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5 ways your iPad could replace your laptop and how to use them

Here are the iPadOS tools that make your iPad much more powerful.

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iPadOS adds mouse support, and a whole lot more. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Over the years, Apple has tried to position its iPad lineup as a laptop replacement. And for some, that certainly has been the case. But for others, the lack of more intense computer-like features like mouse support, external storage and better multitasking have prevented that from happening. 

With the release of iPadOS, things are changing. Apple now has a dedicated OS for its tablet lineup, and with that, new features and capabilities that move forward the iPad's transition from tablet to all-out computer. Don't get confused, Apple also released iOS 13 for the iPhone and iPod touch, but there's a lot of feature overlap between iOS and iPadOS. 

After updating your iPad to iPadOS, you'll be met with a whole range of new tools that bring you much closer to leaving the laptop behind. Below are five features that will help you make the most of out iPadOS. 

Fast switching between Slide Over apps is easy peasy. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Gestures!

Getting around the iPad isn't as simple as pressing the home button or swiping up from the bottom of the screen anymore. 

In iPadOS, Apple has added several new multitasking gestures for doing things like using multiple apps at the same time, quickly switching between apps, and resizing apps. By our count, there are 16 different gestures you should know about

For example, you can now quickly switch between apps you have open in Slide Over with a simple swipe across the button of the app. And you're not locked into using Split View apps in a 50/50 arrangement -- you can adjust their window sizes. 

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Multiple instances of the same app can help you be more productive. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Multi-window apps

After you master gestures, the next thing you should learn: Which apps you can use in multiple windows. 

Similar to having two or three difference Chrome windows open on your PC or Mac, you can now do that on the iPad with apps that support iPadOS. Safari is one app that I find myself using a lot with multiple windows on my iPad Pro. 

What it means is that you can use Mail and Safari side-by-side in split-view, and then have another instance of Safari open on its own, with several tabs, at the same time that you have Apple Notes and Safari next to each other in another window. Safari isn't the only app that allows for multiple windows -- most of Apple's own apps like Notes, Mail and Messages, support it. 

There are several different ways to open an app in multiple windows, but the easiest is to drag and drop an app's icon onto another app. 

The easiest way to figure out of an app support multiple windows is to long-press on the app icon, and look at the pop-up menu for a "Show all windows" option. 

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Browsing in Safari in iPadOS finally allows Google Docs to work properly.

Scott Stein/CNET

Speaking of Safari...

iPadOS brings with it a desktop-class version of Safari. This is a pretty big deal, and will open up the potential to use websites like Google Docs or Wordpress on the iPad. It also means that you should have fewer issues with websites properly loading, and instead of seeing mobile websites designed for use on a phone, you'll see the desktop version of the sites load by default. 

The new Safari also has a dedicated download manager, site-specific settings, and more tools for managing open tabs. In other words, Safari for iPad (and iPhone) has grown up. Follow along as we walk you through using all of Safari's new features

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Access thumb drives or full-out hard drives in the Files app. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can now use external storage

The Files app in iPadOS 13 (and iOS 13, for that matter) is able to show you files and documents stored on an external storage device. So, you can connect devices such as a USB thumb drive, SSD, or external hard drive to your iPad, open the Files app, and move documents around as you would on a computer. 

But in order to do that, you'll most likely need an adapter. The most recent iPad Pro's have a USB-C connector for charging and accessories, while the rest of the iPad lineup still uses Lightning ports. 

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Use something like the USB-C to USB adapter to attach thumb drives, but you'll need something like the USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter to connect storage devices that require power, such as some SSD drives or external hard drives. If you're just wanting to connect an SD card from your camera, the USB-C to SD Card reader will suffice. 

Apple also offers the same adapters, but for Lightning devices. There's a Lightning to USB adapter, Lighting to USB 3 camera adapter, and a Lighting to SD Card reader

With the appropriate adapter, connect a storage device to your iPad, open the Files app, and look for the device's name to show up in the Locations section. Select the device to access the files and folders.

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I never thought this day would come. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use a mouse

Apple added mouse support in iPadOS, and it works pretty well. You can connect a wired or Bluetooth mouse to your iPad and use it to select, highlight, and navigate your iPad -- just like you would on a laptop. 

You'll need to enable AssistiveTouch in order for your iPad and mouse to work together. To do that, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch and turn it on. 

Connect your wired mouse to the iPad using the same adapters we just discussed for using external storage devices, or pair a Bluetooth mouse to the iPad Pro by going to Settings > Accessibility > Touch> AssistiveTouch > Devices > Bluetooth Devices and following the prompts. 

The Devices section is also where you can go to customize how the mouse works with iPadOS, including setting custom actions for buttons. 

Additionally, the Pointer Style option in the Devices section will allow you to custom the look of the mouse pointer used on your iPad, adjusting its size, color and how long before it auto-hides.

Apple added many more features to the iPad than what we've covered here. iOS 13 and iPadOS have a lot of overlapping new tools, settings and more, which include a new dark mode, a revamped Reminders app and new Photo editing tools. All which have improved the overall tablet-replaces-my-laptop experience.