The iPad has sure come a long way since it first arrived back in 2010. You aren’t limited now to first attempts at tablet apps, or mere blown up iPhone apps. There is some serious software available for the iPad now, along with a host of great accessories. And with Apple giving Safari some major upgrades in the past few years, it’s now easier than ever to use your iPad as a laptop.
Personally, I’m not someone who could ever do away with a laptop completely. But for trips of just a few days, where I won’t be doing any real hardcore computing? Yes, an iPad can 100% stand in. We’ve already written about whether or not such a move is even possible — if the iPad can replace a laptop. We think it can in certain situations. Now we’re going to tell you how to make it happen.
Get a keyboard and trackpad combo
Let’s be real here: you’re not going to get any laptop-esque computing done without a keyboard and a trackpad. The keyboard makes typing a breeze. The trackpad helps you quickly move around a document, scroll through a web page, or switch between apps. If you truly want to replace a laptop with an iPad, you need to make your iPad look more like a laptop.
Apple’s Magic Keyboard ($290 for 11-inch, $349 for 12.9-inch) is tough not to recommend if you have the iPad Air or either model of the iPad Pro. Your iPad grips to it with a satisfying snap. The keyboard is a comfortable size (though the trackpad suffers a bit as a result). It even has a built-in charging port so you don’t need a USB-C cable hanging awkwardly from the side of your iPad.
All of that, and it also acts as a case for your iPad. Not bad at all.
For those who own the regular iPad (7th and 8th gen), there does exist an option that is just as functional (though won’t stand up on its own like a laptop). The Logitech Combo Touch ($135 on Amazon) provides you a keyboard and trackpad option that connects via the iPad’s Smart Connector. And it, too, doubles as a case for your iPad when you’re on the move.
Zoom Safari out a bit
If you’re going to use your iPad as a laptop, you’ll likely be a bit closer to it than, say, if you were holding it while lounging on the couch. If you’re hoping to get work done, you’re also going to want to fit more of said work on your screen. Why not make use of that super high-res Retina display and zoom Safari out from 100%? I promise you, everything will still be legible. In fact, after you do this, you may never want to go back to 100% again.
Open Settings and visit the Safari section. Then tap the “Page Zoom” option. On this screen, you’ll see a number of different percentages. These represent the percentage at which Safari will display web pages. I keep all of my iPads at 75%, which lets websites render closer to their desktop size, and makes me feel like I’m really using a desktop-class browser as a result.
Once you set this option below 100%, you’ll immediately notice a difference in how much information you’re able to see. Web apps you use in the iPad version of Safari will look like the web apps you use in a PC browser. In my opinion, this size should be the default for the iPad Pro lineup, at least. But I understand Apple wanting to keep things consistent across the board.
(By the way — Chrome on iPad does not support this zoom feature. Trust me — I’d love to use Chrome! But if it doesn’t have the ability to zoom out, its a no-go.)
Find app or web app replacements for your desktop apps
The iPad is blessed with a fairly substantial library of apps, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding something in the App Store that can cover what you were doing on a Mac or a Windows PC.
But remember — thanks to the neat trick above, because Safari is now far more capable than it used to be, and because you (should) have a trackpad at your disposal (for mouse-over menus and such), web apps are fair game, too. I happen to use Pixlr quite a bit on my iPad to do photo editing, and it acts as a very worthy replacement for the fuller desktop version of Photoshop. There are lots of web app replacements out there for typical desktop apps.
Become a Shortcuts guru
Finally, you’re going to want to learn how to use Shortcuts. More importantly, you’re going to want to learn how to build your own Shortcuts. If you’re someone who does a lot of file manipulation, these are going to really save your rear end, as this is one area the iPad really struggles a lot in.
Do you want to resize a bunch of images you downloaded for a blog post? Create a Shortcut for that. Do you want to download a YouTube video to insert into your own video project? You can either write a Shortcut for that yourself, or better yet, find one that someone else already made and copy it. Shortcuts do an admirable job filling the gaps in iOS’ capabilities.
And that’s it! By following the guide above, you’ll be on your way to using your iPad as a laptop in no time. And please: if you have other suggestions, leave a comment! This piece will undoubtedly be updated in the future, and your ideas could make it in.