How to Become the Boss of Your iPad

Essential Tips to Using Your iPad Like a Pro

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Getty Images / Johnnie Davis

Do you sometimes feel like the iPad is the one in charge rather than the other way around?  It's easy to waste time fumbling around for apps or tapping out words on the on-screen keyboard, but with a few essential tips, you can be navigating the treacherous waters of iPad ownership like a pro.

The focus of these lessons are to learn a few of the advanced features of the iPad, such as how to organize your iPad, how to launch apps without hunting for the app icon and skipping the keyboard altogether by using voice dictation.

 If you are still learning the basics, be sure to visit the iPad 101 class before taking on these tips.  

Protect Your Tablet With Find My iPad

Let's get this one over with right now: turn on Find My iPad. If you didn't enable this feature when you set up your iPad, you should turn it on now. Find My iPad has several great features beyond just locating your device: (1) it can play a sound on your iPad, so if you lose it between the cushions of your couch, you can find it, (2) it can put your iPad into 'lost mode', which locks the iPad and displays a custom message on it, and (3), it can be used to wipe the data on your device and reset it to a 'like new' condition, which is very handy if you put a passcode lock on your iPad and then forget the passcode.

Don't Waste Time Looking for an App

The famous "there's an app for that" slogan has a downside. It's easy to fill your iPad up with a lot of cool apps, but this can also make finding a particular app a problem.

The biggest waste of time on the iPad is swiping from a screen full of icons to a screen full of icons searching for a specific app. Instead of trying to hunt it down, let your iPad do the work for you.

There are actually two different ways the iPad can find the app for your: (1) You can tell Siri to "Open {app name}" or (2) you can swipe down on the screen (careful not to swipe down from the very top of the screen) to access Spotlight Search.

The Spotlight Search feature lets you search contacts, music, movies and (yes) apps on your iPad.

Don't Be Afraid of Folders

Another great way to organize your iPad's home screen is to use folders. You can create a folder by simply dragging an app and dropping it onto another app. This will create a folder. The iPad will try to give your folder a good name based on the category of the apps, but you can change it. The first thing I do when I set up a new iPad is to group all of those default apps that I don't use very often like Newsstand and Reminders and Photo Both into a folder I call "Default". This clears up that first screen for more useful apps. Learn More About Moving Apps and Creating Folders

Dock an Extra App

Did you know you can put up to six apps on the iPad's dock? The dock is that bar of icons at the bottom that are always present no matter which screen of apps you are on at the moment. You can move apps to the dock just as you would move an app around the screen. You can even put a folder on the dock, making it possible to organize your iPad by putting your most used apps into folders and then putting those folders on the dock.

Save Favorite Websites to the Home Screen

Now that we've covered ways to quickly open apps and how to get apps out of the way, let's use that real estate for something cool.

You can save websites to your home screen by going to the website in the Safari browser, tapping the Share button and choosing "Add to Home Screen" from the second level of buttons that pop up on the screen.

This can be a great way to store your favorite websites. You can even put the website icons into a folder and put that folder on your dock, creating your own custom bookmarks folder that will always be easily accessible.

Siri Is Your Friend

I meet a lot of iPad users who say they don't use Siri. Sometimes, it's because they simply don't know what Siri can do for them. Other times, they just feel silly talking to their device.

But once you start using Siri, she can be invaluable.

We've already covered how Siri can launch apps for you. She can also get you into an app's settings by saying "Open {app name} settings". And if you want to tweak common settings for your iPad like turning in-app purchases off or customizing your background wallpaper, just tell Siri to "open settings" to launch the iPad's Settings app.

But she can do a lot more than just those tasks. I use her to remind to do tasks, such as taking out the garbage. And when I cook, I use Siri as a timer. If I'm traveling, I use Siri as an alarm clock rather than fiddling with the clock in the hotel room. And if I were better organized, I'd schedule meetings and events with her.

She can also look for nearby restaurants (and even book a reservation with many of them), convert currency, calculate a tip, tell you how many calories there are in a doughnut among a number of other neat tricks.

In short: Siri is just too productive to ignore.

Let Siri Take Dictation for You

If you hate typing on the keyboard, Siri can even take voice dictation from you.  (I told you she was productive!)  The on-screen keyboard has a button that looks like a microphone right next to the space bar.  Tap this button to enable voice dictation.  Siri will listen to what you have to say and turn it into text.  She'll even correctly recognize words like "to, too, and two" based on context. Get more tips on dictating to Siri.

Tap the Top Bar to Scroll to Top

Do you want a quick way to get back to the top of a website?

Double tap the top bar on the iPad right where the time is displayed. If you've scrolled down a website, this will get you back to the top. This won't work on every website, but it will work on most of them.

Forget the Apostrophe

A quick tip for typing is to not bother with the apostrophe when typing contractions like "can't" and "won't," auto-correct will insert the apostrophe, which keeps you from needing to switch to the symbols screen to insert the apostrophe yourself. The only stumbling block are contractions that spell a different word when the apostrophe is left out such as "well", but there's a trick around that one too: just type the last letter again (such as typing "welll" and auto correct will correctly change it to the correct contraction.

Split Your Keyboard

Are you more adept at typing with your thumbs on a smartphone than typing with your fingers on a tablet? You can actually split your iPad's on-screen keyboard in two. Simply "grab" it by putting both thumbs in the middle of the keyboard and then split it apart by moving those thumbs to opposite sides of the iPad. The keyboard will split into a left-side and right-side that are easily accessed with your thumbs, effectively mimicking a smartphone keyboard.

Want to put them back together? Just reverse the gesture, using your thumbs to move the keyboard edges to the middle of the screen.

Don't like the default keyboard at all? Install a custom keyboard on your iPad.

Switch Apps With a Gesture

If you do a lot of jumping around between apps, you'll want to know this trick.

While you can switch apps by double-clicking the home button and using the task screen, you can skip this step by playing four fingers on your iPad's display and (without lifting them) dragging your fingers to the left or to the right. This will switch between your most recently opened apps.

In order to do this, you will need to have multitasking gestures turn on. You can turn them on in the iPad's settings if they are not already turned on. The setting is located within the 'General' settings.

Learn How to Reboot the iPad

The most essential troubleshooting tip for any device is to reboot it.  This is the first thing most tech support analysts will ask you to do no matter what type of device you are using, and it is just as true for the iPad as it is for your laptop.   

Some people believe that just suspending the iPad by pressing the Sleep/Wake button or closing the smart cover is the same as shutting the iPad down, but its not.  This simply puts the iPad to sleep. 

In order to reboot the iPad, you will first need to power it down by holding the Sleep/Wake until prompted to "slide to power off" by the device.  Slide the power button to the right to shut down the iPad. 

A circular animation will play while the iPad is shutting down.  When the screen goes completely dark, hold the Sleep/Wake button to power on the iPad.  When you see the Apple logo, you can release the button.  Get More Info on Rebooting the iPad.

Use the Virtual Trackpad

One of the newer additions to the iPad is the virtual trackpad.  This hidden feature allows you to move the cursor around the screen by placing two fingers on the iPad's on-screen keyboard and moving your fingers around to control the cursor.  This is basically the same functionality you get out of your trackpad or mouse on your PC.   If you do a lot of editing, this is a real timersaver.