Getting Started with the iPad

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Just got a shiny new iPad as a holiday gift? Here’s an easy Getting Started Guide for your magical new tablet friend.

The iPad has been the hit electronic device of 2010, named best gadget of the year by Time Magazine and just about everyone else in end-of-year awards. I’m sure many of you have received a shiny new iPad as a holiday gift this year – and I’m hoping this short guide will give you a good jump-start on getting the most out of your iPad.

I’ve broken this guide up into short sections covering key topics, so you can dive in and out of them as needed for subjects you are interested in. Hit the Read More link to get started …

iPad External Buttons – Turn It On and Off and Lots More


You’ve probably noticed that the iPad has very few buttons.  When holding the iPad in Portrait mode, there are the Power button at the top right, the Home button bottom center, and the Volume and Mute buttons near the top of the right-hand side of the iPad.

How to Power Off the iPad: To power off the iPad, hold down the Power button for a few seconds, until you see the ‘Slide to Power Off’ bar across the top of the screen.  Slide across that and the iPad will shut down.  To restart it just press the Power button again for about 3 seconds.

Uses for the Home Button: The home button is your key to navigating your way around the iPad. When you are in any application (or app as applications for iPad and iPhone are known) you simply tap the home button to return to the home screen, where you’ll see all your app icons.

If you have multiple home screens (which you will if you start adding more apps to your iPad) tapping on the home screen will take you back to the screen that the last used app is located on. To immediately jump back to the first home screen, just tap the home button again from whichever screen you landed on.

A double-tap on the home button brings up the Multitasking Bar. This bar shows you all of your recently run apps. A single tap on any of them will switch you to that app – so this is a very fast way to switch between apps. From the Multitasking Bar you can also use basic controls for your iPod media player app, adjust the brightness on the iPad, and toggle the screen orientation on and off (more on this below).

Dock Connector Port: Just below the home button, on the bottom center of the iPad, is the dock connector port. This is used to plug in your sync and charge cable for the iPad. 

Taking a Screenshot of What’s on Your iPad Screen:  Want to take a picture of what’s on your iPad screen?  It’s easy to do.  Just hold down the Home button and Power button simultaneously for a quick second.  You’ll see the screen flash white for a moment.  The image will be saved to your Saved Photos album in the Photos app.

*** You can also create new images from existing pictures by using the screen capture method.  For instance, you might have a picture of a person, showing their whole body.  You can pinch to zoom in the Photos app on that image and zoom in on just their face, for example.  When zoomed in, take a screenshot.  That screenshot will immediately be added to your Saved Photos album.

How To Force an App to Close: If you have an app on the iPad that has stopped responding properly, and will not close just by the normal method of pressing the Home button, here’s how to force it to close down.  Hold the Power Button for a few seconds until you see the Slide to Power Off bar – don’t slide on that, and don’t hit the Cancel button at the bottom of the screen – go and press and hold the Home button for a few seconds while those are showing and wait until you see the app go away and a drop back to the home screen.

How To Quickly Mute the iPad’s Volume: To mute the iPad’s volume (across all apps) you can use the Mute switch at the top right-hand side of the iPad, or hold down the volume down (bottom) portion of the Volume button on the right side of the iPad for 2 seconds.

How To Bring Up Search: Using the Spotlight search on the iPad is a great way to find things quickly and even to launch apps quickly. To bring up the Search screen, when you are at the first home screen just swipe left to right once.  From any other home screen, just tap the Home button once (to return to your first page) and then once again (don’t do two quick presses together – one and a pause and one more).

*** You can decide exactly what is included in Spotlight searches via the Settings app. Go to Settings > General > Spotlight Search to set which areas of the iPad are searched when you use it. You can choose to include or exclude contacts, apps, mail, notes, and more.

How to Hard Boot the iPad: A hard boot will very rarely be needed on the iPad but it is worth knowing how to do one for those occasions when it is called for. If your iPad becomes unresponsive – i.e. does not react to taps and gestures on the screen or to home button presses – then you need a hard reboot to snap it back to normal behavior. To perform a hard reboot you hold down the Power and Home buttons at the same time for close to 10 seconds. Ignore the Slide to Power Off bar across the top of the screen when it appears and just keep holding the two buttons until you see the iPad screen go black and then see the Apple logo on the screen as it restarts.

Software Controls & Basics


Sync with Your Computer

Syncing information between your iPad and computer is a vital part of making best use of the device. Items you can sync include photos, contacts, calendars, music, movies, apps, and more. You should setup sync between your computer and iPad as soon as possible and get in the habit of doing a sync regularly. You will also get major updates for the operating system software of the iPad via iTunes on your computer.

For a good overview of syncing your iPad with your computer, see Apple’s support document on this subject here:

Multi-touch Interface: The iPad is a touch-based device, meaning you can do everything you need to do on the device through taps, swipes, pinches and other gestures on its screen. Here are just a few examples of the ways you can use touch to control the iPad:

— Tap on app icons to open apps.

— Tap buttons and icons within apps and games to get around and take actions.

— Pinch outwards with your thumb and forefinger to zoom into images in all the built-in apps (Photos, Maps etc) and most 3rd party apps. Pinch inwards to zoom back out.

— You can also double-tap to zoom in, in many apps – and double-tap with two fingers to zoom out.

— Swiping up and down and left and right moves you around a page or between screens within apps. Swiping left and right moves you between home screens when you begin to have more apps than can fit on just one home screen (the limit per home screen is 20).

— Tap and hold is also a useful touch action at times. For instance when saving images (see below for more on this).

The iPad Dock:


The dock is the bar that sits at the bottom of the home screen. It can hold up to six of your favorite / most frequently used apps, so that they are always easily at hand to open up. You can add and remove apps to the dock to fit your tastes. To remove an app from the dock tap and hold on the app’s icon until it (and all the others) wiggle, then simply drag it out of the dock. To add an app to the dock tap and hold on any app until the app icons begin to wiggle, then drag the desired app icon onto the dock.

The App Store – Adding Apps to the iPad:


There are an incredible array of apps for the iPad – from games to productivity and reference apps, utility apps, eBook apps, newspaper and magazine apps from many of the leading print publishers around the world, music and navigation apps, and apps for just about anything you can think of. In all, there are over 50,000 apps designed specifically for the iPad as at this writing, and well over 200,000 apps designed for the iPhone that are also able to run on the iPad.

The App Store is where you go to install apps on your iPad. You’ll need an account with Apple’s iTunes in order to use the App Store. It’s free to set one up though it does require that you specify a payment method (credit card or Paypal). There are many good free apps for the iPad and also paid apps of course. The majority of paid apps fall somewhere within the $0.99 – $9.99 range, though there are some that are more expensive as well.

The App Store makes it easy to browse for apps by category, or via the Featured area with sections for staff picks, New & Noteworthy apps, What’s Hot lists, new releases by date and more. You can also search for individual apps by name or keyword.

Each app has a page with details on what it does, key features, screenshots, customer ratings and more useful information. Once you choose an app you want, installation is just a single tap (and an entry of your iTunes account password) away.

The App Store also automatically keeps track of updates to all your installed apps for you. Updates provide fixes for any issues an app may have and new features and improvements to the app. The App Store will show a little red badge on its home screen icon when new app updates are available for you to download. You can then go into the App Store, go to the Updates tab, and download your updates with a simple tap.

Here’s a list of apps and games for the iPad that Apple features in their iPad pages on the web – a good mix covering a range of categories:

How To Remove an App: If an app is not what you expected or is no longer useful to you, it’s easy to get rid of it. Just tap and hold on an app icon until the icons start wiggling. You’ll see a little X within a black circle at the left top of the app icons – tap on that X on any app you want to remove.

How To Move Apps on and Between Home Screens: You can move apps around within a home screen and between home screens. To do so, again you tap and hold on any app icon until the apps start wiggling. Then tap on the app you want to move and drag it to your desired location for it.

Rapid App Switching: The iPad has an elegant system for switching rapidly between recently used apps – via its Multitasking Bar. You double-tap the Home button to pull up the Multitasking Bar. It will show you all of your recently used apps – and you can switch into any of them by just tapping on them on the bar. If you swipe to the right on the Multitasking Bar you also have access to basic controls for the iPod app, a brightness slider control, and the screen orientation lock.

Here’s a quick video demo of the Multitasking Bar in action:

How to Lock the iPad Screen Mode: The iPad is quite an intimate device, one that you may find yourself using while laying down on a couch or in bed quite often. At these times and others it can be very helpful to lock the iPad’s screen orientation into landscape or portrait mode to suit what is most comfortable for you. To do so you use the Multitasking Bar, as mentioned above. With the Multitasking Bar open scroll all the way to the left on the bar and you’ll see a square icon with a circling arrow inside it. Tap on that icon to toggle screen lock on and off.

Using Folders to Organize Your iPad Apps:


Once you get to know the App Store you will probably find that your collection of iPad apps grows very quickly. Soon you may have many home screens worth of apps and it can become a bit of a challenge to organize them. Folders are a huge help in this area. You use folders to house groups of apps and help arrange apps and home screens in a more helpful way. For instance, you might group all your games into one (or more) folders, and all your newspaper and magazine titles into another folder, all your utility apps in another, and so on. To create a new folder you tap and hold on any app icon and then drag one app onto another one that you want to group it with in a folder. That will create a new folder, to which you can then add further apps (up to 20) as desired.

Here’s a quick video walk-through of using folders on the iPad:

Some iPad Tips

How To Save an Image in the iPad Mail and Safari Web Browser Apps: There are bound to be many occasions when you’ll want to save a picture you receive in an email or spot on a web page in the iPad’s Safari web browser. Here’s how to do this:

To Save an Image in an email, within the iPad’s Mail Application

– Tap and hold the image within the email. A dialog will pop up with two options – Save Image and Copy.  Save Image will save it to the Saved Photos album in the Photos app.  Copy will place it on the iPad’s clipboard, available to be pasted wherever you want (in a new mail or a word processing app for example).

To Save an Image on a Web Page in the iPad Safari Application

– Same as above really.  Tap and hold on the image.  You’ll get a popup dialog with four choices.  The first two – Open and Open in New Page – relate to the web page itself.  The next two choices though are the same as in the Mail app – Save Image and Copy, and will get you the same results.

Choose your own wallpaper for the home and lock screens: Everybody likes making the iPad a little more their own by customizing their wallpaper choices. Putting a cute picture of a loved one or pet on your lock scree, for instance, adds a great personal touch to your device.

Customizing your wallpaper is very easy, here are two quick methods:

– Go to the Photos app and choose an image you’d like to use as your wallpaper. Tap on it to show it in full screen view.  Then tap on the Sharing button at the top right of the screen (the envelope with arrow through it icon, just to the left of the trash can icon). This will popup a dialog with a short set of sharing options – tap on ‘Use as Wallpaper’.  Then the next screen will let you choose whether to set this wallpaper for use on the lock screen, the home screen, or both.

Set iPad wallpaper

Or …

– Go to the Settings app and choose the Brightness & Wallpaper section in the left pane.  Then tap on Wallpaper over in the right pane. In the Wallpaper section, you can choose from built-in wallpapers, or photos and images in your albums.  You can also add more wallpaper choices via several third party apps that you can find in the App Store.  These should add themselves to the Wallpapers library.

How To Use The iPad as a Digital Photo Frame: Being able to enjoy all your great photos and images on the iPad while its idling in its dock is a great little feature.  Here’s how you set it up to be a digital picture frame:

In the Settings app, tap the Picture Frame bar in the left-hand pane – it’s the fourth item down, below Wi-Fi, Notifications, and Brightness & Wallpaper.

– Select which of your albums you want to include, transition effects, whether to zoom in on faces, and so on.

– Then put the iPad in sleep mode and press the Home or Power button to wake it back up.  Don’t slide to unlock. Instead, tap on the button just to the right of the slide to unlock bar (with a flower icon it).

How To Show the Battery Percentage in the Status Bar: If you like keeping track of how much battery life your iPad has left, you may want to choose to have the remaining %age displayed in the status bar at the top of the iPad screen.  To toggle this feature on or off go to the Settings app, and tap on the General section in the left pane. Towards the bottom of the list of items in the right pane, you’ll see Battery Percentage – just tap to set it to On or Off.

How To Enable the Caps Lock function: By default the Caps Lock function is not enabled for the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. I much prefer to have this turned on. If you feel the same, it’s easy to do.

To do so, go to Settings > General > Keyboard – and just tap On for the ‘Enable Caps Lock’ entry.

Importing Photos from an iPhone or Camera with the iPad Camera Connection Kit: If you’ve bought the iPad Camera Connection Kit, you’ll be able to easily import photos from your iPhones or cameras.  Here’s a post that runs through how to do this:

A Few General Points


Look for Apps Designed Specifically for the iPad: Your mileage may vary, but I have found that although nearly all iPhone apps do work on the iPad, very few of them are a pleasure to use as genuine designed-for-iPad apps are.  They look rather silly and small at their normal size and often look blurry and odd when run in 2X mode.

Where possible, it is best to look for universal apps or apps made specifically for the iPad. On the iPad itself the App Store does most of this work for you. In iTunes on the computer you can toggle between iPhone and iPad sections of the App Store and look out for apps that carry a little grey + symbol which denotes a universal app.

It’s a Major Fingerprint Magnet, Think About a Screen Protector: Many folks are not fond of using screen protectors with iPhone or iPads – but you will quickly notice that the iPad (despite all the blurb about its oleophobic coating preventing this) is constantly showing tons of fingerprints that detract from its loveliness. I use a Ghost Armor screen protector, but there are many good solutions available for the iPad from a number of good vendors.

It’s well worth looking into finding a good screen protector, as they also offer scratch protection and should keep the iPad screen from being constantly covered in fingerprints.

You should also look to get a good set of microfiber cleaning cloths to keep handy. I know these sound like a bit of a silly accessory to think about, but believe me you will be very glad to have them around. Here is an article on a particular brand of these that I can highly recommend:

Accessories: As you might expect given the huge popularity of the iPad, there are tons of accessory vendors providing a very broad range of accessories for the device. If you become a heavy user of the iPad it is likely you’ll want to get at least a good case and stand for it.

Apple’s most useful iPad accessory is a Camera Connection Kit – for transferring photos to the iPad from iPhones and cameras. They offer some other small accessories as well as a case and keyboard dock for the iPad – both of which are pretty unimpressive in my view.

Battery Life: This is one of the iPad’s many strong points. Battery life on the device is outstanding. There are some ways you can help it to remain outstanding. Some of the best battery-saving tips include:

— Keep your brightness set to just halfway or less on the slider control for it (which you can adjust in Settings or in the Multitasking Bar).

— Keep key battery-hungry services turned off when not needed. These services include Bluetooth, WiFi, and Cellular Data (if you have the WiFi + 3G model).

Working with Microsoft Office Documents on the iPad: There are several good options for working with MS Office documents on the iPad. Here are a few of the better ones:

QuickOffice and Documents To Go: Two of the leading apps for both viewing and editing MS Office docs on the iPad. Office2 HD is another good option here.

— Apple’s iWork Suite for the iPad: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote make up this suite for the iPad. They are Apple’s word processing, spreadsheet, and slide presentation apps for the iPad. They are very capable office-style apps, have very easy to use and attractive interfaces, and are able to export in Office-compatible formats.

Remote Access to your Windows Machines: If you can’t find the right iPad MS Office app for your needs, or you have a specific company app you need access to, the best solution may be to just use a remote access app. You can remotely access and work with both Mac and Windows machines via VNC, RDP (Terminal Services) and other popular remote access methods. Again, there is a good range of solid apps for this purpose. A couple of the best I’ve seen for accessing Windows machines are Wyse PocketCloud and LogMeIn Ignition.

More Information

I hope you’ve found this starter guide useful. If you’re still after more iPad knowledge and tips & tricks, here are a few more resources:

— Our Tips & Tricks section:

— Our iPad App Reviews section:

— Apple’s guided tours:

— Macworld’s iPad starter guide book:

Please fire away with questions in the comments here on any other iPad subjects you want to know about, and I’ll do my best to provide good answers.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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15 thoughts on “Getting Started with the iPad”

  1. In your picture with the background as a starfish you have the red arrow pointing to the photos. Is there a way to get rid of that feature so if your iPad is in lock mode people can not see your photos?

    1. Not that I know of. You can select which albums / photos / events to display though. So I suppose a sort of workaround might be to create an album with just anonymous shots of whatever kind, and only select that album to display.

    1. I’m not sure about this – but my impression is nothing really – just a short code developers started using for their iPad versions that sort of stuck.

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  3. I somehow “lost” Safari on my iPad2. It cannot be found. When I sync on my iMac it does not load–lost it on my iPod4 also. How do I reload Safari on iPad?

  4. hi’can you help me regarding my i pad2 i had a problem that my ipad change into animated picture frame and i can’t put it back into normal picture,How can i put it back?thank you and im looking forward to this matter

  5. i had this problem about my ipad2 my safari had a grey thingy…I couldn’t touch the screen..please help me thank you..

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