A Guided Tour of the iPad

Get to know your new Apple tablet

The iPad is a device with many uses, but it can be confusing for the new user. If you've never used a tablet computer or smartphone before, you might have a few questions after you take it out of the box.

To help answer some of these questions, let's take a look at what comes with the iPad.

Unboxing the iPad

In addition to the device itself, the box contains a small insert with a diagram of the hardware and a quick explanation of how to set it up for first-time use. The box also includes a cable and an AC adapter.

The Connector Cable

The cable that comes with the newest iPads is called the Lightning connector, which replaced the 30-pin cable that came with previous models. No matter which style cable you have, you use it for both charging the iPad and connecting the iPad to other devices, such as your laptop or desktop PC. Both cable types fit into the slot at the bottom of the iPad. 

AC Adapter

Rather than including a separate cable just for powering the iPad, Apple's AC adapter uses the connecting cable to connect to your power outlet.

You don't need to plug your iPad into the wall to charge it. You can also charge the iPad by plugging it into a PC. However, older computers may not be able to charge the iPad properly. If you find plugging the iPad into your PC doesn't charge it, or if charging this way is extremely slow, the AC adapter is the way to go.

iPad Diagram: Learn the iPad's Features

Apple's design philosophy is to keep things simple, so the iPad only has a few buttons and features on the exterior. Each of these features plays a vital role in using your iPad, including a navigational tool and the ability to put your iPad to sleep and wake it up.

iPad with screen facing, highlighting the Sleep/Wake button in the upper right corner fo the device and the Home button in the lower center

The iPad Home Button

You use the iPad's Home Button to close out of an app and return to the home screen, making it one of the buttons you'll use the most. You can also use it to wake the iPad up when you want to start using it.

There are also a few other cool uses for the Home button. Double-clicking it will bring up the App Switcher, which you can use to jump between programs and close down ones that are still running in the background. And triple-clicking the home button will zoom in the screen or open other accessibility features which are helpful for those with not-so-perfect eyesight.

You can use the Home button to go to the Spotlight Search screen quickly. Click the Home button a single time while on the home screen to search through your iPad's content, including contacts, movies, music, apps, and even a quick link to search the web.

Spotlight Search on iPad

The Sleep/Wake Button

The Sleep/Wake Button does just what its name implies: it puts the iPad to sleep and wakes it back up again. It's great if you want to suspend the iPad, but you don't have to worry about doing it every time you stop using the iPad. If the iPad remains inactive, it will put itself to sleep.

While the Sleep/Wake Button is sometimes referred to as the On/Off Button, clicking it will not turn the iPad off. Powering down the iPad requires you to hold this button down for several seconds and then confirm your intention by swiping a confirmation slider on the iPad's screen. It's also how you reboot your iPad.

The Volume Buttons

The volume buttons are on the upper right side of the iPad. The mute button will immediately eliminate all sound coming from the speakers. You can change the functionality of this button in the settings to lock the orientation of the iPad if you find yourself holding it at a peculiar angle that rotates the screen when you don't want it to.

If you set the mute switch to lock the orientation, holding down the volume decrease button will also turn the volume completely off.

Lightning Connector / 30-Pin Connector

Newer iPads come with a Lightning connector, while older models have a 30-pin connector. The main difference between the two is the size of the adapter that plugs into the iPad. This connector is used to plug the iPad into your PC. You can also use the AC adapter that comes with the iPad to plug it into a wall outlet, which is the best way to charge your iPad. The connector is also used to connect various accessories to the iPad, such as Apple's Digital AV Adapter, which can connect your iPad to your TV.

You don't need to plug your iPad into your PC. The iPad can be set up without a computer, and you can download apps, music, movies, and books to it without ever plugging it into a PC. You can even back up the iPad to the internet using Apple's cloud services.

Headphone Jack

The headphone jack is a 3.5 mm input that will accept and output sound, so you can also hook up a microphone or a headset with a microphone. Among the other uses for it include creating music, such as using iRig to hook a guitar into the iPad.


The iPad has two cameras: a back-facing camera for taking pictures and video, and a front-facing camera, for selfies and video conferencing. The FaceTime app can be used to create a video conference with any friends or family who either have an iPad (version 2 and above) or an iPhone.

The iPad Interface Explained

The iPad's interface has two major parts: The home screen, which holds icons and folders, and the dock, which provides quick access to apps and folders. The primary difference between the two is that the home screen can be changed by swiping from left to right, which brings up the spotlight search screen, or from right to left, which can bring up additional pages of app icons. The dock always stays the same.

Recently opened apps in iPad dock

Once you learn to navigate the iPad and organize it by moving icons around the display and creating folders, you can arrange the dock by putting your most-used programs on it. The dock will even allow you to set a folder on it, which can give you quick access to even more applications.

Between the home screen and the dock are a small magnifying glass and one or more dots. This readout indicates where you are in the interface, with the magnifying glass symbolizing the spotlight search and each dot symbolizing a screen full of icons.

Above the home screen at the very top of the display is the status bar. On the far left is an indicator displaying the strength of your Wi-Fi or 4G connection. In the middle is the time, and at the far right is a battery indicator showing how much more battery life your iPad has until you need to plug it in to recharge it. 

The iPad App Store

Perhaps the most important app on the iPad is the App Store, which is where you will go to download new games and utilities for the iPad.

You can use the App Store to search for specific apps by typing the app name in the search bar on the upper-right corner of the app store. You can also search for the type of app you are interested in downloading, such as "recipes" or "racing game." The app store also has top charts with the most downloaded apps, and categories, both of which make for easy browsing for apps.

The App Store will also let you download any apps you have previously purchased, even if you bought them on another iPad or the iPhone or iPod Touch. So long as you are signed in with the same Apple ID, you can download any previously purchased app.

The App Store is also where you download updates to apps. The icon will even display a notification when you have apps that need updating. This notification shows up as a red circle with a number in the middle, the number indicating the number of apps that need updating. 

How to Find the iPad Web Browser

The most significant source of content for your iPad doesn't exist in a store; it's in the web browser. The iPad uses Safari browser, which allows you to view web pages, create new tabs to keep multiple pages open at the same time, save your favorite places as a bookmark, and just about everything you would expect from a web browser.

The menu on the Safari browser is kept intentionally simple. Here are the buttons and controls from left to right:

  • The back button for going to the last web page viewed.
  • The forward button for returning to the current web page.
  • A bookmark button for saving your favorite websites and getting back to them quickly.
  • The search/address bar. You can use this to search the web using Google or type in a full web address (URL) to go directly to a website. 
  • The Share Button for sending a link to a friend, printing a page, or creating a shortcut to the web page on your iPad's home screen.
  • The Plus (+) button opens a new tab so you can open multiple websites at once. 
  • The last button looks like two squares on top of each other. This button allows you to see the tabs you have open. You can also turn on Private Browsing mode by tapping the "Private" link at the top or open new tabs with the Plus button.

How to Play Music on the iPad

The Music app is where you go to listen to your music collection, even if you are using home sharing to stream music from your PC or laptop.

Songs will continue playing even when you go to a different app, so you can listen to music while you use the iPad's web browser or play your favorite game. Once you're done listening, go back into the Music app and stop the playback by touching the pause button at the top of the screen.

There are also "hidden" music controls on the iPad. If you swipe up from the very bottom edge of the iPad's screen, you will reveal a control panel that includes buttons for controlling your music. This panel is a great way to pause music or skip a song without hunting down the Music app. These controls will also work with apps like Pandora. You can also perform tasks like turning on Bluetooth or adjusting the iPad's brightness.

The Control Center on an iPad

The Music app will also work with iTunes Match, allowing you to listen to your entire music collection from the Internet.

How to Watch Movies and Play Video on the iPad

The iPad is a great way to watch movies and TV shows while you're out of town on vacation or a business trip, but it's just as good for taking that movie into that cozy little nook in your home that doesn't have a TV.

Using the Netflix mobile app (shown on an iPad Pro), after selecting a movie, tap on the Download icon to download and watch it on your mobile device.

The easiest way to watch movies on the iPad is to use a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu Plus. These apps work great on the iPad, and they let you stream a collection of movies or TV shows. And while Netflix and Hulu Plus are widely known, Crackle may be the real gem. It's a free service that has a good selection of movies.

If you have a cable subscription, you may be able to use your iPad as a TV. Many cable networks, including AT&T U-verse, DirectTV, and Verizon FIOS have apps for cable subscribers, and while you can't get every channel on these apps, it does open the door to move viewing options. Most of the premium channels like HBO and Showtime also have apps, so if it's movies you are after, these are great options.

There are several ways you can watch live television on the iPad, like "slinging" your cable to the iPad via Slingbox. Or you can go with EyeTV, which uses an antenna to receive TV signals.

You can play back movies and TV shows on your HDTV by connecting your iPad to your TV either through a special cable or through Wi-Fi via Apple TV.

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