While you might have considered the iPad just a bigger iPhone when it first launched, the device has increased in both power and usability over the years. Thus, you might have interest in ditching your MacBook for a lighter, more portable iPad.
Apple has made many hardware and software innovations that allow your iPad to become a possible laptop replacement. For many MacBook users, there's never been a better time to shift to an iPad-enabled workflow.
In this guide, we split our recommendations to get a MacBook workflow on your iPad into two sections: hardware and software. Let's take a look.
Hardware for Making Your iPad Like a MacBook
With a few physical upgrades, your iPad will feel more like a laptop replacement than ever before.
1. Get a Keyboard and Mouse
While the iPad lets you type out messages on its software keyboard, it’s not the most convenient way to write long chunks of text. With Apple’s updated Magic Keyboards, you can get the same kind of typing feel and advantages of a trackpad on a MacBook with the benefit of being able to remove your iPad from the case after use.
Additionally, many third-party providers have designed keyboard models that cater to people who prefer to use an external mouse, or who need extra durability such as waterproofing or even drop protection. You can also use a mouse to get the same laptop feel of clicking instead of tapping on a trackpad or the screen.
Have a look at the best keyboard cases for your iPad as a starting point.
An iPad keyboard case can help you work more efficiently. Here are the best iPad keyboard cases for the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and more.
2. Invest in an iPad Stand
As more people become particular about posture, even the most conveniently designed iPad cases can’t provide the height necessary to avoid neck strain. You need something that helps you look at your iPad around eye level.
Thankfully, the right iPad stand allows for this and more. Investing in a good iPad stand that can elevate your device will make it just as comfortable as looking at a MacBook or even an iMac.
Additionally, iPad stands come in a variety of heights and designs. You can choose between fixed stands or more flexible arms and swiveling heads, moving between landscape and portrait layouts with ease. Due to their lighter weight, iPad stands also tend to be more compact and significantly cheaper than MacBook risers.
3. Add an External Hub
If you’re not satisfied with an aspect of your iPad—whether it's internal storage, camera quality, or even the network speed—Apple has an answer. The company has released several external hubs that work to make your iPad compatible with a variety of hardware solutions.
While named the Lightning to USB-3 Camera Adapter, this hub lets you do more than just import photos from your digital camera. It also gives you options to connect external storage devices, like hard drives and SD cards.
For content creators, dongles also let you connect live cameras, audio interfaces, and ring lights. If you need faster network speeds, you can also use a hub that connects your iPad directly to your router using an Ethernet cable.
Additionally, if you are concerned about screen size, you can even connect your iPad to an external monitor to use for presentations, playing movies, or showing photos.
Software to Make Your iPad Feel Like a MacBook
Hardware goes a long way in beefing up your iPad, but it's only half of the equation. Next, let's look at some software to give your tablet a more laptop-like feel.
4. Customize Your Cursor
If you're a longtime mouse user, you might struggle with having to physically reach out to tap a screen instead of moving the mouse that's right next to your keyboard. iPadOS 13.4 and later resolved this concern by adding a cursor feature that's compatible with both trackpads and mice.
To enable the cursor feature on your iPad, go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch. Next, tap on AssistiveTouch. When AssistiveTouch is enabled, any mouse or trackpad connected by Bluetooth or a USB hub is automatically enabled. With its default features, the iPad cursor appears as a dynamic, translucent gray circle.
If you want to take the cursor experience to the next level, Apple also lets you customize it to your preferences. To do so, go to the Touch settings and choose Pointer Style. From this menu, you can change the cursor in a variety of ways, such as increasing the contrast, hiding features, and adjusting pointer size, animations, scrolling speeds, and more.
5. Utilize Gestures
Similar to MacBooks, you can enable gestures on your iPad to mimic the trackpad shortcuts you’ve become accustomed to with your laptop. Used in tandem with Apple’s Magic Trackpad or licensed third-party case providers, you can more efficiently move between screens and manipulate text.
To use gestures on your iPad, you can connect your trackpad to your iPad through Bluetooth and use gestures similar to your MacBook. For starters, swipe up using three fingers to go home, swipe left and right to switch between apps, and use pinching motions to close apps.
6. Master Window Management
MacBooks are known for their impressive window management capabilities. In the early days of the iPad, this was a much more frustrating procedure. However, recent innovations like Split View and Slide Over make this a worry of the past.
To begin multi-tasking on your iPad using Split View, all you have to do is to drag your second app from the Dock to the screen. Meanwhile, Slide Over lets you use an iPhone-sized version of your desired app on your screen.
You can conveniently adjust how much screen real estate each app gets by moving the central divider from left to right. You're able to drag and drop photos between apps, and repeating the process with a third app works too.
7. Get a Cloud Storage Subscription
A common concern for MacBook users thinking about shifting to the iPad is the lack of internal storage. However, not only can you resolve this issue by using a combination of hubs and external hard drives, but there are also an increasing number of affordable cloud storage options available.
Subscription providers such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Apple’s own iCloud are less expensive than they used to be. See our rundown of the cheapest cloud storage providers to find which is right for you.
Make the Shift to iPad Today
While there are still many professionals who aren’t ready to give up their Macbook just yet, most people are ripe to invest in a shift to the iPad experience. With enough power to rival several MacBooks currently on the market and a variety of screen sizes to choose from, iPads can easily take their place for casual and light users.
Versatile in both form and function, the iPad is fit for a variety of lifestyles and uses. As recent iPadOS updates and hubs have allowed the use of external hardware that ranges from keyboards to external storage devices, iPads are more flexible now than ever.
Without compromising the ease of using the Apple ecosystem, iPads give you several benefits of a Mac in a more compact package.
Looking for a new Apple device and not sure if you should buy an iPad or a MacBook? Here's how to decide which is right for you.