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These iPadOS 14 features will make your iPad more like a Mac. How to use them


iPadOS 14 is bringing some Mac-like features to Apple’s tablet line. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The iPad is a computer, just not in the traditional sense. Sometimes it’s a flat slab of glass that you can tap and draw or sketch on with the Apple Pencil stylus. Other times, you can connect a keyboard and trackpad accessory to it, using a mouse cursor and keyboard shortcuts to get work done. 

And with the announcement of iPadOS 14 at this year’s installment of WWDC, the line between Mac and iPad is becoming blurrier. The software update won’t officially arrive until this fall, but you can install the developer preview right now if you have a $99 developer account

Apple’s iPadOS 14 is adding 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 what they are and how you’ll use them later this year. 

These iPadOS 14 features will make your iPad more like a Mac. How to use them 2

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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.)


Search on iPadOS 14 is more powerful than it looks. 


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 homescreen, 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 are 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. 

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 Google.com then press the Return key and Search will launch Safari to take you to that site. 


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


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

As iPad apps are updated for iOS 14 later this year, 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 ($699 at Apple) apps and more like Mac apps. 

For example, during the WWDC keynote, Apple demonstrated the new approach with the 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 that’s currently used in a lot of iPad and iPhone apps. 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-look iPad apps are starting to look more and more like an app you’d find on a Mac. 


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. 

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 the iPadOS 14 beta 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 want to help test iPadOS 14 before its fall release, you can install the developer beta right now. We’ve also found five top iOS 14 features that are coming to the iPhone and three ways WatchOS 7 will change how you use Apple Watch that you’re sure to love just as much as we do so far. There are also some features we found that just aren’t getting the love they deserve

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