I’ve been using the beta on my iPad Pro since the first day of the public beta and thought I’d write a bit about what stands out to me as noteworthy. This is just a tiny fraction of what’s coming and again, it’s what I’ve found noteworthy. The most comprehensive coverage that I’ve found thus far is this fantastic mini-site over at MacRumors.
First and perhaps unexpected, I’m enjoying and using the new widgets far more than I expected.
With iPadOS 14 and earlier I generally kept my Home Screen clear except for the sidebar of widgets. All my apps were in a single folder in the dock. With iPadOS 15 I’ve moved all my apps to the App Library and now have a full Home Screen of widgets which functions as a fantastic dashboard. I’m finding the 2nd largest widget sizes the most useful with just one small section for 4 of the small widgets. So, a view of my Home Screen gives me the current weather, easy access to my most recently listened to music, my most recent email, a selection of frequently used Shortcuts, my most recently accessed folders and files, calendar, current daily calories, battery status and upcoming reminders. Edit to note that I’ve since changed this by moving the 4 small widgets back to the sidebar which stays hidden. I’ve since added the large-sized Contacts widget which does a great job of providing an overview of my latest interactions with my closest contacts.
With earlier versions of, the public beta some of widgets were l a bit buggy, especially the Files widget though it seems to have settled down as of this date. Also, the mail widget does not always update recent new mail in the background as I would expect though that may be an expected limitation. Obviously having to switch to mail to see updates isn’t helpful.
I’ll mention Spotlight next because it’s somewhat integrated with the above mentioned Contacts widget. In short, Spotlight has a few new additional results added to searches. Most important for me is the improvements in it’s surfacing of my contacts related information such as photos, shared notes, messages, etc. Also, Spotlight now does more with web searches of public figures and built in web search generally. Rather than go to Safari it’s possible to just start with a Spotlight search of a topic. Web results starting with Wikipedia, images, top web results are all neatly organized in the Spotlight results. For some searches the results can be quite extensive ranging from your content, shared with you content, articles from Apple News, TV shows or movies and on. By default the extensive content categories are hidden behind a “Show more results” button.
Next, while I’m still training myself to use it the new globe keyboard shortcut is great. I forget too often to use it but suspect that as that habit takes hold it will become a really nice feature. Specifically the Siri shortcut Globe-S as I’ve always wanted such a shortcut on the keyboard. I enjoy using Siri and know I’ll use it more with that shortcut. Also, the globe shortcuts for multi-tasking are very useful. Again, one I need to practice more to more fully integrate and take advantage of. It’s not that it’s difficult so much as remembering it’s there and making it a new habit.
On the subject of multitasking, using the keyboard to navigate through app windows In the multitasking view is really nice. I normally use the trackpad but the arrow key navigation works great too.
Also in the category of multitasking, the active window indicator is still too subtle when using split screens. It’s better than before but Apple insists on making the indicator subtle enough that I have too look longer and with more attention than I should. Actually, in a nod to macOS I wish they’d offer an option to have the same red-yellow-green color scheme. Not likely and probably not that useful. But at the very least, more contrast would actually be useful.
Keyboard shortcuts are improved in presentation when using an external keyboard and the new organization of keyboard shortcuts to resemble the Mac’s categories of File, Edit, etc are nice improvements. This whole area is more compact and useful.
The Safari redesign. This one has been talked about a lot as it should be. I agree in general that it’s nice to see an effort but it made Safari worse and seemed to be an attempt to solve problems that most people don’t really have. Glad to see the dedicated tab bar back as the default now they need to take the next step of putting it where it was and also removing the extra padding that the new rounded rectangles have. It’s wasted space that hides the description of the tab. Also, the active tab indicator is far too subtle.
But there’s some good stuff with the updated Safari too. Tab groups!! This falls under the “I didn’t know I needed this until I had it” category. I’m using it a lot to create topic areas. I’ve got a climate change group and a tech group. A week ago I was searching for a new chair and had a group of tabs for that. I’ve got a group now for a new WordPress site I’m working on for a client. I expect some of these will be persistent as they are topics I always read about. Others will come and go as needed. The key is that a tab group is easy to create from any window with tabs, easy to re-open via the sidebar and easy to delete when you’re finished. It’s also easy to add a tab from any other Safari window to an existing tab group.
I’m glad to have the updated Notes and Reminders apps. The ability to tag will be useful in both of these. Also, Quicknotes in Notes is very nice though I’m not using it as much as I think I will. Notes really is an excellent app. The indexing of Notes text, attached pdfs and now text recognition in images is fantastic. It’s all very fast and shows up nicely in Spotlight. If I hadn’t recently integrated Obsidian into my daily workflow Notes would likely shine brighter. As it is though it will still have a place. It’s a great place do do photo and document scanning and as I’m currently scanning in a bunch of old family photos I’m enjoying it for that.
The updates in the Photos app are really proving useful. I love the improved metadata, editable location and machine learning that now identifies plants and other objects. Some of that was identification was already there but it’s much, much better now with more accurate results and far more specificity in the identifications. Where before Photos could show me my dog pictures it now also suggests the specific breed and has an integrated Wikipedia link. This is especially useful for all of the photos I get out on the trail for identification of plants and flowers. It’s not yet offering specific insect ID but it does recognize more general animal categories such as insect, butterfly, bird, horse. I suspect that over time range of objects for which specific IDs are offered will grow.
Live Text in photos is absolutely fantastic and useful. Not only does it improve search but if you’re someone that deals with a lot of text and images it comes in handy often. I often need the text that’s in an image for a document or a website. Lazy clients will just send a photo or screenshot with a bit of text rather than retype it for me. This is the sort of feature that once you start using it and realize how often it can be useful, well, you’ll wonder how you did without it.
Messages has some nice improvements, namely “shared with you” which integrates into all the other system apps. Nothing earth shattering but nice. I’ve not had a chance to use FaceTime with any other beta testers and am not a big FaceTime user generally but the announced changes look very helpful for those that use video calls.
A couple more tid-bits. System-wide “shared with you” is a nice new feature. Continuous dictation is great for those that like to dictate text rather than type. Especially useful on the iPhone where I’d much rather dictate than type a long message.
That’s it for the moment. There’s far more of course but they’re features I’m not going into as this isn’t really a review so much as my notes on what I’m interested in and finding most useful. The above linked mini-site over at MacRumors has all the details! Also worth noting, at the bottom of the page is a list of helpful how-to articles for iOS 15.
I started this post in July and am just now, having used the beta for almost two months, finishing off my notes. The final release will likely be coming in the next couple of weeks and with it a load of very detailed reviews.