8 great iOS 13 and iPadOS features (and 2 terrible ones)

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With iPadOS, you're one step closer to replacing your Mac with an iPad.
With iPadOS, you're one step closer to replacing your Mac with an iPad.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

iPadOS 13 brings some real game-changing new features, plus a lot of excellent comfort tweaks that make using it much easier. And iOS 13 is no slouch.

Today I’ll list my favorite new features in iOS 13 and iPadOS, along with a few changes I’d be happy to live without.

Best new iOS 13 and iPadOS features

Mouse!

Mouse support, but you still can't swap the ⌘ and ⌥ keys on a PC keyboard.
Mouse support, but you still can’t swap the ⌘ and ⌥ keys on a PC keyboard.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

It seemed like it would never happen, but the iPad finally gains mouse support in iPadOS. You need to switch it on in the Accessibility settings, but after that it works just like you’d expect. Better, in fact, because you can assign mouse buttons to all kinds of features, like showing the Dock, the App Switcher and Control Center, or even running a shortcut.

Most of the time, touch is still better than using a mouse. But when you have the iPad in a stand on a desk, and you have a keyboard hooked up, iPadOS’ mouse support is an amazing addition.

Files USB storage support

Finally! The Files app gains USB storage support in iPadOS.
Finally!
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

This is another big one. Of course it means that you can hook up any external USB storage, like a thumb drive or even a full-on, mains-powered hard drive, but it also lets you connect and mount USB storage devices. These could be audio recorders or anything else. For instance, I can now connect my OP-1 synth/recorder, and not only copy audio to and from its internal storage, but also load in new synth presets and samples.

Column view

The Files app offers quite a few options for files
The Files app offers quite a few options for files.
Screenshot: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Files app is improved overall, but the new column view makes navigating deep folder structures a breeze. Even better is its preview panel, which lets you view the file, and also perform quick actions on it. If you have a mouse button assigned to a long-press gesture, then you can use it as a Mac-Style right click, to bring up contextual menus. It’s hard to remember to do this, but once you do, you’ll be surprised how many apps accept right clicks like this.

Text selection

Text selection is now fixed on iOS. It’s as good as using a mouse on the Mac.

New share sheet suggestions

This one is small but amazing. When you share a file, or some text, or anything, the top row of the share sheet is now a suggestions row. It uses machine learning to guess who or what you might want to share with. For instance, share a photo and it might suggest your husband’s iMessage, your mother’s email and so on. Just tap any one to instantly compose the message. This is my No. 1 favorite new feature in iOS 13, at least in terms of annoying-taps-saved.

Floating keyboard

QuickPath and Apple Pencil with the floating keyboard in iPadOS.
QuickPath and Apple Pencil with the floating keyboard.
Photo: Cult of Mac

It seems ridiculous to have a floating, iPhone-size keyboard on the giant, 13-inch iPad screen, but it’s actually super-handy. The keyboard doesn’t hide half the screen, and it can be used one-handed (or one-thumbed). You can even use the new Swype-like QuickPath entry with an Apple Pencil, which really has to be tried to be appreciated.

Desktop-class Safari

In iOS 13, Safari is now a proper, Mac-level browser. It works with Google Docs, it works with your bank’s website, and it finally lets you watch 1080p videos on YouTube. You also get a ton of new keyboard shortcuts, new settings, and you can permanently change the text size on any site, and you can even save all open tabs to one folder. It’s hard to say how much better Safari has gotten. Oh, and you can open up as many separate windows as you like.

Photos app

Check out the new Photos app editing UI on the right.
Check out the new editing UI on the right.
Photo: Cult of Mac

This is a mixed one. I didn’t like the Photos app’s new grid layout. It felt like you were missing something, like this isn’t the real photo library. On the other hand, the new photo-editing tools are amazing. After using this for the past couple of months during the beta, I have gotten totally used to it, and not much prefer the new Photos library.

If you’re having trouble switching, you can use the Recents album to get the old look back.

The ‘bad’

Not everything is better in iPadOS. Here are a few things that I find worse.

Dark mode

Dark mode is harder to read, doesn’t save any iPad battery, and even if you do like it, there’s no way all the apps you use will update to support it. The worst dark-mode app is Mail, because every HTML email shows up as bright white.  I have it switched off, unless I’m using the iPad really late at night. Dark mode can be toggle in the Control Center, or you can have it switch automatically at sunrise and sunset.

App Store updates

App updates are now hidden in your App Store account panel (with the upcoming Apple Arcade gaming service taking updates’ old place). It makes sense that valuable storefront space is used to sell more apps, but I still keep tapping the Apple Arcade tab when I want to check for updates. Bonus tip: pull to refresh when in the new updates panel.

What else is new in iOS 13?

There are plenty of other changes in iPadOS and iOS 13, but these are my favorites (and least favorite).  Shortcuts automations are incredible, ands I’ll be writing a lot more about those when they become available (some features aren’t coming until iOS 13.1).

Another favourite is the improved Slide Over view, which now lets you stack several apps off the side of your screen, and then swipe through them, using a gesture that works just like the iPhone X app switcher. Now, Slide Over is a genuinely useful tool, instead of an oft-annoying gimmick.

What’s certain is that iPadOS is fantastic overall, a real upgrade for iPad users. We might still be lacking a proper desktop, but there’s not much that still requires a Mac.