How to Use the iPad Control Panel

Access settings and features with just a swipe

A woman holding an iPad with the Control Center open

 Pixabay

The Control Panel is a great way to get access to music controls and basic iPad settings from anywhere on the iPad, including when playing a game, browsing Facebook, or surfing the web. You can also open the iPad's Control Panel from the lock screen, which is excellent if you want to turn down the volume or skip a song.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 12 or later.

How to Open the Control Panel on the iPad

The control panel has moved around a bit in the last few updates, but you access it by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen on any page. On the lock screen that appears after you wake up your iPad, but before you unlock it, a horizontal line is visible in that corner, under the clock and battery indicators.

Location of Control Center on the iPad lock screen

How to Use the Control Panel

The control panel allows you quick access to various settings like Airplane Mode and music controls. Some will expand if you tap and hold on them. For example, the first section that includes Airplane Mode will pop out and show you additional information about each button within it. The expanded view lets you preview more controls in the panel.

An expanded section in the iPad's control center
  • Airplane Mode — This switch shuts off all communication on the iPad, including Wi-Fi and the data connection.
  • AirDrop Settings — AirDrop is a convenient feature that lets you quickly share photos and websites with someone who is in the same room. You can access the sharing features via the iPad's Share button. In the control panel, you can turn AirDrop off, set it to receive content from contacts only, or turn it on for everyone. 
  • Wi-Fi — If you have an iPad with a 4G data connection, it can sometimes be aggravating to receive a weak Wi-Fi signal when your data connection would be much faster. This easy access to turn off Wi-Fi saves you from hunting through your iPad settings.
  • Bluetooth — Bluetooth can burn through your battery if you leave it on all the time. This setting lets you turn it off quickly to save power.
  • Music Controls — These controls include the standard play, pause, and skip buttons. If you hold your finger down on the music controls, the enlarged window will allow you to jump to a certain point in the current song, adjust the volume, share the music to Apple TV, or open the Music app.
  • Brightness — Adjusting brightness is a great way to save battery life, but sometimes you can get it too low to see your screen comfortably. The control center gives you quick access to a slider.
  • Volume — The fastest way to adjust the volume on your iPad is to use the physical volume buttons along the edge of the iPad. But you can also pop into the control center and change it in there.
  • AirPlay — Apple's AirPlay feature allows you to send audio and video and share your screen with an AirPlay-enabled device. You can use AirPlay with Apple TV to send video from apps like Netflix or Hulu to your TV. It can also mirror your entire iPad screen. You can turn on screen mirroring with this control.
  • Lock Orientation — The iPad's ability to automatically orient itself is great unless you're holding it at just the right angle where it wants to flip orientation when you don't want the change. This button will solve that dilemma.
  • Mute — Need to kill the sound on your iPad fast? The mute button will do the trick.
  • Do Not Disturb — Another feature more useful for phones, the Do Not Disturb can still be handy if you receive a lot of Facetime calls.
  • Timer/Clock — This button opens the Clock app, where you can set a timer or alarm, or run the stopwatch.
  • Camera — If you sometimes fumble trying to remember where you moved the Camera icon on your home screen, you now have quick access to it on the Control Panel. And if you want to take a selfie, hold your finger down on the camera button until it activates the front-facing camera.