The short answer is yes. Apple has long argued that you can use the iPad for productivity but hasn’t backed that claim up with the necessary features in iOS. That is until now with the new iPad-centric capabilities of iOS 11. These changes mske an iPad running iOS 11 more like a Mac, and that’s a good thing for those who want to do be more productive with their iPad.
Dock and Multitasking
Just like before, the new iOS 11 Dock is easy to find at the bottom of the Home screen. But more Mac-like than before—the left side shows apps or folders you’ve placed there by dragging them on (no need to touch and hold until icons shake anymore!) while the right side helps you get around more quickly by displaying recently used apps and any Handoff apps from your other Apple devices.
Most importantly, you can now view the Dock within any app, Just like the Mac. You no longer need to return to the Home screen as in previous iOS versions. Just swipe up slightly from the bottom of the screen in any app, and the Dock appears so you can switch apps with a single tap right away.
Or—this is great!—drag the app up from the Dock to where you want to go Dock to go–in Slide Over or Split View. Now you can easily work back and forth between two apps at once on the same screen.
The dock also holds more apps as favorites! Unlike the Mac, when you place an app in the Dock, it does remove it from the grid of other apps. On the Mac, you may recall, any app in the Dock is still found in the Applications folder, or wherever it is placed. So if you have an app in the Dock on your iPad, don’t look for it anywhere else.
Control Center and App Switcher
Switching apps with the Dock like you do on the Mac is easy, just swipe up to show the Dock and select the app you want to switch to. But when you invoke the App Switcher by swiping up to see the Dock and then continuing to swipe up (or by double-pressing the Home button or swiping up with four fingers), it now shows large thumbnails of the four most recent apps (or Slide Over or Split View screens) on the left, and the new Control Center to the right. Tap any app to switch to it. Swipe to the left to view more apps that are open. Tap on any Control Center button to toggle it. On most buttons, you can long press to view more options.
Don’t like all the buttons on your Control Center? You can now customize the buttons that appear in Control Center—visit Settings > Control Center > Customize to make it look the way you want.
Drag and Drop
With iOS 11, Apple finally brought drag and drop to the iPad! Touch and move text, graphics, or files between apps—you can even pick up an item with a finger and use your other hand to reveal the Dock and switch to your destination app before dropping the data.
Use this maneuver in situations where you would previously have used copy and paste or the awkward Share sheet—or just given up! Practice a few times to accustom yourself to the two-handed process. Once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you did without it.
Just like the Mac, the iPad now provides a single place to browse and open all your files, and you can open a file with a single tap. All this happens in the new Files app, which replaces the iCloud Drive app. The new Files app includes a broader view of your files, providing access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device and in other cloud sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive. (To add a sharing service whose app you’ve installed, tap Edit in the left-hand Browse panel).
This is one of my favorite features. On iPads other than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, iOS 11 simplifies typing on the virtual keyboard. You can now type numbers and many punctuation characters by swiping down on the appropriate key, rather than switching keyboards. Swipe down to see the key turn gray and show only the desired number or character, and then lift your finger.
In iOS 11, the iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil becomes even more useful. Want to start a note? Just tap the Lock screen and start writing. Want to search your handwritten notes? Pull down on the Notes list to type your query, and Notes will find handwritten terms… as long as your handwriting is legible.
A new scanning feature in Notes makes it easy to bring a paper document into the iPad, where you can sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. We also like the new Instant Markup feature that lets you write on a PDF or screenshot easily—tap the Pencil icon at the upper right of the screen to start writing and to access the controls for color and tip below.
With iOS 11, Apple has finally acknowledged that the iPad is not just an iPhone with a larger screen, they acknowledged the iPad needs its own features to be a productivity machine. With a little practice, you can be using an iPad, particularly an iPad Pro, for all sorts of serious tasks like email, word processing, Web research, and more. I know I am.