Apple today is expected to release iPadOS 16.1. Most of its improvements aren’t confined to iPad — you’ll also find them on iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. But they should help you be more productive, whichever Apple device you use.
Here’s a look at some of the improvements and what they do.
A more Mac-like Desktop
Stage Manager (see more below) tries to bring both Mac and iPad closer together, but iPad gains new system elements and interactions in the Desktop Class apps, including Files. These include consistent undo and redo, customizable toolbars, and the ability to change file extensions and view folder sizes in Files. This alone may be enough to upgrade, given how important Files has become for some workflows.
Mail gets a lot better
As I mentioned, most of the best improvements in iPadOS 16 are shared across all of Apple’s platforms. Take the new smart tools in Mail, which let you cancel an outgoing message, schedule email send,s and set reminders. Just as on Macs, iPads can do all this and tip you off if you forget to include to add attachments to your message. Search has also been improved: it can handle typos better, use synonyms and will provide much richer mail search results.
The latest big change in the iPad user interface is also shared with the Mac. Stage Manager attempts to build a new logic to how you handle applications on both systems. In theory, it’s practical: it makes it far easier to move between different applications, or groups of applications and helps by keeping the application you are currently working with front and center. In practice, beta testers seemed to find the new UI more effective on Macs than iPads, but once people get used to it, the move may help bridge the ever-shrinking gap between the unique nature of both systems.
Coming soon: Freeform
It’s not available in this release, but Freeform promises so much for all of us. It’s a form of collaborative notebook into which users can share diagrams and plot plans in one fully editable shared workspace. Freeform works with Messages and FaceTime, so you can work with people and track changes asynchronously.
Apple makes noteworthy improvements to Safari
Shared tab groups, better password management thanks to Passkeys, and new dedicated start pages for specific Tab Groups should all go some way to improve and secure the experience of using Safari. If you are a visual thinker, you can customize Tab Group start pages with background images, bookmarks and sections that can be shared with others.
Sophisticated vision intelligence and AI
Live Text was already an amazing tool to recognize words, such as street signs or notices in photos. In iPadOS 16, it can also recognize words in videos. You can translate words, drag and drop them into other application,s and more. Improvements in Visual Look Up mean you can recognize animals, insects, birds, flowers, and statues from photos. Essentially, photos and videos on iPads and other Apple devices have become functionally useful tools, particularly for education, report creation, and travel.
Other improvements worth a mention
Support for 20 more languages in VoiceOver means even more people in even more nations can use iPads to get things done via voice, while Notes gains Smart Folders and a host of additional refinements to make notes easier to make, manage, and share.
If you’re one of the millions who seem to spend a lot of time in video meetings, Handoff in FaceTime makes it easier to slip between devices mid-meeting. It would be even better if you gained this facility in Zoom, Teams, and Webex, given those are where most work now gets done.
Finally, Display Zoom helps you maximize available space on your iPad display, so icons and font sizes shrink to make way for what you need.
Apple Pencil and its ‘hover’ experience
iPads can detect the second-generation Apple Pencil when it hovers from about 12mm above the display. When it detects the implement, the display will show you a preview of the mark to help you place it more accurately. That means more accuracy when you use Scribble, fewer errors when annotating documents or PDFs, and one big limitation: Hover is only available to M2-equipped iPad Pros.
External display support
You can also plug your iPad into an external display. If you are using a high-end new iPad Pro you can also use Reference Mode, which matches color requirements and manages colour accuracy — that’s useful for film and photography professionals who will now get to carry the world’s most lightweight reference display.
And my personal favorite, being a Brit
The Weather app at last makes it to iPad. It’s been a long and an unnecessary wait, but now it’s over. You, too, can swoon as those little drops of rain patter in the app on a wet day or enjoy the pale blue sunshine sky on days when it is bright. You’ll also get information on air quality and temperature and severe weather alerts.
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