Great iPad Tips Every Owner Should Know

Man using iPad to video chat with young boy
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The iPad is a fantastic tablet, and the crazy part is that most of us don't even know all the little tips and shortcuts that make life simpler with it. I've been writing about the iPad since it was first launched, and I still find neat tricks all the time. And the iPad is evolving. The latest iOS update added a bunch of cool new features like the ability to download new updates without plugging the iPad into our computer.

Here are some of the best iPad tips I've come across:

Find apps quickly

As you can imagine, I download a lot of apps. In fact, I have the app store on my dock because I am constantly in it searching for new apps or just checking out what is available on a subject. So how do I find a particular app I have installed on my iPad? I don't waste time flipping through the six screens filled with different icons. Instead, I use the iPad's Spotlight Search, which can be accessed by clicking the home button while on the first page of the home screen.

Once you get used to searching the iPad through this screen rather than flipping page by page looking for a particular icon, you won't know how you had the patience to do it any other way. You can also use this method to search through your contacts or even your email.

Skip the apostrophe when typing

The iPad's auto-correct can sometimes get on your nerves, but there are other times when it can really be nice. If you type a lot, you'll no doubt need to use the apostrophe on a regular basis, especially when you are typing in a contraction like "can't" or "won't". But did you know you can skip the apostrophe? My favorite iPad typing tip is using the auto-correct to change "cant" to "can't" and "wont" to "won't".

Quick onscreen music controls

The iPad has buttons on the side for changing the volume, but how about skipping a song? You don't need to launch the music app just to skip a song. The iPad's control panel will let you do things like adjust the brightness of the screen, turn Bluetooth on and even get at a timer. These controls are a little hidden, but they are easy to locate if you know where to look. Simply slide your finger up from the very bottom edge of the screen. You can pause, play, skip forward or skip backwards.

Connect your iPad to your HDTV

You aren't just limited to the iPad's display if you are watching a movie or playing a game. You can also connect the iPad to an HDTV. The easiest way to do this is through Apple TV, which supports AirPlay and lets you wirelessly "throw" your iPad's screen to your TV.

But even if you have no interest Apple TV, you can buy an adapter to plug your iPad into your TV. The best solution is Apple's Digital AV Adapter, but you can also get composite or component cables.

Split the Safari web browser in two

This one will require a newer iPad. The iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPad Pro or newer tablets can utilize a split view feature with the Safari browser. This splits the browser into two windows side-by-side, which allows you to view two websites at the same time. Because the iPad needs a little elbow room for this one, you must be holding the iPad in landscape mode.

To enter Split View in the Safari browser, tap and hold the Pages button. This is the button in the upper-right corner of the screen that looks like a square on top of another square. When you tap this button, you will see all of your open web pages. But when you hold your finger down on it, a menu appears that offers you the choice of opening Split View (if your iPad supports it!), opening a new tab or closing all of your Safari tabs.

When you are in Split View, this menu appears at the bottom of the display. To close out of Split View, do the same thing: hold down the Pages button to get the option to merge all tabs.

Install a custom keyboard

Even better than skipping the apostrophe is installing a brand new keyboard on your iPad.  Now that widgets are supported, you can install a custom keyboard.  These keyboards can come with many different advantages, including the ability to draw words by keeping your finger pressed against the display while moving from letter to letter, a technique that sounds odd but actually saves a lot of time.   You can install a third-party keyboard by downloading one from the App Store and turning it on in the iPad's keyboard settings.

Add apps to the bottom tray of your home screen

The iPad comes with four apps on the bottom tray of the home screen, but did you know you can add up to six apps to it? You can even remove the ones that are there by default and add your own.

How? Simply tap an icon and hold down your finger until all the apps are shaking. This allows you to move the app. To get it on the bottom tray, just drag it over and drop it on the tray. You'll see the other apps move over to make room for it, and that let's you know it is okay to drop it.

Pro Tip: You can actually drop folders on this bottom tray. So if you have a bunch of games you always want quick access to, simply put them all in a folder and drop it on this tray.

Organize your apps with folders

Folders allow you to easily organize your iPad and separate apps into different categories. The neat part is the iPad will create a default folder name that is often a pretty good description of the apps it contains. To create a folder, simply hold your finger down on an app's icon until all of the apps begin to shake. Next, just drag it on top of another app and the iPad will create a folder containing the apps. To add more apps to the folder, simply drag them over and drop them on the newly-created folder.

Here's where it gets really cool: You can drag folders to the bottom tray on your Home Screen.  You can use this to create a menu-system of your favorite apps by dragging multiple folders to the tray.  You can even arrange your iPad so that most of your apps are stored in folders lined across the bottom tray and your most used apps are on the first page of the Home Screen.  

The iPad's Virtual Touchpad will make you forget about your mouse

Did you know there's a Virtual Touchpad built into your iPad? This touchpad may not be as good as the real thing, but it's close. You can use it any time the on-screen keyboard appears. Simply hold two fingers down on the keyboard and move them around the screen. You will know it is activated because the letters on the keyboard will go blank.

As you move your fingers around the screen, the cursor will move with them. If you tap and hold for a moment before moving your fingers, you can even select text this way. And you don't need to tap your fingers on the actual keyboard for this to work. You can tap two fingers anywhere on the screen to engage the touchpad.

Reboot the iPad

Did you know you can solve more problems with the iPad by simply rebooting it than any other troubleshooting step? Is your iPad running slow? Reboot it. Does an app quit every time you launch it? Reboot it.

Unfortunately, it's easy to confuse putting the iPad into suspend mode as the same thing as rebooting it. To really give your iPad a fresh start, you can reboot it by following these quick steps: (1) Hold down the Sleep/Wake button for a few seconds. (2) When the iPad prompts you to slide a button to shutdown, follow the directions. (3) Wait a few seconds after the screen goes blank and then hold down the Sleep/Wake button again to boot it back up. (4) When you see the Apple logo appear, you can release the Sleep/Wake button. The iPad's home screen will appear momentarily.

Turn down the brightness to save battery life

A quick way to get the most out of your iPad's battery is to turn down the brightness of the display. You can do this by going to the iPad's settings and choosing "Display & Brightness" from the left-side menu. (If you have an older iPad, the option may be called "Brightnesss & Wallpaper".)  You can move the slider to adjust the brightness. The further to the left you move the slider, the less bright the screen will be (and thus the less power it will use). I have mine at about 33%, but your setting will depend upon the amount of ambient light in your house and how bright you need your iPad.

Disable in-app purchases

One thing every parent should know how to do is turn off the ability to make in-app purchases on the iPad. Otherwise, that seemingly 'free' game may end up costing tens or even hundreds of dollars after your seven-year-old buys a bunch of in-game currency at $4.99 a pop.

Luckily, it's pretty simple to keep this from happening. First, you need to enable parental controls by going into your iPad's settings and choosing general from the left-side menu. On this screen, locate restrictions. In the restrictions menu, you'll need to enable restrictions, which will ask you four a 4-digit passcode.

Once you have enabled these parental controls, it is simply a matter of scrolling down the page until you see the option for In-App Purchases. When you slide this to the off positions, most apps won't even show the screen for purchasing items within the app, and those that do will be prevented from going through with any transactions.

Control your PC from your iPad

Want to take things a step further? You can actually control your PC from your iPad. This works on both Windows-based PCs and the Mac. You will need to install software on your PC as well as an app on your iPad, but it is actually rather simple to get it set up. There is even a free solution that won't cost you a dime, though if you plan on using it extensively, you might want to go with a premium solution.  

Project Gutenburg

Project Gutenburg is a project to bring public domain books to the digital world for free. And these books are available through the iBookstore, though (unfortunately) Apple doesn't make it quite so easy to find these books.

You can find a list of all the free books by going to the store within iBookstore, choosing browse and choosing "Free" from the tabs at the top. Not all the books here are from Project Gutenburg -- some are just books that newer authors are giving away for free-- but you'll see plenty listed if you prefer to browse.

Project Gutenburg includes a lot of great books like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. If you have a particular book in mind, you can simply search for it.