A Guided Tour of the iPad

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01
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Unboxing the iPad

The iPad is a wonderful device with a number of great uses, but it can be confusing for the new user. If you have never used a tablet computer or smartphone before, you might find yourself a little intimidated after taking it out of the box. Common questions include "How do I plug the iPad in?" and "How do I connect it to my computer?"

To help answer some of these questions, let's take a look at what comes with the iPad. In addition to the device itself, the box contains a small insert with a diagram of the device and a quick explanation of how to set it up for first-time use. The box also contains a cable and an AC adapter.

The connector cable

The cable that comes with the newest iPads is called the Lightning connector, which replaced the 30-pin cable that came with previous iPads. No matter which style cable you have, the multi-purpose cable is used for both charging the iPad and connecting the iPad to other devices, such as your laptop or desktop PC. Both cable types fit into the slot at the bottom of the iPad. 

AC adapter

Rather than including a separate cable just for powering the iPad, Apple includes an AC adapter that allows you to plug the connecting cable into the AC adapter and the AC adapter into your power outlet.

You don't need to plug your iPad into the wall to charge it. You can also charge the iPad by plugging it into a PC. However, older computers may not be able to properly charge the iPad. If you find plugging the iPad into your PC doesn't charge it, or if charging this way is extremely slow, the AC adapter is the way to go.

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iPad Diagram: Learn the iPad's Features

Apple's design philosophy is to keep things simple, and as you can see in this diagram of the iPad, there are only a few buttons and features on the exterior. But as you might expect, each one of these features plays an important role in using your iPad, including a basic navigational tool and the ability to put your iPad to sleep and wake it up.

The iPad Home Button

The iPad's Home Button is used to close out of an app and return to the home screen, making it easily the most important button on the iPad. You can also use the home button to wake the iPad up when you want to start using it.

There are also a few other cool uses for the home button. Double-clicking the home button will bring up the task bar, which can be used to close down apps that are still running in the background. And triple-clicking the home button will zoom in the screen, which is helpful for those with not-so-perfect eyesight.

Another neat trick is using the home button to quickly go to the spotlight search screen. Normally accessed by swiping your finger from left to right while on the home screen, the spotlight search can also be reached by clicking the home button a single time while on the home screen. Spotlight search is used to search through your iPad's content, including contacts, movies, music, apps and even a quick link to search the web. How to Use Spotlight Search to Launch an App

The Sleep/Wake Button

The Sleep/Wake Button does just what its name implies: it puts the iPad to sleep and wakes it back up again. This is great if you want to suspend the iPad automatically, but you don't have to worry about doing it every time you stop using the iPad. If the iPad remains inactive, it will put itself to sleep.

While the Sleep/Wake Button is sometimes referred to as the On/Off Button, clicking it will not turn the iPad off. Powering down the iPad requires you to hold this button down for several seconds and then confirm your intention by swiping a confirmation slider on the iPad's screen. How to Reboot Your iPad

The Volume Buttons

The volume buttons are located on the upper right side of the iPad. The mute button will immediately eliminate all sound coming from the iPad. The functionality of this button can be changed in the settings to lock the orientation of the iPad, which is great if you find yourself holding the iPad at a peculiar angle that causes it to rotate the screen when you don't want it to rotate.

Holding down the volume decrease button will also turn the volume completely off, which is a great trick when you change the mute button to lock the orientation rather than mute the sound.

Lightning Connector / 30-Pin Connector

As mentioned previously, newer iPads come with a Lightning connector while older models have a 30-pin connector. The main difference between the two is the size of the adapter that plugs into the iPad. This connector is used to plug the iPad into your PC. You can also use the AC adapter that comes with the iPad to plug it into a wall outlet, which is the best way to charge your iPad. The connector is also used to connect various accessories to the iPad, such as Apple's Digital AV Adapter, which can be used to connect your iPad to your TV.

Note: You don't need to ever plug your iPad into your PC. The iPad can be set up without a PC and you can download apps, music, movies and books to it without every plugging it into a PC. You can even backup the iPad to the Internet using Apple's cloud services.

Headphone Jack

The headphone jack is a 3.5 mm input that will accept sound signals as well as outputting sound, so it can be used to hook up a microphone or a headset with a microphone. Among the other uses for it include musical uses, such as using iRig to hook a guitar into the iPad.

Camera

The iPad has two cameras: a back-facing camera, which is used for taking pictures and video, and a front-facing camera, which is used for video conferencing. The FaceTime app can be used to create a video conference with any friends or family who either have an iPad (version 2 and above) or an iPhone. ​How to Use FaceTime on the iPad

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The iPad Interface Explained

The iPad's interface is divided into two major parts: The home screen, which holds icons and folders, and the dock, which provides quick access to certain icons and folders. The primary difference between the two is that the home screen can be changed by swiping from left to right, which brings up the spotlight search screen, or from right to left, which can bring up additional pages of app icons. The dock always stays the same.

Once you master navigating the iPad and organizing it by moving icons around the display and creating folders, you can arrange the dock by putting your most used icons on it. The dock will even allow you to put a folder on it, which can give you quick access to a whole range of applications.

Read more about Navigating the iPad

In addition to the home screen and dock, there are two other important areas of the interface. Between the home screen and the dock are a small magnifying glass and one or more dots. This indicates where you are at in the interface, with the magnifying glass symbolizing the spotlight search and each dot symbolizing a screen full of icons.

Above the home screen at the very top of the display is the status bar. On the far left is an indicator displaying the strength of your Wi-Fi or 4G connection. In the middle is the time, and at the far right is a battery indicator displaying how much more battery life your iPad has until you need to plug it in to recharge it. ​Tips to Save Battery Life

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The iPad App Store

While we won't go over every application that comes with the iPad in this guided tour, we will touch on a few of the more important apps. And perhaps the most important app on the iPad is the App Store, which is where you will go to download new apps for the iPad.

You can use the App Store to search for specific apps by typing the app name in the search bar on the upper-right corner of the app store. You can also search for the type of app you are interested in downloading, such as "recipes" or "racing game". The app store also has top charts, with the most downloaded apps, and categories, both of which make for easy browsing for apps.

25 Free iPad Apps Everyone Should Download

The App Store will also let you download any apps you have previously purchased, even if you purchased them on another iPad or on the iPhone or iPod Touch. So long as you are signed in with the same Apple ID, you can download any previously purchased app.

The App Store is also where you download updates to apps. The icon will even display a notification when you have apps that need updating. This notification shows up as a red circle with a number in the middle, the number indicating the number of apps that need updating. 

05
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The iPad's iTunes Store

While the App Store is the place for downloading games and applications for your iPad, iTunes is where you go for music and video. Like iTunes for the PC, you can shop for feature-length movies, TV shows (either by the episode or an entire season), music, podcasts, and audiobooks.

But what if you already have music, movies or TV shows downloaded in iTunes on your PC? If you've already started your movie or music collection on your PC, you can sync your iPad with iTunes on your PC and transfer the music and videos to your iPad. And as a neat alternative, there are several music streaming apps you can download, such as Pandora, which lets you create your own custom radio station.  And these apps stream music without taking up any precious storage space. That's a great option for those not planning to use the iPad much out of the home.

Did you know: There are a number of great apps like Netflix that allow you to watch movies and TV shows on your iPad for a subscription, and even one very good app with a sizable collection of great movies that can be used for free. Check out the best movie and video streaming iPad apps.

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How to Find the iPad Web Browser

We've covered the App Store and the iTunes store, but the greatest source of content for your iPad doesn't exist in a store. It's in the web browser. The iPad uses the Safari browser, which is a fully functional browser that allows you to view web pages, create new tabs in order to keep multiple pages open at the same time, save your favorite places as a bookmark and just about everything you would expect from a web browser.

The iPad really shines when browsing the web. The dimensions of the iPad are just about perfect for most web pages, and if you do hit a page where the text seems a little small in portrait view, you can just turn the iPad on its side and the screen will rotate to landscape view.

How to Save a Website to Your Home Screen

The menu on the Safari browser is kept intentionally simple. Here are the buttons and controls from left to right:

  • The back button for going to the last web page viewed.
  • The forward button for returning to the current web page.
  • A bookmark button for saving your favorite websites and getting back to them quickly.
  • The search/address bar.  You can use this to search the web using Google or type in a full web address (URL) to go directly to a website.  
  • The Share Button for sending a link to a friend, printing a page or creating a shortcut to the web page on your iPad's home screen.
  • The Plus (+) button opens a new tab so you can open multiple websites at once.  
  • The last button looks like two squares on top of each other.  This button allows you to see the tabs you have open.  You can also turn on Private Browsing mode by tapping the "Private" link at the top or open new tabs with the Plus button.
07
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How to Play Music on the iPad

We've covered how to purchase music, but how do you listen to it? The music app is where you go to listen to your music collection, even if you are using home sharing to stream music from your PC or laptop, as we discussed previously in this guide.

The music app will continue playing even when you close it, so you can listen to music while you use the iPad's web browser or play your favorite game. Once you are done listening, simply go back into the music app and stop the playback by touching the pause button at the top of the screen.

There are also "hidden" music controls on the iPad. If you swipe up from the very bottom edge of the iPad's screen, you will reveal a control panel that includes buttons for controlling your music.  This is a great way to pause music or skip a song without hunting down the Music app.   These controls will also work with apps like Pandora.  You can also perform tasks like turning on Bluetooth or adjusting the iPad's brightness.  ​Find out more about the iPad's Control Panel.

Did you know?: The music app will also work with iTunes Match, allowing you to listen to your entire music collection from the Internet. Find out more about iTunes Match

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How to Watch Movies and Play Video on the iPad

Who needs a TV in every room when you have an iPad? The iPad is a great way to watch movies and TV shows while you are out of town on vacation or on a business trip, but it's just as good for taking that movie into that cozy little nook that doesn't have a TV connection.

The easiest way to watch movies on the iPad is to use a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu Plus. These apps work great on the iPad, and they let you stream a wide collection of movies or TV shows. And while Netflix and Hulu Plus are widely known, Crackle may be the real gem. It's a free service that has a nice collection of movies. Find more great apps for streaming movies and TV shows.

If you have a cable subscription, you may be able to user your iPad as an extra TV. Many cable networks from AT&T U-verse to DirectTV to Verizon FIOS have apps for cable subscribers, and while you can't get every channel on these apps, it does open the door to move viewing options. Most of the premium channels like HBO and Showtime also have apps, so if it is movies you are after, these are great options. A list of Cable and Broadcast TV apps for the iPad.

You can also watch movies you've purchased from iTunes. The Videos app allows you to stream movies from the cloud or download them to your device, which is great for loading up your iPad before a vacation where you may or may not have access to the Internet.

And what about live TV? There are a number of ways you can watch live television on the iPad, from "slinging" your cable to the iPad via Slingbox, or you can go with EyeTV, which uses an antenna to receive TV signals. ​Find out more ways to watch live TV on your iPad

Did you know?: You can play back movies and TV shows on your HDTV by connecting your iPad to it either through a special cable or through Wi-Fi via Apple TV. Find out more about connecting your iPad to your TV.

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What's Next?

woman-cafe-ipad.jpg
Getty Images / Tara Moore

Excited to learn more about the iPad? This guided tour has taken you through the major features of the iPad, including how to browse the web, buy and play music and watch TV shows. But there is much more you can do with the iPad.

If you are interested in learning more about the basics, you can check out iPad 101: A New User's Guide to the iPad. This guide will go through basic navigation, how to find and install apps, how to move them around and create folders and even how to delete them.

Get started with iPad 101

Want to personalize your iPad? You can check out ideas for customizing the iPad ​or simply read about how you can set a unique background for the iPad.

But what about those apps? Which ones are the best? Which ones are must-have? Read more about 15 Must-Have (and Free!) iPad apps.

Do you love games? Check out some of the best free games for the iPad, or take a look at the complete guide to the best iPad games.

Want ideas for different ways to use the iPad and get the most out of the experience? Start with our guide to iPad tips, and if that isn't enough, read about some of the best uses for the iPad.