Make your iPad more like a Mac. How to use Apple's new iPadOS 14 features

iPadOS is set to make your iPad more powerful than before, with features that behave more like a Mac than an iPhone.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

iPadOS 14 adds some Mac-like features to Apple's tablet line. 

Scott Stein/CNET

There's an argument to be made that the iPad is actually a computer, just not in the traditional sense. It easily switches from a flat slab of glass you can tap and sketch on with a fingertip or Apple Pencil, to a laptop-like device, complete with a keyboard and trackpad when you need to get work done. 

Apple's iPadOS 14 adds plenty of new features to its tablet lineup, like new-look widgets and a more streamlined Siri , but there are also some tools that make the iPad more like a Mac than ever before. Here's how to install iPadOS 14 on your iPad and how to use the new software tools. 

A new and improved Search tool

If you've ever used the Mac's Spotlight tool to perform quick searches, then you'll feel right at home with the new Search tool on iPad. (To trigger Spotlight on a Mac, press Command and the spacebar at the same time.)

Watch this: Apple updates iPad with new music UI

To be clear, Search has been available on the iPad, but prior to iPadOS 14, the interface took over the entire screen and the search results were somewhat limited. With the new Search tool, there's now a small search bar that shows up -- so it doesn't gobble up the entire screen. 

The more streamlined bar looks a lot like Spotlight Search on the Mac. You activate it on the iPad by swiping down on the display from the home screen, or with the same CMD+spacebar keyboard shortcut as on the Mac. 

Search can be used to locate a ton of things: files and folders in the Files app, emails and messages, apps you installed or want to find in the App Store,  music and podcasts. For example, you can activate Search while you're composing an email to find a file you want to attach to your message. You can then drag-and-drop the file from the results directly into your email and attach it without moving between multiple apps. It's awesome. 


Search on iPadOS 14 is more powerful than it looks. 


You can also perform what Apple calls Knowledge Search, which just means you can search for random stuff like, "How tall is Mount Everest?", and the results will be shown directly in the Search bar. You can even enter a website's address, say CNET.com, then press the Return key and Search will launch Safari to take you there. 

A fresh coat of paint that's very Mac-like

As iPad apps are updated for iPadOS 14, you'll begin to see them adopt a new design. Apple has added new iPad app layouts for developers to implement. The new design transitions iPad apps away from looking like bigger iPhone apps and more like Mac apps. 

For example, iPadOS 14 features an updated Music app, which has a new sidebar on the left side of the screen that houses buttons and links to various parts of the app -- this replaces the tab-based navigation previously used in the Music app, and is currently used in the iPhone version. The Music app on the Mac has had this same design since its release last year, and has been refined in MacOS Big Sur


The new sidebar design ditches the iPhone-like tabs along the bottom we've seen used for far too long. 


You'll also begin to see a new Toolbar icon in iPad apps that will reveal and hide various aspects of the interface. For instance, the Toolbar button can cause the sidebar to slide off the screen, then bring it back with a click, similar to the Hide button you see on the Mac in apps like Finder.  

Speaking of Finder, if you use a Mac, you are familiar with the buttons that line the top of a Finder window to do things like rearrange files or change the overall view. iPad apps can take a similar approach by adding a button, just like in Finder, along the top of the screen that's used to change how the information you're viewing is presented. 


The new-look iPad apps are starting to look more and more like an app you'd find on a Mac. 


Tapping on the pull-down button in the Files app, for example, will give you options to change the view for the files or folders you're currently looking at. 

There's surely more to be found in iPadOS 14 that furthers the transition of the iPad to a Mac, or is it the Mac to an iPad? I'm still trying to decide. If you have a favorite new iPad feature, let us know in the comments. We've also found new features you'll love on your iPhone thanks to iOS 14, and three ways WatchOS 7 changes how you use your Apple Watch. But perhaps our favorite features in iOS 14 are the hidden features we've dug up