iPadOS 14 brings huge Apple Pencil advances

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Apple Pencil just got much more useful in iPadOS 14.
Use an Apple Pencil to enter text anywhere with Scribble in iPadOS 14.
Photo: Apple

WWDC 2020 iPad owners can use an Apple Pencil to write words into any text box thanks to iPadOS 14, which Apple announced Monday at its developers conference.

And there are other enhancements coming as well, like home screen widgets, improvements to search, and some user interface tweaks.

Anyone who remembers last year’s WWDC might feel underwhelmed. iPadOS 13 brought enormous changes, including robust mouse/trackpad support, opening two windows from the same application, full access to thumbdrives, and more. This year, the focus is more on iPhone. Still, there are significant improvements, especially for Apple Pencil fans.

Handwriting recognition

iPad owners who frequently must switch back and forth between an Apple Pencil and the on-screen keyboard can breathe a sigh of relief. iPadOS 14 finally includes robust support for handwriting recognition.

An Apple Pencil can be used to enter text just by writing words into any text box, with a new system Apple calls Scribble. Search the web, write emails, anything. Just start handwriting words or other characters and they’ll be turned into text.

Many users of iPadOS 13 might be surprised to learn that it already does handwriting recognition. Users can search for words in the Notes app, and the iPad will find ones that were written by hand. The software just didn’t take the next step and convert the handwritten words to text. That’s changing with iPadOS 14.

Scribble might even allow those who wish to do so forgo use of the keyboard altogether.

Universal search

In iPadOS 14, Apple shrank the size of the search bar, and made it universal. It can be opened from anywhere. But that’s just the start. “We didn’t just redesign it, we rebuilt search from the ground up to be universal, becoming the single destination where you can start all of your searches,” said Craig Federighi, Apple SVP of Software Engineering, during today’s WWDC 2020 keynote.

The search bar can be used as an app launcher, or to search for contacts. It can also search inside emails, notes or documents. And, or course, it’s connected to the Safari web browser.

Shrinkage

The search bar wasn’t the only pop-up element getting a welcome size reduction. Siri will no longer take over the whole screen. And the same goes for incoming phone calls.

Better drawing tools

Lots of work went into making Apple Pencil more useful in iPadOS 14 beyond text recognition. The upcoming version includes tool that fixes the irregular shapes drawn by users.

As demonstrated during WWDC today, someone can draw a square or arrow in the Notes app and ask that they be cleaned so that the edges and corners are neat.

Home screen widgets for iPad too

iPadOS 14 Home screen widgets aren’t nearly as flexible as they are in iOS 14
Home screen widgets in iPadOS 14 can only be placed along the left edge.
Photo: Apple

Despite Apple forking iPadOS away from iOS last year, the two still have much in common. So features developed for iPhone can benefit iPad too. This year, that includes home screen widgets.

Apple highlighted these for iOS 14, but they can be used on tablets too. Widgets in various sizes for weather, Maps, music playback, etc. can be placed on the home screen.

However, there’s a significant limitation. Unlike iOS versions, iPad users can only put widgets on the left edge of their home screen. This is the same way iPadOS 13 handles the basic widgets it offers now.

Other improvements

During Monday’s WWDC 2020 keynote, quickly showed a graphic with other new features coming to iPad with this update. Many of these are being carried over iOS 14, like inline replaces in Messages or new Memoji.

But a standout feature Apple didn’t talk about is giving users the ability to set their own default email app and web browser.

Here’s everything new in iPadOS 14
Look closely to see all the new iPadOS 14 features.
Photo: Apple

iPadOS 14  is coming down the pike

Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the end of Monday’s WWDC keynote that the first developer beta for iPadOS 14 will be released today. The public will get a beta version in July.

The general release of Apple’s tablet operating system is scheduled for autumn. Cook didn’t get more specific.