All the new iPadOS 15 features coming to your iPad (including widgets)
Widgets aren't just an iPhone thing anymore. In iPadOS 15, unveiled at WWDC 2021, iPads got a bunch of new multitasking features, too.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
The iPad was in need of a big multitasking revamp. Apple on Monday announced new ways to multitask in the next version of iPadOS 15 at this year's virtual WWDC keynote, along with features like App Library and Widgets that came to the iPhone last year in iOS 14. (Apple also unveiled iOS 15 at its WWDC keynote.) Whether this will be a big shift in how iPadOS feels when juggling lots of apps remains to be seen.
Watch this: iPadOS 15: How it changes the iPad and what it still doesn't do
The new changes to multitasking took center stage, but apps still seem limited to being laid out just two at a time in what Apple calls Split View mode. But a new quick-access button aims to make swapping apps in and out of the two-app Split View an easier process.
iPadOS will also have a "shelf" that makes other open windows accessible at the bottom of the iPad screen, closer to the dock. Swapping already-open Split View apps in iPadOS 14 requires an awkward swipe up to clear the screen and show the other apps; this new layout lets you keep the apps open while browsing.
Widgets, available in iOS 14, are also finally making it to iPadOS 15. They largely work the same, offering bigger mini apps that can double as app launchers. There are larger-format widgets in iPadOS 15 that can get really large, spanning multiple columns of apps.
iOS 14's App Library, a helpful feature that consolidated installed apps into a quickly browsable menu, also made it into iPadOS 15. It can also be launched from the iPadOS dock, which seems like a faster way to access all apps (and also address the dock's current limit on apps that can live there).
Apple's Notes app is getting a number of significant boosts, too. Apple is adding mentions and tags to Notes, which looks like another step toward a Slack-ification of Notes. A Quick Note feature that works with the Pencil makes it so you can swipe up from the corner of the iPad screen and jot a note while using another app, a sort of quick-access mini app that looks to be a way to keep a scratch pad for work that lives across all of iPadOS. That Quick Note idea looks like the most innovative multitasking idea in iPadOS 15 -- it would be nice if other apps could gain those sorts of quick-function hooks, too.
Watch this: Apple updates multitasking for iPadOS 15
The most interesting new feature, though, is technically part of Apple's new MacOS Monterey. Universal Control can turn a Mac keyboard and trackpad or mouse into a way to also control a nearby iPad. Files can be dragged over, too, moving the cursor across iPad screen to Mac screen.
What I was waiting to hear more about was a way for iPads to extend their desktops to another connected display. That wasn't mentioned, but Universal Control with a nearby updated-OS Mac looks like a small taste of that type of cross-display flow.
What else was missing from the iPadOS news? Any key way this OS takes advantage of the new M1 iPad Pro models.