iPad User Guide for Beginners

This user guide focuses on how to use different features on the iPad to help you get more from your digital workflows.

What’s an Apple ID?

Your Apple ID is an account you use to access Apple services and manage your Apple devices. It can be an email address of your choice: Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. Any email address where you can receive updates and notifications about your purchases and device activity. It doesn’t have to be an iCloud account, but it can be if you want.

Creating a new Apple ID for a new device

Typically, you create an Apple ID when you’re setting up your first Apple device by choosing Forgot password or don’t have an Apple ID. You can Create a Free Apple ID, then enter your birthday and name. You must be at least thirteen years old. We recommend that you Use your current email address that you are already using instead of creating a new one under Get a free iCloud email address. That way, you won’t have to worry about accessing your iCloud email. Unless you intentionally want to separate them, of course.

Once you verify your email address (easier with an email you’re already familiar with), create a Password, and set your device’s region. You can set up two-factor authentication or skip it for later, when your device is ready for use.

Creating a new Apple ID from your device settings

When you choose Setup Later in Settings, you can create the Apple ID by going to your device settings, App Store, iTunes, or on the web on different devices: http://appleid.apple.com/. The process will be the same.

Dark mode

Dark mode automatically switches the colours on your screen to give it a black background and white text. It helps when you’re reading at night or in dark places. The contrast is great, and it also emits less light, which is better for your eyes. You can turn on dark mode in your iPad settings; under Display & Brightness, choose Dark. If this is too manual for you, you can turn on Automatic. Options then lets you decide when your iPad will automatically go into dark mode. There is only one option: Sunset to Sunrise. But you can also create a Custom Schedule to determine when your iPad will automatically switch to Light mode. And when it will go into Dark mode.

Sometimes, the automatic option doesn’t always work, and you want to switch between modes throughout the day. Going to your iPad Settings each time you want to do that is not practical. The best way is to put the dark mode icon somewhere it is easily accessible, like the Control Centre. In your iPad Settings, go to Control Centre and add Dark Mode (tap the green plus icon). Now, you can swipe down the right top corner of your iPad and toggle between dark mode and light mode whenever you need it.

With productivity apps, some can automatically convert everything on your screen when you toggle between dark and like mode. A perfect example of such an app is Apple Notes. We have coined the term true dark mode for this. Other apps only change your user interface, not your notes or documents. For those apps, we have coined the term false dark mode. An example of such an app is Noteful. Some apps, like LiquidText, don’t support dark mode at all.

Live text

Note: Live text doesn’t work on all iPads that are running iPadOS 17.

Using your iPad camera

Live text can help you quickly pick up text from pretty much anywhere. To get started, go to your iPad camera and go to Photo as though you want to take a photo. When your iPad detects some text, it displays a live text icon on the top right corner. You can capture the text by tapping the live text icon to start interacting with it (without taking a photo). A popup menu appears with options to Copy All (bottom left corner of the screen) to paste in any app (Apple Notes, for example) to start working with the text. You can also Copy and paste anywhere.

To interact with specific text, tap or swipe to select it. You can then Select All, or Look Up a few words to search the web. This feature does not work when you pick too many words. You get the option to Look Up single words using the dictionary on your iPad. You can Translate to other languages using the Translate feature in iPadOS 17. You still have the option to search the web (Search Web). But if you want to do that directly without going to Look Up first, you have a menu option to Search Web. Live text also works on handwritten notes as well. The iPad can also read out your selected information using Speak. For handwritten notes, the iPad can even Spell out words for you, when they are difficult to read. Share lets you export the text as a document to any app that can process text information. So, that can be Messages, Mail, Apple Notes, etc.

Photos library

You can also use live text on photos that are already in your Photos Library. When an image contains text, the live text icon appears on the bottom right corner, and you have all the options for the feature. You have to long-press to interact with your text for both images and videos. Live text also works on videos in your Photos Library. To use it, you have to pause or stop the video. The live text icon appears, which you can tap to start interacting with the text on the screen.

Files app

In the Files app, live text also works on images and videos. When you open an image with text, the app recognises it immediately. Tapping the live text icon (bottom right corner) shows you the text to Copy All. Selecting it brings up all the options for the feature. Even without tapping the live text icon, you can long-press the text to interact with it. Scans can also work with live text by simply long-pressing the text to bring up the popup menu.

Unique to scans is the option to Highlight. You then get some five-colour, underline, and strikeout options for your text. Underline and strikeout also highlight the text. To remove a highlighter, tap on it and go to Remove. If your text is underlined or struck out, the app will remove that first, and then the highlighter. You can also choose to Add Note if you have any comments on the annotation. The iPad adds a sticky note for your comment that you can tap on to read it.

Apple Notes

In Apple Notes, live text works on images (tap to open) and videos. With videos, we recommend you play them in full-screen mode for the best experience with live text. When you stop a video, go to the three-dots icon (bottom right corner) and Show Text to activate live text. That will allow you to select some text for the popup menu to show up. You can do this without playing your video in full screen, but it’s not a reliable setup.

Instead of typing out some text, you can extract it using live text. Tap the camera icon on the toolbar and Scan Text. You can also long-press an empty space to bring up the popup menu, then go to Autofill and Scan Text. The app will detect text that you can add to your notes. Tap insert to add all the text the camera has just picked up. When you want to add specific text, tap the live text icon (bottom right corner), select the text you want, and insert to add it to Apple Notes.

In any text field, you can scan text instead of typing it. In Messages, for example, tap the cursor to bring up the popup menu. Tap AutoFill and choose Scan Text. You can do this in most apps where you need to type (Mail, Safari, etc.).

Data detection

Your iPad can recognise different types of data in different apps (Apple Notes, Messages, Mail, Pages, etc.). It can recognise dates, email addresses, flight numbers, web links, amounts of money, numbers, physical addresses, and shipment tracking numbers. These can either be typed or handwritten. We’re only going to focus on the most common types of data you’re likely to encounter every day, and we’re going to be using Apple Notes for all our demonstrations. Whenever data detection recognises some piece of data, it becomes underlined to indicate that you can interact with it.


The feature can pick up future dates in your notes. Tap on it to bring up a popup menu with options to Create Event or Create Reminder. When you Create Event, you can add an event to your Apple Calendar without needing to go to the calendar app. The feature gives you all the details you would get in Apple Calendar for creating a new event. Once you’re done filling out all the information you need, tap Add to save your new event to Apple Calendar. To view the event in Apple Calendar, bring up the popup menu and go to Show in Calendar. This automatically takes you to the Apple Calendar to see the event you just created in Apple Notes.

If you choose to Create Reminder, you can add all the information needed for tasks in Apple Reminders. Tap Add to save your to-do. The only way to see this event is to open the Reminders app and go to the list you added your to-do. So, it’s not linked and automated like you get with Apple Calendar. Copy Event doesn’t copy the event or its details. It only copies the date, which you can paste anywhere.


Numbers are recognised as phone numbers, so all the interactions that popup relate to the number as a phone number. You can do simple actions like Call Number using iPhone, Send Message via Messages, FaceTime, or FaceTime Audio. When you tap Add to Contacts, you also get options to mail or pay via Apple Pay. Scrolling down the popup menu shows the option to Create New Contact where you can add as much detail as you like (picture, name, email, etc). All without needing to open the Contacts app. Tap Done to save your new contact. If you have other details on the page, data detection automatically fills out your new contact’s details with all the details it can pick up on the page. So, that means, it will add email and physical addresses it picks up on the page. The other option you get for your numbers is to Add to Existing Contact, choose the contact you want to add the details to, and Update to save the changes.


When you tap an email, your iPad automatically takes you to the Mail app, where you can start composing one. Your email app must be set up for this to work. Long-pressing an email address gives you options to create a New Mail Message, Send Message via Messages, FaceTime, or FaceTime Audio. You can also simply Copy the email to paste anywhere you like.

Web links

Like with your emails, tapping a web link automatically takes you to the default web browser for your device. When you long-press, a popup menu appears with options to Open Link, Copy Link, or Share it out of the app. Web links are quite simple, with not a lot of options.

Physical addresses

Tapping on an address takes you to the Maps app, where you can find the location. From there, you can do several things in the Maps app. However, we’re not going to focus on that. Long-pressing the address brings up a popup menu where you can Get Directions. The app asks you for your starting point and you can choose the direction you want to use from the options available. Add to Contacts gives you similar options to those you get for your numbers. You can also Copy Address to paste it anywhere or Share it out of the app.

Combine live text and data detection

You can combine data detection with live text to interact with information in images and videos. For example, when an image contains numbers, addresses, etc. when you activate live text, you also activate data detection. In Apple Notes, this could differ in other apps; the information picked up by data detection appears at the bottom of your iPad screen. You can then long-press them to start interacting with them.

Optical Character Recognition

What is OCR?

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a technology that helps computers recognise printed text characters and handwritten ones. It recognises and interacts with the text in photos and scanned documents (live text), searches through scanned documents, converts handwriting to text, or searches through handwritten notes.


The use of OCR is now standard in most PDF readers. A scanned PDF can be annotated in the same way as any other PDF in apps like LiquidText and MarginNote. By and large, PDF readers cannot recognise handwriting. But there’s a workaround for that, though. 

Note-taking apps

Nebo remains (by far) the best app for converting your handwriting to text. If you prefer handwriting your notes and don’t want to type them afterwards, Nebo is the app you want to add to your workflow. Unlike most note-taking apps, Nebo offers ICR (Instant Character Recognition), which converts your handwriting to text in real-time.

Most note-taking apps can accurately convert your handwriting to text in just a few steps. OCR also means they can search through your handwritten notes as well as scanned documents. A few apps even offer Math conversion (check out MyScript Calculator).


Scribble is an iPadOS ICR technology that lets you handwrite directly into text fields. You never have to type anything on the iPad. The conversion is also in real-time, and it works in most apps that have text input. It is awesome for those of us who love handwriting our thoughts.

Taking screenshots

By far, the easiest way to take screenshots (which is universal for all iPads) is to swipe from the left corner of the iPad using your Apple Pencil. To turn on this gesture, go to your iPad Settings > Apple Pencil > Left Corner Swipe and choose Screenshot. You can also choose to swipe on the right side as well. To take a screenshot with your finger, go to the Multitasking & Gestures part of your iPad Settings, turn on Swipe Finger from Corner, and choose Screenshot for the corner you want: left (bottom left corner) or right (bottom right corner).

For other iPads, go to Settings > General > Gestures and Allow Finger to Swipe From Corner. For Left Corner Swipe, you can then choose Screenshot, or you can set it for Right Corner Swipe. Note: turning on the gesture for your finger disables the multitasking ability to bring up all your open app windows with the App Switcher. The iPad automatically opens your screenshot in a window with several options.

When your iPad doesn’t have a home button, you can take a screenshot by simultaneously pressing the power button and any one volume button. If your iPad has a home button, press the home button and the power button at the same time. The screenshot appears at the bottom left corner of your iPad, and you can interact with it in a few different ways. You can tap on it to bring up the markup options, long-press to share the screenshot, and swipe left to save it to your Photos library. You can also leave it, and the iPad will automatically save it.

Markup for screenshots

To share quick thoughts on a picture or screenshot, you can use Markup. Once you’ve taken your screenshot, bring up your markup tools by selecting the pen icon (top right corner) if it is not already selected. This brings up the toolbar, like the one in Apple Notes. You can then add handwritten comments using the pen or pencil tools and highlight some information. You can also erase any mistakes you make or move your annotations using the lasso tool. The ruler can draw regular shapes, or irregular ones. Under the plus icon, you can add stickers (Add Sticker), description for accessibility (Description), text boxes (Add Text), signature (Add Signature), or shapes and arrows (Add Shape).

To share the screenshot, go to the export icon (top right corner) and send it without saving the screenshot to your device. Tap the bin icon to delete if you don’t need the screenshot. But if you want it, tap Done to save it.

Markup for photos

To markup a photo in the Photos app, open it, go to Edit, and tap the pen icon to bring up the annotation tools. When you have finished marking up your photo, tap Done, and then tap Done again to save your annotations. Before sending a photo in Messages, you can add annotations to it. Tap the image you want to send, then go to Markup (bottom left corner) to bring up the annotation tools. After you markup the photo, tap Save, then Done to save your comments, and then send your thoughts. 

Markup for PDF

When exporting PDFs from an app, you have a Markup option. For example, in LiquidText (a PDF reader), I have to share these notes with Uncle Dan. I will ask him to check for grammar and spelling errors and then send it to him on Messages. If I don’t want a copy of this, I can Delete PDF. But if I wanted to keep a copy, Save File To saves it to the Files app.


In Books, Markup is available only for PDFs you have imported into the app. It won’t work for PDFs you download from the Book Store. You get more features in Markup for PDF reading, and these are similar to those in Books, Apple Notes, and Files. Which app will work best for you, really depends on your workflow. There are a few advantages to using one over the other.

Apple Notes

Apple Notes uses Markup for PDF reading. The app saves the PDF in your notes (as attachments) and opens them in a separate window to read and annotate them. You don’t need to bring a PDF into Apple Notes or Books to annotate it on the iPad because you can do that in the Files app. Especially when you want to share feedback, it’s simpler and faster to do it in the Files app.

Files app

Files can annotate both PDFs and photos. The setup in the app allows you to quickly navigate through different documents, which is handy. There are some Markup features you get for PDFs only. Hyperlinks ease your navigation through long documents. You can skip pages, which saves time. The trick is knowing where the hyperlinks are in your PDF. It does not recognise outlines in documents, though, something we hope to get in the future.

You can interact with the text in your PDF to Highlight with five colour options, Underline or Strikeout. There are no colour options for underline or strikeout. You can also add comments and Copy, Select All, Look Up, Translate, or Share. Files also interacts with pages to Delete or Scan Pages to add them to your PDF. The scanned pages take too long to load, and their quality is terrible, sadly. You can Insert from File to add photos to your PDF, and Markup adds them as independent pages. Insert Blank Page adds a plain paper template between pages of your PDF. And you can Rotate Right/Left.


In Safari, you can markup web pages, which is great for research. For a better look, you want to make your article Show Reader View to remove ads and make the article look more like a PDF than a web page. Then you can markup the PDF like you would any other PDF. When you’re done, you can save it to your iPad or share it. If your PDF reading is simple, you might not need to buy a PDF reader. Before exploring third-party apps, we recommend trying native apps to see if they are not enough for your workflow. They might surprise you.

Multitasking on the iPad

Split view

Split view lets you use two apps at once. When working in an app, there are several ways you can open another app to split your screen into two. You can tap the three-dots icon (middle top of your screen), and go to Split View. Your opened app moves to the side, letting you pick an app from the homepage, App Library (keep scrolling after your last homepage screen), or you can search for the app with Spotlight. You can also pick an app from the dock. Another option is to drag your opened app from the top middle to any side of the screen (depending on where you want to open the other app). The third and final option, is to bring up the dock (swipe up from the bottom of the iPad) and drag the second app to the side you want it on.

By default, the two apps open at a 50:50 split ratio, but you can adjust that to make one side smaller.  To replace an app in split view, drag down the app you no longer need and pick another one. If you want to use a different app for a short while, drag the new app from the dock to replace the opened app. When you finish using it, you can close it (three-dots icon > close) to reveal the app you were using before. To close the split view, you can either go to the three-dots icon > Close or swipe it away from the middle of the screen until it closes.

With some apps, split view supports drag and drop of items between apps. To use this, an app should be able to drag and drop items out to other apps. Examples of apps that can do that, are Noteful, Apple Notes, Photos, etc. Some apps can’t drag items out, like CollaNote. The receiving app should also be able to accept items via drag and drop. Most apps can receive without a problem. With drag and drop, you can also quickly copy and paste images, handwritten notes, text, documents (PDF, audio files, videos), and web links across your apps. 

Not all apps support split view, though (Settings, Adobe Sign, etc.). Apps that don’t support split view will not have the three-dots icon at the middle top of your screen.

Slide over

Slide over opens apps in small floating windows on either side of your screen. There are several ways to open an app in slide over. You can go to the three-dots icon (top middle of your screen) > Slide Over. Or bring up the dock > drag the app on top of the currently opened one. You can also access the app library > choose the app, and drag it to slide over. To quickly find an app, you can search for it. From split view, you can drag an app into a slide-over window.

Your slide-over window can go on either side of your iPad screen. You can do this when first opening the window, or after it’s already opened. All your windows are stacked on top of each other, showing one window at a time. You can quickly navigate through the slide-over windows (swipe left or right) using the black bar at the bottom of the app.

To see all the apps you have opened in slide over, swipe up from the black bar. In this window, you can swipe up to close some slides. You can also close a slide by going to the three-dots icon > Close. To temporarily hide the slide-over window, without closing your apps, swipe the middle section of the window to the edge of the screen. Tap the arrow to bring them back.

When typing in a slide-over window, the keyboard tends to cover your screen. The pinching gesture can resize the keyboard to fit the size of the slide-over window. Like with split view, you can drag and drop items across the two apps. You can move apps from slide over to split view; simply drag them to the side of the screen to split them.

Multiple instances

Multiple instances combines split view and slide over. An app that supports multiple instances is able to split your iPad screen and let you open another instance of itself on the side. For example, you could open your note-taking app to start taking notes. But you may also want to refer to a text book in the same app. Simply go to the three-dots icon, select Split View > open the app again, and look for the textbook you need.

When you go to the three-dots icon, the iPad displays all the windows in that instance at the bottom of the screen. This is called a shelf, according to Apple. You can then open as many new windows as you need in that instance by tapping the plus icon labelled New Window. This allows you to quickly switch windows as you work. Multiple instances can open the same notebook twice if you ever want to compare different parts of the same PDF. It’s easy to do with multiple instances.

You can also open the same app in a slide-over window by dragging one of the windows on the shelf into slide over. All the other ways of opening slide-over windows also apply. Take care not to move one of the instances into slide over, though it is easy to switch back. When in split view or multiple instances, you can’t use the apps when you have a slide-over window opened.

App switcher

You can quickly view all your opened apps and their instances to switch between them using the app switcher. The iPad supports several gestures for bringing it up. You can slowly swipe up from the bottom to the top of your screen, swipe and hold for a second or slowly swipe with your finger from the left corner of your iPad screen. If it takes a screenshot, you can change that option in your iPad’s Settings > Gestures > Left Corner Swipe and Right Corner Swipe. Lastly, you can pinch your screen with five fingers.

The App Switcher displays all the opened instances of all the apps that are opened on your iPad. That is, all the apps in full screen, split view, multiple instances, and slide over. In the App Switcher, you can change how different apps relate to each other. You can create new split views by dragging one app onto another open one, remove apps from split view by simply dragging them out, or replace the apps in split view by dragging other apps on top of them. You can also move apps to slide over. This only works if there are some slide over windows already. Moving slide-over apps to full screen or into split view by dragging them there also works. Lastly, you can close apps by swiping up, and it doesn’t matter if they are in full screen, split view, or slide over.

To go to an app from the app switcher, simply tap to open it. You can quickly switch between different windows of your apps by swiping left or right on the bar at the bottom of your screen. For iPads without the bar, you can still swipe the bottom of the screen. This gesture is difficult to use, though the four-finger gesture is more convenient.

Centre window

The Centre Window is the worst multitasking feature in iPadOS 15. It’s not well thought out and just makes your workflow cumbersome. It only works if you’re already using the app and feel like you’re opening an already-opened app again. It works with Apple Notes, Mail, Messages, etc. It’s an unnecessary extra step that adds little to no value to your workflow.

Picture in Picture (PiP)

Picture in Picture is a mode for playing videos in a popup window while performing other tasks, provided you are using Apple TV or Documents by Readdle. You can move the video to any corner of your iPad or temporarily hide the video and continue watching at any time. Sadly, this feature is not supported by any popular video players: YouTube, VLC, and not even Photos support it.


To add widgets to your iPad screen, long-press any empty space > go to the Plus icon (top left corner of your screen). In the popup window, you have all the apps that support widgets on your iPad. Not every app has widgets, because some developers haven’t created them for their apps.

On the left sidebar, from the top, you have Suggestions of widgets for the apps you use the most on your iPad. Smart Stack is similar to Suggestions, but instead of having individual widgets, you can choose to group multiple widgets, and the iPad will show you the most relevant information from the stack, depending on the time of the day. The app then lists the apps on your iPad that have widgets. Tapping on an app shows the types of widgets that the app has. These can differ in size. Some apps have the one widget in three different sizes. For example, LiquidText has a scanner widget in two sizes. Other apps have different types of widgets. For example, Apple Notes has a widget for a folder (in three sizes), one for a specific note, and a quick notes widget. That makes three types of widgets, with different sizes.

You can search for apps to avoid scrolling through all these apps. Once you have chosen a widget, tap Add Widget. For demonstration purposes, we’re going to use widgets for the Reminders app because they are interactive. Each widget will have different options on what and how you display its information. For the list widget in Apple Reminders, you can tap it so that it flips to let you choose the list you want to display. Tap to flip it back again > tap Done or on the side to save the changes. The interaction for the widget allows you to mark tasks as complete without going to the Reminders app. The completed task disappears from the widget. Other apps with interactive widgets in iPadOS 17 include Podcast and Apple Music. 

To edit a widget, long-press it > go to Edit Widget to flip it for options. Not all widgets are editable, though. Tap anywhere on the screen when you have finished making changes to your widget. When you long-press a widget, you also have menu options to Remove Widget if you want to delete it. 

Stacking widgets can save you a lot of space on your home screen. Instead of having five widgets, you can stack all five in one spot. To stack widgets, they have to be the same size. You can’t stack widgets that are of different sizes. Simply drag one widget over another. Keep doing that until you have stacked all your widgets. To see each widget, simply scroll up or down. You can edit the stack by long-pressing it and going to Edit Stack. To add more widgets to the stack, go to the plus icon (top left corner) > choose a widget and Add Widget. All the widgets you will see are the same size, because remember, your stack can’t have widgets of different sizes.

Each stack can have a maximum of 10 widgets. The plus icon stops responding once you have reached the maximum number of widgets your stack can contain. To remove a widget from the stack, tap the minus icon on it > Remove. You can turn on some options for Smart Rotate so that the widget at the top of the stack automatically changes depending on an unclear criteria. Turning on Widget Suggestions adds widgets that your iPad recommends.  

Today View

If you don’t like seeing widgets on your home screen, you can add them to the Today View. On the home screen, swipe to the left to go to today view. This view houses the older widgets from iPadOS 13 (scroll down to Edit and scroll down again to Customise).

Scanning Documents

You can scan documents with your iPad to create digital copies of them. In the Files app, choose a location for your scans, then long-press an empty space to bring up a popup menu. Go to Scan Documents to get started. By default, the iPad setting for taking your scans is set at Auto. So, your iPad detects the pages in your camera’s view and automatically scans them and gathers them at the bottom of your iPad screen. You can scan multiple documents before saving ( tap Save, on the bottom right corner) them. Remember to name your document; tap enter or return key to save.

For more control over your scans, you can choose to take them manually. In the scanning window (long-press > Scan Documents), choose Manual (right side, below the massive white icon). The iPad still recognises what you’re trying to scan, but you have to take the scan (tap the massive white icon for taking photos) yourself, manually. For each scan you take, you can Retake (bottom left corner) to scan again if you don’t like the scan you just made. You can also adjust the scan, by dragging the corners to crop out parts you don’t want in your scan. Keep Scan (bottom right corner) to continue scanning more documents. When you’re done, tap Save, and name your document.

There are more options you can adjust when taking your scans. The lightning icon controls your iPad’s flashlight, but some iPads don’t have this option. You can put it on Auto for the iPad to automatically decide when it’s needed. Or you can turn it On or Off depending on your preferences. The three-rings icon controls how your scan looks. It can be Colour, Greyscale, Black & White or Photo. Again, it depends on the look you’re going for. Remember to Save and name your scan.

Before saving your scan, you can also edit it a bit. To do that, tap on the scans at the bottom of your screen to open them in an editing window. You can then crop the scan (tap the crop icon) and tap Done to save the changes. Even after you’ve taken your scan, you can still change how it looks using the three-rings icon: Colour, Greyscale, Black & White and Photo. You can also rotate the scan (tap the rotation icon, squared icon with an arrow on the corner), delete, or Retake. Tap Done (top left corner) to save the changes. Go to Save, name your scan, and to save it to the iPad.

Different apps integrate this scanning feature, especially note-taking apps. You will, therefore, see this feature used in apps like Apple Notes, Noteful, GoodNotes 6, Notability, etc. As a general rule, when used in other apps, the scans you take tend to be big files. As such, we don’t recommend using this feature in note-taking apps if you want to create small notes. Each app will have some unique features and approach to how it integrates the feature, but its core functions remain intact.

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