Owners of the iPad, especially the iPad Air 2, are in for a treat when iOS 9 ships later this year. Apple is introducing some features that will make the latest iPad much more productive for getting work done. Slide Over, multitasking, and the QuickType keyboard will work together to make the iPad a full computer replacement.
Apple has long been chided for the lack of multitasking -- and rightly so. People occasionally need to work in two apps at the same time. Fortunately, Apple listened and is bringing multitasking to the iPad in an intuitive way.
The first stage of multitasking in iOS 9 is Slide Over. This comes into play when you are working in an app in typical full screen but you want to jump into a second app without closing the first one.
Simply swipe in from the right side of the display and a narrow pane opens up. A second app is running in the new pane that the user can work with as usual. The original app is grayed out but waiting to be used.
If the app in the Slide Over pane is not the one needed, swiping down from the top of the display opens up a vertical strip of icons. Tap one and it instantly opens that app in the narrow window. When done working in this pane, tap the main window and the app on the right closes and the primary app is active.
With the Slide Over window running with the second app, drag it toward the other app's pane and slide it further out. The two app's windows will share the screen side-by-side.
The two apps will then run together and the two windows can be adjusted for size. Apple has demonstrated two apps with a 70/30 window split and a 50/50 split screen. Changing the window size is done by dragging the border between the two apps into other configurations. It's not clear if the windows can be adjusted to other sized splits.
Both apps are running and interaction can be done with either one. This facilitates copying information from one and pasting it in the other.
Closing one of the apps is as easy as dragging the border between the apps to slide the desired app to take up the whole screen. This will make it a simple swipe to devote the display to the task at hand.
The third feature appearing in iOS 9 that is significant for work is the QuickType onscreen keyboard. Apple has added a new feature to make editing onscreen text intuitive, and has also added something that should have been there from the beginning of iOS.
QuickType morphs into a trackpad when two fingers touch it at the same time. The cursor can be moved to the desired spot on the screen where text can be cut, copied, or pasted with ease. This is much more precise than the tap-the-screen method we have now. No more dragging those tiny blue handles to select text.
The new keyboard further facilitates editing onscreen by putting common functions at the top of the keyboard. Place the cursor where you want, select text, and tap a button to cut, copy, or paste.
These keyboard improvements are great, but one that will impact every iPad user is that the onscreen keyboard will finally indicate the capitalization state on the keys. Every other OS does this and at last the iOS QuickType does too. No more guessing if the next keystroke will be a capital letter or not.
Getting work done
These new features in iOS 9 will dramatically improve my work. I use the iPad Air 2 as my main work system; while that works well enough, the three features outlined above will greatly increase my productivity.
My work consists of a lot of online research, and I can envision having a browser open in one pane and the editor I use in the other. Being able to see the research while writing will be much better than the four-finger swipe I currently use to jump between apps.
The Slide Over feature will also be useful. No matter what I am doing full screen I will be able to jump into email, Twitter, or another app with just a swipe. This will be great when I want only the main window for work.
I do a lot of copy editing over the course of each day and the QuickType keyboard will make a huge impact on this process. I will use the trackpad feature all the time and can't wait to get this.
Apple only demonstrated multitasking with its own apps, but hopefully third party app developers will jump on compatibility with the new features. Apple indicated that apps already coded with auto-layout in iOS 8 should be simple to update for the new version.
What you need
You will need the iPad Air 2 to use all of these new features, no doubt due to the processing power needed to handle multiple apps running and displaying at once. That aside, the QuickType keyboard and Slide Over can be used on the iPad Air and all iPad minis. Owners of older iPads will need to upgrade to get the benefits of any of the new features.
Apple will be releasing a public beta of iOS 9 this summer, with the full release this fall. These new features are so significant I may install the beta on my iPad Air 2. I can't wait to use it.
The next version of iOS will be great for work, but life's not all about work. The new picture-in-picture (see image below) is pretty nice.