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iPadOS 16 takes a step closer to laptop-level multitasking

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Multitasking gets a big boost with this year’s update

Overlapping app windows will soon be possible on iPad.
Image: Apple

Apple has officially announced iPadOS 16, the latest version of its iPad operating system launching later this year. It shares some of its new features with iOS 16 and macOS, like a redesigned Home app and support for Passkeys in Safari, but it’s also getting some improvements of its own. There’s a new weather app and new whiteboard collaboration software coming later this year.

Multitasking is getting a huge boost with this year’s iPadOS update, but only if you’re using an iPad equipped with an M1 chip. The Stage Manager feature Apple announced for macOS Ventura is coming to iPadOS 16, where it means apps can be shown as windows that are able to overlap with one another and can be dragged and dropped into place. It can benefit from the improved screen real estate of an external display (resolutions of up to 6K are supported), and can allow up to eight apps to be displayed simultaneously (four on the iPad itself, and four on the external display).

Stage Manager on iPad running with an external display.
Screenshot: Apple

Apple showed off its collaboration features in a lengthy demonstration. You can start collaborating directly from the share sheet in office apps like Pages, allowing other users to jump in and start making edits to a central document. It sounds similar to what Google’s been offering in services like Docs and Sheets before now. Apple says that participants in a Messages thread will be alerted when changes are made to a shared file. Apps with collaboration and new sharing tools include “Files, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, Notes, Reminders, and Safari” according to Apple’s press release, and the company is offering an API for developers to add similar functionality into their own apps.

The collaboration feature in Pages.
Screenshot: Apple

There’s also a new whiteboard app called Freeform, which is designed to allow colleagues to contribute to a shared canvas. It supports Apple Pencil, and can pull in a variety of filetypes including PDF documents, images, and web links. Freeform is due to release later this year.

Apple’s new whiteboard app.
Screenshot: Apple

Apple is also emphasizing how it’s bringing iPadOS up to speed with desktop operating systems. It says it’s addressed some much requested features like the ability to view folder size on iPad, and the ability to change file extensions. A new reference color mode should also benefit photo and video workflows when working on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Liquid Retina XDR display.

In an attempt to give users more screen real estate to work with, a Display Zoom feature lets you boost the pixel density of M1-equipped iPads.

The new update will be available to developers as a preview starting today, with a public beta following next month, and a full release coming this fall. It’ll be available for the “iPad (5th generation and later), iPad mini (5th generation and later), iPad Air (3rd generation and later), and all iPad Pro models” according to Apple’s press release.


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