Tips & Tricks for First-Time iPad Users

There is nothing more exciting than unpacking a brand new Apple device! So if you found your way to this article, chances are you are currently in the process of exploring the features an iPad has. So let’s get you going with some easy tips and tricks to help you make the best of your iPad!

Mastering the gestures

iPadOS is made for multitasking and productivity, thanks to gestures. You can move seamlessly between the apps just by using your fingers. This feature will come in handy when using an iPad without a home button for the first time.

Some gestures are almost mandatory for the daily use of the iPad, while others are a bit advanced. But don’t worry because you can master them in no time with just a little practice. Here is a quick list of basic gestures you should learn:

  • Tap to wake: If you want to go through your notifications quickly, tap the screen once. You can then swipe up to unlock the device.
  • See the dock: Switching between apps is easy, no matter what you launch on an iPad. Do a small swipe from the bottom of the screen, and the app dock will pop out.
  • Back to the home screen: You can close any app just by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Do it quickly!
  • The list of open apps: Use the same motion when you want to see the apps that are currently running in the background. But pause for a second as you swipe up. Then you can also close those apps by tapping on them and swiping up.
  • Even faster switch: The tiny gray bar at the bottom of the screen can help you switch between apps in just a single swipe. Just use the swiping gesture on it, and that’s it!
  • The split view: This is my favorite feature because it opens up a world of possibilities on an iPad, and yet, it is so simple. You can have two apps running on the screen side by side. If an app you want to place in split view is in the app dock, grab and drag it to the right side of the screen. Otherwise, tap on the three dots at the top of the screen, select the size of the split view, and locate the app you want to launch.

Keep apps in the dock

What I love about iPadOS is that you can fully customize the dock. As you can see on the screenshot, I kept most of the default apps there because I use them frequently. Safari is my go-to browser, and I like to check my email every morning. But you can also place entire folders in the dock, which is incredible.

For instance, I am getting into digital illustrations right now. So I use several apps to practice. Instead of adding all of them to the dock, they are neatly packaged in a folder and easily accessible. Depending on the model of an iPad, you can add up to fifteen apps and folders to the dock.

Accessorize the iPad

Before purchasing my iPad, I knew I wanted to take it everywhere and leave my laptop at home. Essentially, I planned to use the iPad as a 2-in-1 device. But I was also aware I should buy a few accessories to make that possible.

So the things I got were a Magic Keyboard and an Apple Pencil. I also purchased an iPad cover that works with Magic Keyboard. And after doing some research, I decided to get a Paperlike screen protector, it made taking notes more comfortable. It felt more like writing on paper than on glass.

These are just essentials you could get to make the best of your iPad. I have noticed that some users also like to have a Bluetooth mouse, but I prefer to use the touchscreen. So think about what you plan on doing on your iPad and accessorize accordingly.

Taking notes

If you are tired of having a backpack full of notebooks and random papers, an iPad could be the answer. Students and professionals around the world are using this device to take notes. And it can surely improve someone’s academic performance. But you will need one tiny iPad accessory to take gorgeous handwritten notes – an Apple Pencil.

Nowadays, most iPad users own an Apple Pencil. Personally, I ordered it before I made up my mind about which iPad I wanted. It can truly boost your productivity. You might be worried about the difference between taking notes on paper and an iPad, but the latter comes with many perks.

For instance, you can replicate the feeling of writing on actual paper by using a Paperlike screen protector. Various apps (such as Goodnotes) allow you to create multiple notebooks and use them for each subject. Furthermore, you can forget cluttered shelves full of notebooks because you will have everything you need within a single or multiple apps (if that is your thing).

As a first-time iPad user, your handwriting could be all over the place. Honestly, it will improve over time. Make writing with an Apple Pencil your new hobby. If you want to bring your handwritten notes to the next level, try practicing calligraphy. Plenty of YouTube content creators offer free videos on this topic!

Check out: Best Apps for Note Taking

Using an iPad as a second display

Do you have a Mac and want more workspace to multitask? An iPad can turn into your second display with just a few clicks! Additionally, you may mirror Mac’s screen on an iPad and continue using it even if you are lounging in your living room.

The Sidecar feature is available on macOS Catalina, but you should check if your computer supports it before you try to connect an iPad. Similarly, an iPad needs to have at least iPadOS 13.1. Of course, you can connect your devices wirelessly and use the cable. The latter is better if you don’t plan on walking around with your iPad while using it as a second display.

Organizing your tasks

If you think that iPad is only for watching Netflix and browsing the web, think again. This device can help you organize your life and keep you on track. If you browse the App Store, you will find apps that enable you to create and fill out a daily planner. Then there is the native Calendar app, which you may connect to your phone and use the available widgets (we’ll dive deeper into this feature in the next section).

Many of us often give up on making meal and workout plans. However, you can create them on an iPad and get notifications to move your body or grab a healthy snack. It can especially come in handy when working from home.

I personally love Notion to organize my plans and tasks. You will also have Reminders App by default which is great as well I often use it to create daily to-do lists – for work, home, and life.

Exploring widgets

Finally, widgets will not only keep your to-do list on the home page but also help you customize the look and feel of your iPad. We have all seen those wonderfully arranged iPad screens with pleasant color schemes and inspiring images. A simple Pinterest widget can completely transform your iPad’s home screen.

Widgets can also simplify catching up with the latest news. All of your favorite topics can be displayed as soon as you unlock the screen by adding the Flipboard app. Native widgets like Shortcuts may also help you with everyday work. It is quite visible, but you can fully customize the available shortcuts. So play around and design the home screen of your dreams!

Add Safari extensions

I can’t imagine my browser without the Momentum extension. I’ve been using it for years and wanted to have it on my iPad too. The extension itself doesn’t do much, but I like the aesthetics. Luckily, Safari allows extensions, but most users, including myself, don’t know where to look.

Users can access the available extensions by opening Settings and finding the Safari tab. Then, scroll down and find the Extensions. Simply tap on More Extensions, and that’s it! Here you can find handy tools to help you while browsing the web.


What should I do when I first get my iPad?

Assuming this is your first time using a new iPad, the first thing you need to do is set it up. So unbox it and enter all the necessary information, such as your location, preferred language, and most importantly – your Apple ID. Don’t forget about the passcode too!

Also, make sure you protect your iPad right away. It is clever to have a screen protector and a case ready for when your iPad arrives. They will prevent accidental scratches you might not even notice immediately.

Does the new iPad need to be charged before using it?

An iPad will have a charge when you remove it from the box. It means you can comfortably use it as soon as you unpack the device. Once the battery level is low, recharge it. I find that charging overnight works best for me. You will wake up with your iPad ready to go. But find a charging schedule that fits you and your lifestyle.

Do you have to use an Apple Pencil?

An Apple Pencil is not mandatory. But it is an accessory that can turn your iPad into your new favorite device. While you can try to use a stylus or a cheap knockoff from AliExpress, chances are you will be missing out on some practical features only Apple Pencil can deliver.

However, the previously mentioned replacements can be a temporary solution when waiting for your Apple Pencil to arrive. Or you can try using your finger, but don’t expect neat handwriting and precision.

Founder & Chief Editor | + posts

I love tech and all about it. I'm interested in finding ways how they can make my life more productive, and I share my knowledge with my blog readers. I'm an iPad Pro, iPhone, MacBook, and Apple Watch user, so I know a thing or two about these devices and try to write helpful content around these topics.