The launch of iPadOS in September 2019 included an upgraded Safari browser that supports many “desktop class” apps such as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. For people who use G Suite apps, this means you may now open Safari, sign in to your Google account, then access Mail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Keep (Figure A). Each of these apps except Forms and Keep also enables access to side panel apps, such as Tasks. For people with G Suite Business or Enterprise accounts, Cloud Search works in Safari as well.
G Suite URL and keyboard shortcuts work in Google’s apps in the browser on iPadOS, too. In Safari, type doc.new, sheet.new, slide.new, or form.new to create a new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Forms file, respectively. If you use an external keyboard, standard desktop shortcuts for the G Suite apps work (e.g., Command + K to create a link) with either Apple’s Smart Keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard paired with your iPad.
SEE: Cost comparison calculator: G Suite vs. Office 365 (TechRepublic Premium)
The presence of an installed G Suite app may change how the system attempts to open a new file as of October 2019. For example, try to create a new Google Doc in Safari from drive.google.com. If you have the Docs app installed, the system shows an error. If you don’t have the Docs app installed, the system creates a new Google Doc. This new file opens in a new Safari browser tab.
You need an internet connection to use these G Suite apps in Safari on iPadOS. Unlike G Suite apps in desktop versions of Chrome, there’s no support for offline access to G Suite apps or files in Safari as of October 2019. If you lose your connection while editing a Google Doc, for example, a Trying To Connect message displays. So, if you want to work with your G Suite data offline, install the app (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.).
Not all G Suite apps work in Safari on iPadOS. When you access Jamboard in Safari, the boards display in View Only mode. To edit, you’ll need to use the Jamboard app. Hangouts Meet displays a Meet Doesn’t Work On Your Browser message along with mobile app store links. For both Jamboard and Hangouts Meet, install the apps to use them. The new Google Sites in Safari seems almost functional as of October 2019. However, several menu items display either as a missing-character box or an emoji character.
The browser-accessed version of G Suite apps offers more features than the mobile apps. The full desktop menu of options displays and is available when you work within Safari on a G Suite file in Docs, Sheets, and Slides. When you select and then long-press on a link in a Google Doc in Safari, you’ll see a longer list of available options than when you do a similar action within the Google Docs iOS app (Figure B). And while the Google Docs app on iPad lets you add images from Photos or the Camera, the browser version in Safari allows full access to images from Drive or the web, as well as photos or the camera.
Safari on iPadOS now delivers an experience that enables many web-based apps to work. In my testing, I was able to write an article in Google Docs and then enter it into TechRepublic’s content management system. Uploading images stored on Google Drive worked too since the Apple Files app recognizes Google Drive as a valid location.
With iPadOS, Apple gives us a browser that makes it possible to use many of the G Suite apps in Safari. If you want to work offline, you’ll still need to install the apps. Many people may prefer to work with G Suite apps in Safari, simply because the apps display the familiar G Suite Chrome browser desktop interface.
Have you used Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, or Slides in Safari on iPadOS? What worked well for you? Did anything not work as you expected? Let me know what your experience with G Suite—in Safari or installed apps—on iPad has been, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).