notification appears when the shortcut has finished.
Little things like these would go a long way to improving the shortcuts experience on iPad.
As always, I'm curious to see what new functionality app developers will be able to use with their apps come iPadOS 14. We'll undoubtedly see countless new APIs released this year at WWDC. I don't have any specific functionality for apps that I'd like to see now, except for them to continue expanding their capabilities.
But there is one bit of functionality that I'd specifically like to see come to apps for iPad.
Preferred App Mode
Split View and Slide Over are both great tools for app organization, and I'm a particularly big fan of Slide Over. Why open my note-taking app and move away from whatever I was doing previously to jot down a quick thought when I could just slide my notes app over, write my thought down, then push it away?
I'd like the ability to set a preferred mode for each Slide Over-capable app. You tap the icon in the dock, activate the app from a Spotlight search, or in any other way activate an app while you're using another app, then that app opens in either Slide Over or Split View. This could be taken care of in an app's section of the Settings menu.
This way, whether or not an app was already in Slide Over or got cleared by memory management wouldn't matter, it'd always appear in Slide Over when you activated it. For instance, I never need to use Tot, my "scratch paper" app of choice, in full-screen mode. Never. So being able to set Tot to always open in Slide Over would be great.
And what if you're not in an app, and just on the Home screen? Well, then the app opens as it usually would, in full screen.
Widgets and Home screen
This part of my wishlist could generally be shared with iOS, but given that Home screen widgets already exist to a certain extent on iPad, it's fitting to put my wishes for them here. But there's more to what I want for the Home screen than just widgets.
While putting widgets on the side of the Home screen in landscape mode was a solid first step, I'd like to see it taken further in iPadOS 14. While there are concepts that see app icons potentially expanding into widgets on the Home screen for iOS 14 (and, presumably, iPadOS 14), I also wouldn't mind seeing Apple take the current types of widgets and just expand where they're able to go and let us resize them.
Because make no mistake, I'd take that Shortcuts widget and expand it from the top to the bottom of my screen if I could. No other widgets below it, now time and date above. But this would also give more space for my other widgets to be more useful to me. Given how I use the Shortcuts widget, it's always expanded, meaning that if I want to use other widgets in that view, I have to scroll down.
If I could make a Home screen that was just widgets, that would change, and essentially turn my first Home screen into an always useful dashboard, with a dock full of my most essential apps underneath it (something I've always wanted to see on the iPhone).
Currently, I use the FS Bookmarks shortcut by Federico Viticci and the wonderful Scriptable app to create shortcuts that open particular folders for me in the Files app. In particular, I have shortcuts for my PDFs, Downloads, and Documents folders. I tap one of those shortcuts, and the corresponding folder opens in the iCloud Drive section of the Files app.
While this works for me, I'd love to see Apple add the ability to pin folders to your Home screen in iPadOS. Just let us click a checkbox or flip a switch while we're in a folder in the Files app that says something like "Show folder on Home screen," then have it appear on the Home screen, just like an app icon.
And it would be great if you could do this for any folder, not just those in iCloud Drive. You could have a mix of iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Synology folders just sitting on your Home screen, ready to access whenever you needed them.
I've got one Markup change in mind that I'd really like to see, and it's kind of a big one.
The Markup Sheet
The major change with Markup that I want is what I call the "Markup Sheet." Basically, in a UI abstraction sense, it's a "layer" that gets placed "over" whatever you're marking up. What's actually happening is you're creating a dual-layer merged document, where you can easily switch back between your marking and the original source material.
The Markup Sheet would be implemented by developers, and marked up documents would be saved as nigh-invisible layers as part of your document. If you went to export the original document, the markup wouldn't be included in that export. You could only export that layer when it was visible.
This would make it easier to mark up digital documents using the Apple Pencil physically. And I might just be getting my wish, or at least part of it. Recent rumors suggest that Apple will bring Apple Pencil support to Safari on iPad. This leads me to speculate that some kind of Markup layering system may be in the works such as I described above, as it's the only thing that makes sense to me as to why Apple would add Pencil support to Safari.
But maybe that's just my wishful thinking. Nevertheless, it's something that I'd love to see come to iPadOS soon.
I recognize that all of this might be a lot to ask for, especially this year. But that's the point of a wishlist: to put what you'd like to see out into the world. This is what I want to see in iPadOS.
But what about you? Do you have any particular functionality or apps that you want to come to Apple's tablets? Let us know what you want most in iPadOS 14 in the comments.
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Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.