40+ Super Secret iPad Features and Shortcuts

We all want to get the very best out of our devices! Who doesn’t love finding out a new trick or shortcut?

This roundup aims to enlighten those new to the iPad, and guide old hands to a few new tricks – the heading might be laced with hyperbole, but you’re going to have a look anyway…

For those of you who are super-confident about your iPad knowledge, I’d like to propose a challenge. Go through and see how many features and shortcuts you didn’t know about, leave a comment with the number at the bottom of the post – and be honest!

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40+ Super Secret iPad Features and Shortcuts

1. Take a Screenshot

Let’s start gently, taking a screenshot is one of the simpler things on this list. However, it can be invaluable when you grab a particularly smashing high score and need to immediately gloat on your social network of choice…

Simultaneously hold down both the Home button and the Lock button for almost a second, and voila! A screenshot appears in your camera roll.

2. Double-Click Home

While we’re talking about the Home button, you can double-click it to bring up the Multitasking bar (more on that in a minute).

Double-Click Home

3. Triple-Click Home

Yep, that’s right. The great thing about triple-clicking the Home button is that it’s configurable! Have a look at the options and take your pick…

Triple-Click Home

4. Zoom

Ever thought it might be useful to magnify the entire screen? You’re in luck, simply (hmm?) turn on Zoom and double-tap the screen with three fingers. You can then move around by dragging with three fingers – useful if you, or a relative, are struggling to read something and pinch to zoom isn’t available.


5. Alter Zoom

To alter the zoom, double-tap with three fingers and drag up or down. On my iPhone I once activated zoom by accident, before I was in the know, and found it very difficult to turn it off! To get to settings and turn it off I had to figure out that I could only drag with three fingers…

6. Bring Up Multitasking Bar

We’ve just done complicated tapping configurations, we may as well move onto gestures! We’ve already noted how you can double-tap Home to bring up the multitasking bar, you can also do a four-fingered swipe upwards to achieve the same result.

Swipe up to bring up the bar, and down to hide it – easy once you know how!

In order for Multitasking Gestures to work they must be activated in the General tab of Settings.

7. Quick App Switch

Again using a four-fingered swipe, this time left or right, you can quickly switch between apps. It takes a second before the app you’ve selected is fully active, but it’s a very useful way to go back and forth between apps.

Your iPad remembers where you are in a sequence of apps for a while, try swiping back and forth!

8. Pinch to Home

This one of my absolute favourite gestural additions in iOS 5 – never use the Home button again! Simply pinch with five fingers to return to the Home Screen, enjoy…

Multitasking Gestures

9. Multitasking Bar

It’s worth going over the use, and misuse, of the multitasking bar while we’re in the vicinity. The multitasking bar is basically an easy way to access your most recently used apps, just tap and go. The absolute most recent apps are often frozen and awaiting your return, meaning you can pick up exactly where you left off, but the number of apps in this state varies.

iOS 5 manages your apps so that there is always enough free memory for everything to run smoothly, closing previously frozen apps if need be. It’s designed to be as easy-to-use and painless as possible.

It’s a waste of time manually closing apps using the multitasking bar, it won’t change the performance of your iPad. The one exception being if there’s a specific app that’s got stuck, if the app you’re on has become unresponsive then it’s worth manually shutting it down.

10. Find My iPad

If you didn’t know this existed, now you do. Revel in the joy that is Find My iPad!

For the forgetful, Find My iPad is a dream come true, simply turn it on in iCloud settings. If you ever need to find your iPad, just head over to the iCloud site on the web and enter your iTunes details.

To help you find your iPad you can display a message that informs any potential finder what they should do, you can also get the iPad to play a sound – this overrides the volume and mute setting, allowing you to find it when you’re nearby!

11. Remotely Secure Your iPad

If you’re worried that your iPad has been left in mortal peril, you can use the online iCloud site to remotely set a passcode. For ultimate privacy protection you can press the figurative self-destruct button and erase all of your data!

Find My iPad

You can use the Find My iPhone app on your iPhone to access these feature if you’re away from a computer.

12. Street View

Here’s a great one for you! Did you know that you can seamlessly access Google’s Street View on your iPad – right from the Maps application? Just open Maps, drop a pin (or search for somewhere) and tap on the red person icon to the left of the address.

Just tap the red person icon!

You can the move about like you can on the web, heading down roads and looking for hilarious anomalies!

Street View

13. Change Map Type

Most people have got this down, but it’s still worth mentioning. You can easily change the type of map you’re viewing by peeling back the map from the bottom right corner and selecting a different type. I, personally, am a big fan of the terrain view – giving you an idea of the hills you might encounter on that walk you’re planning…

14. Find My Friends

I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know about Find My Friends! Apple publicised it in the App Store for a while, but hasn’t really pushed it – it’s a take it or leave it feature really, understandable given it’s slightly unnerving use.

Download Find My Friends from the App Store and you can easily locate friends and family, presuming they give you permission!

Find My Friends

It can be astonishingly useful in the right circumstances, a real vision of the mind-boggling times we’re entering!

If you’re only going to need it for a weekend with someone, just use the Temporary section to share your location with them.

Who could this be?

15. Double Tap Space

This is a feature that I’m certain will be coming to the Mac any day now. On all iOS devices you need only double tap the space key to insert a full-stop (period). Making writing in sentences, rather than text drawl, that much easier.

16. Other Characters

Easily access a host of unusual characters and symbols by holding down a letter on the keyboard. Need an umlaut, look no further!

17. Hidden Apostrophe

In a similar fashion to the last tip, hold down the comma key to find a hidden apostrophe. Have you been changing to the punctuation page?

There is a hidden quote button under the full-stop (period).

18. Quickly Type Numbers

This is a useful, and well known, tip for easily typing numbers and punctuation. Rather than using three button taps to add a dollar sign, just hold your finger on the numbers button and drag to the dollar sign. When you let go you’ll be right back on the normal keyboard!


To enable Caps Lock you merely double tap the shift key. Tap once to turn it off. Couldn’t be easier than that!


20. Undock the Keyboard

Hold down on the keyboard button, in the bottom right, and select Undock. This simple command puts your keyboard in the middle of the screen, obscuring anything below it. I’m not sure when this would ever be useful, answers in the comments…

21. Split the Keyboard

Now this I can see being useful. Follow the instructions as above, but select the Split command – your keyboard will divide in two, shrink, and move up slightly. This allows you to type using both of your thumbs!

Split the Keyboard

To type while holding your iPad I would recommend using Split, it’s much easier than bashing away at the keyboard with one hand while trying to keep it steady with the other.

22. Phantom Buttons

Kudos to Finer Things in iOS for spotting this one! It appears that there are some phantom keyboard buttons when you’re in split keyboard mode, which mean that iOS 5 recognises when you hit the empty space and adds the correct letter.

Phantom Buttons

23. Throw Away Notifications

A small, but enjoyable, tip for getting rid of notification banners that pop down from the top of your screen – pull them down with your finger and throw them up to quickly get rid of them!

24. Picture Frame

This is a great little feature that often goes completely unnoticed. Remember when you could spend $100 on a digital picture frame? One that you had to transfer pictures to using a USB, and then would leave on the side showing a slowly transitioning slideshow.

The iPad has a feature that allows you to easily turn it into an upgraded version of the digital picture frame (with a much better screen), simply tap the flower icon on the lock screen!

Picture Frame

25. Zoom in on Faces

Following on from the use of the iPad as a digital picture frame, you can edit all kinds of settings relating to that very thing. My favourite is the option to Zoom in on Faces, fully utilising the fact that you have a distinctly clever iPad rather than some cheap photo paper…

Zoom in on Faces

26. Side Switch

I don’t know if you remember, but originally the Side Switch on the iPad was only for locking the rotation of the screen. Well, that’s not the case any more (and hasn’t been for a while). Head into General in Settings to select whether you want the Side Switch to Lock Rotation or Mute.

Side Switch

27. Restrict Spotlight Searches

Head to General in Settings and tap on Spotlight Search to edit what items show up when you search in Spotlight.

Useful for turning Spotlight into a more efficient app launcher!

Restrict Spotlight Searches

28. Find Definitions

Ever wondered what a word meant and used the Dictionary.com app (others are available) to find out? Took you several taps and half a minute, didn’t it?

Just tap and hold to select the word and tap Define, the built-in Dictionary is at hand!

Find Definitions

29. Send Read Receipts

Want people to know when you’ve read their iMessages? Turn on read receipts, in the Messages tab of Settings, to make iMessage that much more like BBM.

30. Add Subject Field

Another iMessage feature, albeit a slightly pointless one. In the same section as before you can add Subject Fields to your iMessages. Why you would want to do that, however, is another matter entirely…

31. Find Text in Safari

Ever wanted to find something on a webpage in Mobile Safari? You can!

Simply type your desired word in the search bar and you’ll find a section under the Google Suggestions called On This Page. Not only does it list the matches, but you can hit the button beneath to have them all highlighted.

Find Text in Safari

A bar appears at the bottom that allows you to easily scroll through the found words.

32. Easily Download Previously Purchased Apps

This might seem obvious, but new additions to commonly used apps often go unnoticed. Hit the Purchased tab in the App Store to see a list of all previously downloaded (paid and free) apps across all of your devices. Simply hit the iCloud icon for any that you want to get on your iPad…

iCloud's pretty useful...

33. Redeem a Promo Code

If you’ve ever won an AppStorm giveaway you may have wondered what you’re supposed to do with a promo code. The good news is that you can now use promo codes, including iTunes Gift Cards, right on your iPad – head to the Featured section of the App Store and scroll to the bottom, hit Redeem and you’re away!

Redeem a Promo Code

34. Add Extra Contact Fields

I briefly mentioned this in my article on getting your contacts sorted, but it’s worth noting here. You can add a myriad of extra information to all of your contacts should you be that way inclined. You can add;

  • Address
  • Website
  • Phonetic Names
  • Twitter
  • Birthday
  • Relation

Phonetic names and Relation could be useful with the possible future introduction of Siri, while adding someone’s Birthday and having it appear on your calendar is handy!

35. Change Sounds

It might be obvious, but you can very easily change almost every sound that your iPad makes! Grown weary of the notification bing, head to the Sounds section in the General tab of Settings and remove it from your life.

It’s nice to be able to set a specific Tweet sound!

36. EQ Your Music

You’ve been able to do this since the iPod days, but if you’re having trouble hearing that bass-end simply head over to the Music settings and select an EQ style that’s suits you.

You can also Volume Limit the iPad, stopping it from teaming up with those new in-ear headphones and blowing your mind!

37. Edit Slideshow

Head over to the Photos section in Settings to edit how photographic slideshows work. Set them to repeat and alter the slide length to your heart’s content… So long as your heart’s content is 2, 3, 5, 10, or 20 seconds.

38. Change Notes Font

Bored of the font used for your Notes? There are now THREE fonts to choose from! Go to Notes in Settings to enjoy the spice of life.

Redeem a Promo Code

39. Overload Your Dock

It doesn’t appeal to me, but you can add six items into the dock of your iPad – just hold and drag in the normal way.

Looks fine in Landscape, but cramped in Portrait.

40. Show Camera Grid

I rarely take photos with my iPad, but when I do it’s useful to turn on the Grid to line things up. Nobody wants a skewed shot, right?

Open up the Camera, hit Options and toggle the Grid – note that it’s not available for the front-facing camera.

41. Add Shortcuts

Like the idea of using a program like TextExpander on the iPad, but frustrated that it doesn’t work everywhere? You can add systemwide Shortcuts in the Keyboard section of the General tab.

Simply add a Shortcut, head into any application, and pow!

42. Restrictions

If you have children, this needs to be the first section you head to! Find it under General in Settings. You can stop certain apps from being used, stop changes being made, and adjust what content can be viewed.

Most-importantly, you can disable In-App Purchases.

How Did You Do?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup to tips and tricks for the iPad! How did you do on the challenge? Were you an iPad ninja (0) or a Novice (42)? If you also have an iPhone you should check out 40 Secret iPhone Features and Shortcuts, although I can’t promise there isn’t a little crossover!

Looking For More?

What are you waiting for?

  • http://dr-palaniraja.blogspot.com P

    You have missed “Speak”

    • http://Vaindivasadventures.blogspot.com Log0n123

      Exactly the same as find definitions (No. 28) Only you press ‘speak’, instead of ‘Define’

  • David

    Love the keyboard split. I found four more things about it:

    1: just swipe up on the lower right keyboard icon to split it – faster than press and hold then pick from the menu.

    2: Once split you can press there and drag to adjust the vertical position of the keyboard, You can even combine splitting and dragging without lifting your thumb.

    3: or drag it back down to full size position,

    4: or even fast swipe down to “throw” it away.

    Find on page: you get a separate Find on Page toolbar which moigrates to the bottom of the page when you dismiss the Google drop-down, iff you type anything into the lower search entry. It has its own dismiss button.

  • http://www.hammyhavoc.com Hammy Havoc

    This article would have been better if it had been ten relatively unknown features. Instead you had around a dozen not so well known features and a ton of obvious things. Redeeming codes on the App Store is obvious… Come on, AppStorm.

    On a positive note, I did love the the zoom assigned to triple click of the home button, very useful, I shared this with a blind couple I know who are making use of this and loving their iPads more than ever.

    • http://digitalformula.net Chris

      Perhaps unfortunately, I’m with you, ‘Hammy Havoc’. Most of these are simply features, not ‘super secret’ features and shortcuts. This happened in another Mac.Appstorm article about super secret features of Lion … most of them were just features, too. Nothing secret about them.

      The content is fine (thanks Joel, for taking the time to write this) but the title is pretty misleading, especially for anyone’s that’s bothered to take more than 15 minutes to learn how to use their iPad.

      Just sayin’ …

    • Joel Bankhead

      I felt compelled to mention in the heading that the title was clearly hyperbolic – there just aren’t that many hidden features!

      Glad you found something useful though, I think that’s a good reason to have a least one big roundup of all of the slightly less obvious features of the iPad together – you never know which ones people will find useful!

  • http://www.apples-seed.com Damon

    You can try splitting the keyboard by a pinch to zoom gesture on keyboard as well!

  • TheWaxMann

    Different things are obvious to different people – I found the zoom obvious myself, but when I got my first iPhone a few years ago, I had no idea you could redeem vouchers on the device, I thought you had to be on iTunes on your pc to do it (I have obviously worked it out since then, but just saying it took a while)

    Phantom buttons is brilliant, I have been thinking it should do that for a while, but never thought to actually try it in case it already was. 5 was my number.

    I would like to query your point about deleting apps from the task manager. If I have safari open with several tabs open, and about 50 items in the multitask bar when I switch between safari tabs they refresh each time I switch, but when I have a clear multitasking bar the tabs stay in memory and do not refresh (helpful if you filling out an online form and look at something else for reference)

  • Cam

    I guess a load of this is ios 5 stuff…? Ain’t no triple click on my ipad 1 home button.. Keyboard splits?!? Cheers for the quick apostrophe though….

    • Iyyy69

      Have you tried upgrading to iOS5? Works great on my iPad 1.

  • Wizzard

    You can simultaneously tap both shift buttons to lock the caps instead of double tap. Sometimes faster if your timing is off.

  • BOB

    I’m wondering that all these features has to be found by the user itself and not explained anywhere. -_-

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  • Devil

    I have TWO problems in iOS 5

    1. iCloud account can be deleted too easily (without any password), and you will never find my iPad/iPhone if you don’t have a passcode lock enabled and it is stolen.

    2. For Shortcuts, if you deleted all default shortcuts, you can continue to delete “add a Shortcut”, but it will exit the settings and actually “reset” to default shortcuts.

  • Brian

    The split keyboard is useful if you want to use only your thumbs to type as you hold your iPad – this is especially useful in landscape mode.

    • http://Vaindivasadventures.blogspot.com Log0n123

      Unless you get a good cover that you can use in landscape mode

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  • JayDee

    If you double tap the home button and bring to bring up the multitasking bar. While there swipe to the LEFT and you will have access to your brightness control, orientation/mute control (it controls the opposite function of what you set your side switch for in settings), volume control and play, pause, skip, repeat functionality as well as a quick link to the last player app you were using. I.G. iTunes, Youtube, Netflix….

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  • Mark Bowen

    I sincerely hope that No. 15 (double tap spacebar) doesn’t come to the Mac at any time!

    It’s great on iPhone and iPad as you can work very fast in doing so but bringing that sort of functionality to a mechanical keyboard would be exceptionally silly. For 1 the period is right there in front of you waiting to be pressed with just one keypress and not two, 2 – people will completely forget how to type and keyboards will end up looking very weird indeed and 3 (most importantly) this would wear out your space key in no time at all!!

    All fine on a screen based keyboard but definitely not for a mechanical one I say.

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  • http://emrah.omuris.com/ Emrah Omuris

    +1 from me. I’m already sick and tired of seeing iOSified Mac and this would be really pointless. I really don’t think Apple will be bringing this feature to OS X. Really doesn’t make any sense to me.

  • http://www.f4design.com Kevin Z

    To add to number 17, if you flick up on the comma key, it will type an apostrophe as well. Easier then holding the letter down.

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  • http://educationtechnologyblog.com Jonathan Wylie

    Re: #39 – You can overload your dock even more by adding folders to it. So, you can have up to 120 apps on your dock!!

    • http://Vaindivasadventures.blogspot.com Log0n123

      Unless you put newsstand down there

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  • Stephanie

    Thank you, thank you. For those of you younger whippersnappers who can decipher techie instructions, great. But for those of us who actually spent most of our lives writing cursive (!) theses quick tips were eye openers. In most cases I didn’t know I didn’t know, and reading the instructions was overload. So, thanks for this!!

    • Sharon

      A technie I am not. I have to go over everything more than once, but I am getting more familiar with what I can do with an ipad. I find the whole thing exciting.

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  • Shopping mom 64

    Straight froward and helpful! I pinned it! The only reason I know anything about my devices is word of mouth or great sites like this… If you don’t have something nice to say/post, don’t say/post anything at all.

    • Sharon

      I’m with you. shopping mom. I have not spent much time with the ipad, and as you said, what I know is from the help of others. I appreciated the info.

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  • A-nony-mice

    You can also put a folder on your dock.

  • Kathryn

    Hammy Havoc and Chris… Just to let you know, some of us are not iPad savvy, and some of us are in our mid 70’s and recently purchased our iPads. We found the “secrets” very helpful if not “secretive”. :)
    Thanks iPad for the super Secrets and Shortcuts !! :))

    Oldie in Florida.

  • Sandra

    #17 – I upgraded to iOS 6, and I seem to have lost the apostrophe when I held the comma key down. Does this make sense?

    • http://Vaindivasadventures.blogspot.com Log0n123

      Try again

  • http://rgenzon.com Rg Enzon

    Great loads of information! Thanks for the tips!

  • Morten

    to get back to the top of any website just tap in the top black space (where you see the clock, batteri indication etc.).
    Much easier than scrolling back up.

    – thanks for loads of useful tips here. Now writing with split keyboard for the first time! :)

  • Sharon

    I am pretty much a neophyte and just chugging along. The good thing is I know more than I did, but I am certainly not comfortable yet. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://twitter.com/roycorcaigh roy omahony

    My child has Downs Syndrome, she regularly puts the volume to MAX when watching a movie, how can I lock the volume setting so she cannot do that?

  • disqus_5CqFTfrpTl

    I can’t find my secret ios6 icon. How do I retrieve it?

    • disqus_5CqFTfrpTl


  • Smidty

    I use an iPad 2. When in a new wifi area it won’t always connect to a seen network. If a password is appropriate, I can’t always get to a screen in which to enter it. When I check the wifi settings there are no network numbers, names, ips, etc. I have tried restarting with no luck. Any ideas?

  • Poty

    I knew all this.
    Anything new