iPadOS 14’s Best New Features Explained

The new iPad operating system brings a wealth of new features and design changes. What’s new and what can it do for you? We take an in-depth look at the new iPadOS 14.


iPadOS 14 redesigns the iPad’s widgets. Drawing from the iPad’s apps, they present pertinent and timely information in an easy-to-read format. You can add and remove widgets at will, choose from four different sizes at which they’re displayed and even add a Smart Stack of widgets, which uses on-device intelligence to give you the exact widget you need based on factors such as time, location and activity.

There are all sorts of widgets available from all sorts of apps. For example, a Maps widget takes you to the map you last used, a News widget shows you hot stories and a Calendar widget gives you today’s events and more. If you dislike having widgets on the Home screen, just like before, you can turn them off.

Maps Features

The Maps app gets a couple of exciting new features with iPadOS 14. For cyclists, cycle journeys has been added to the Transport feature. With it, you can plan a route by bicycle, taking into account elevations and making use of dedicated cycle paths where available. You’re alerted about stairs you might have to climb while carrying your bike and if the route is busy, you get an alert about that too.

Select cities also offer curated guides of interesting places to visit. These guides are put together from trusted sources such as AllTrails, Complex, The Infatuation, Time Out Group and The Washington Post. Plus they show you the best restaurants, attractions, features and so on.

New Sidebars

Several apps benefit from a new sidebar, making its features even more accessible. Take the Photos app. With one tap, you bring onto the screen a sidebar bringing together all its core functionality in one location. This makes it much easier to move between different parts of the app. It makes it easier to organise your photographs too. You can add an image to an album by simply dragging and dropping.

The Notes app’s new sidebar gives quick and easy access to all your folders without having to keep moving backwards to different screens and the Files app consolidates navigation into a sidebar for ease of use. Music lovers will like the new Music app too. The sidebar makes it easy to switch between your own library and the Apple Music streaming service, with everything at your fingertips. Look out too for redesigned toolbars, with a single menu giving access to a lot of features.

Compact Siri & Phone Calls

Before iPadOS 14, the Siri personal digital assistant and incoming telephone, FaceTime audio and FaceTime video calls could be very intrusive. They took up the whole screen, completely hiding what you were doing. Not now. The new operating system brings new, compact versions of these features. Incoming calls – from any source – are now shown as a notification at the top of the screen. You can still accept or decline but without it taking over your iPad as it arrives.

Incoming calls from third-party apps like Skype are similarly compact and convenient. Likewise, Siri is now smaller, appearing as an animated icon in the corner of the screen. You can thus ask Siri questions and receive answers without losing sight of what you were doing on the iPad at the time.


We’ve all got a handful of people we message with all the time, so now, in iPadOS 14, you can pin contacts to the top of the screen. There are great new options for conversing with a group. You can set a group photo or picture and reply to a specific incoming message instead of the whole group.

There’s some great new Memoji options too, including new hairstyles, hats, face coverings and more. There’s even a doctor’s mask for wearing during the pandemic.

Sensational Searches

The iPad’s somewhat fractured search facilities have been rounded up and redesigned as a universal search. Again, it doesn’t take over the whole screen anymore. As always, to search you make a downward swipe anywhere on the screen.

You can do this on the Home screen or within an app and as it only takes up a small amount of the viewing area, you don’t lose the context of what you were searching for. It makes an excellent app launcher and is useful for finding details from your Contacts app; just type a few letters and suggestions for auto-completion are made. It’s great for web searches as well. Websites are offered and you can open them with one tap.

Picture in Picture

If you’re watching a video on your iPad but want to dip into other apps, maybe to check a Facebook notification, you can now swipe a full-screen movie and have it appear as an inset window. It floats above whatever else you’re doing on the iPad. You can pause and play the video, pinch and spread to resize the floating window, close it completely or return to watching full screen. You can also swipe the floating window off the screen to have it stored in a small, unobtrusive tab. Just tap it to watch the video again.

App Privacy Features

A feature being rolled out over the year gives iPad owners a greater degree of privacy. All apps are now required to obtain a user’s permission before tracking and App Store pages are being updated to feature developers’ reports on their apps’ privacy practices. These reports are designed to be easy to follow and includes categories such as Data Used to Track You, Data Linked to You (such as your location and browsing history) and Data Not Linked to You (eg. diagnostics and usage information).

When asked to share your location with an app, you can choose to limit it to your approximate whereabouts instead of revealing exactly where you are and you’re given even more information when an app wants to use the iPad’s microphone and/or camera.

Apple Pencil

Apple’s amazing stylus gets some great new features designed to make it even more versatile. When using it to write on a screen instead of typing, your handwriting behaves more like typed text. You can select and edit words and phrases and if you write a phone number or an address, you can make calls or get directions by tapping it just like you can with typed numbers and addresses.

You can also select handwritten text and copy/paste it into another document as typed text or move it on the screen to make room for more information. If you’re drawing geometric shapes like squares, circles or triangles, the iPad turns them into accurately mapped shapes, preserving their size and angle.

Best of all, the new Scribble feature makes it possible to write with your Apple Pencil in almost any text field and have it instantly converted into typed text. Thus you can do a web search by writing with the pencil in Safari’s URL bar, have your handwriting converted into typing automatically and then perform the search. It’s great if, for example, you’re putting together an annotated sketch in Notes and need to look something up quickly; you don’t have to put the pencil down to do so.

More Great Features of iPadOS 14…

Of course, these are just the main new features and enhancements you get with the new iPadOS 14 operating system. There’s plenty more on offer.

• Siri can now send audio messages.
• Keyboard dictation runs on your iPad when dictating.
• The Home app features automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Centre, making it even easier to operate your connected gadgets.
• Safari has a Privacy Report so you can see which cross-site trackers have been blocked.
• Safari also lets you know when passwords you’ve used have been compromised by a data breach.

• Accessibility features include Headphone Accommodations and sign language detection in Group FaceTime.
• For iPad gamers, keyboard, mouse and trackpad support have been added, allowing you to use regular peripherals to control your games.
• Apple’s ARKit augmented reality programming tools have been updated, allowing precise depth measurements captured by the LiDAR Scanner in the latest iPad Pro models. This will lead to all sorts of great third-party apps.
• Another Maps feature that’s rolling out soon is EV Routes, which show you where you can charge your electric car on your journey. Add your car to your device and stations compatible with your vehicle are shown.

• In Reminders, you can now create new reminders from the front page and assign tasks to specific people when sharing a list.
• If something in an email might be usefully added to a Reminders list, Siri suggests it.
• Voice Memos can be organised into folders, identified as favourites and taken using an Enhance Recording setting that reduces background noise.

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Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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