iPad Basics: Using iOS

Lesson 4: Using iOS


Using iOS

To use your iPad, you'll need to understand the basics of iOS, the operating system for the iPad (and also the iPhone). You'll see it when you turn on your iPad for the first time. iOS is what powers the iPad's hands-on features, including the multitouch screen, easy-to-use interface, and built-in apps. In short, it's what makes the iPad work the way it does.

Watch the video below to learn more about the basics of iOS.

Getting to know the iOS interface

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of the iOS interface.

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Multitouch gestures

Gestures, sometimes called multitouch gestures, are what you'll use to open apps, navigate online, and more.

  • Tap to click or select something on the screen, like an app or link. You can also tap and hold to occasionally access other options (think of this as right-clicking).
  • Drag to scroll up and down, left and right, or any other direction on the screen.
  • Swipe left or right to flip through pages on the Home screen, photos, or pages in an e-book.
  • Double-tap to zoom in or out on photos, webpages, and certain apps.
  • Pinch to zoom in or out almost anywhere.

Understanding apps

Even if you're new to the iPad, you've probably heard of apps before. The concept is simple: Apps are programs that are designed to run on your device.

The iPad comes with several built-in apps that you can access immediately from the Home screen. They're a great place to start for new users because there's nothing to download or install. Many of these apps are ready to use right out of the box (like the Camera app), while others require a little more setup (like Mail and Contacts). We'll take a look at some of the built-in apps later in this tutorial.

Once you've explored the apps that came with your device, you might want to try downloading some more from the App Store. There are thousands of apps you can download for free. Many other apps cost as little as $0.99, although some may be more expensive.

iOS features

Now that you know the basics of using iOS, it's a good idea to become more familiar with some of its more useful features. You can access these features at any time, no matter what app you're currently using.


Notifications are pop-ups, banners, and other audio and visual cues that work with the apps on your device. They're designed to let you know when something needs your attention, or when there's been any recent activity (for example, on Facebook).

Notifications behave differently in each app, but they all have one thing in common: They can help you keep up with everyday tasks and responsibilities. You can receive notifications three ways:

  • As an alert (pop-up or banner)
  • As a badge on the app icon itself
  • Via the Notification Center (just swipe down from the status bar to open it at any time)

The Control Center

The Control Center allows you to quickly access frequently used settings for your device, as well as a media panel with playback controls. Just swipe down from the top-right corner of the Home screen to access the Control Center.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of the Control Center.

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Siri is a useful feature that comes with all current versions of the iPad. Sometimes referred to as a virtual assistant, it can help you with all kinds of things. For example, you can use Siri to send messages, schedule meetings, and search for nearby restaurants. Powered by the sound of your voice rather than gestures or your keyboard, Siri can understand and respond to complex requests like Remind me that I have a doctor's appointment on the 18th or What's the weather like today?

Voice dictation

Voice dictation allows you to enter text without having to use the keyboard. To use voice dictation, tap the microphone icon on your keyboard, then start talking. The iPad will listen to what you say and try to transcribe it. You can even add punctuation by saying words like period or question mark when reaching the end of a sentence. When you're done, tap the microphone icon again and your words will be converted to text.


Sharing is also a big part of using the iPad. To help you stay connected, Apple has created a feature called the Share button that can be found in many of its apps.

Just tap the Share button whenever you see it, and you'll see several options. You can share photos, videos, and much more across a variety of networks—including email, instant messaging, Twitter, and Facebook. You can even print photos or documents if you have a wireless printer in your home or office.


Syncing makes it easy to keep things up to date between your computer, your iPad, and your other mobile devices. This way, you'll always have access to important files on any device whenever you need them. There are two ways to sync an iPad:

  • Syncing with iTunes: You can connect your iPad to your computer using the included USB cable. You can then use iTunes to sync music, photos, and files from your computer to your iPad. You'll also be able to back up your iPad's files on your computer.
  • Syncing with iCloud: You can sync wirelessly to iCloud, which will work in the background to sync important information among your mobile devices. For example, you could take a photo on your iPad, then view it instantly on your laptop. Or you could create a to-do list on your work computer, then keep up with it on your iPad.

We'll take a closer look at syncing in our lesson on syncing your iPad.