Master multi-tasking on your iPad

Apple offers valuable multi-tasking tools to help you get productive on your iPad. Learn what are they, how they work, and how to use them.

Apple, iPad, iPad Pro, iOS, iOS 11, Apple Pencil, Multitasking, How to
Apple

Apple offers valuable multi-tasking tools to help you get productive on your iPad. What are they, how do they work, and how do you use them?

The what and the why of iPad productivity tools

Slide over, split screen, picture in picture, improvements to the Dock, and a variety of gesture enhancements (along with support for drag & drop) make it possible to use an iPad much more effectively when working between apps.

Apple’s Files app also makes it possible to open files in any compatible app while you are working on them, which can be valuable if you need to work on an item in different apps. For even more productivity on the tablet, you should also begin using tags.

Apple’s desiderata in this is clear: Beyond recently added annotation features, the company eventually wants you to be able to do almost everything on an iPad that you can do on a Mac. (That’s particularly revealing when you consider Apple’s future iOS/macOS plans.)

In this report, I’ll explain Slide Over, split screen, picture in picture, improvements to the Dock, and a variety of gesture enhancements.

How to use Slide Over

If you are in an app and want to be able to glance at something in another also active app, follow these steps to open the second app in a floating window above the one you are presently in:

  • When in the app, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get to the Dock.
  • Find the app you want to open in the dock
  • Long-press its icon and drag it up. As you do, the app will become visible in a long, narrow window that you can move to your preferred position on your display.

Close the app by dragging to the right of the screen. You can move the app around your display by dragging the dark "handle" bar at the top of the Slide Over window.

Reach Slide Over from the Home screen

You can also get this to work from your Home screen. Long-press and gently move the icon of the app you want to open in Slide Over view until it begins to float (not wiggle), then (while keeping your finger on the app icon) tap another app icon to launch that app. You should then see both apps in the window.

What is Split Screen, and how do I use it?

You can see two apps beside each other, like staring at two opposing pages in a book.

To get to Split Screen mode, just open the second app in Slide Over mode, touch the handle bar at the top of the Slide Over window, and drag down.

You should see both apps open in opposite windows — you can make the right-side window bigger by dragging the handle at the intersection between the two apps.

You can also return the second app to Slide Over mode by dragging and gesturing down with the handle at the top while in Split Screen, or get rid of the second app altogether by dragging the intersection handle to the right.

Good to know gestures

There are several useful gesture controls you should get familiar with:

  • Place four fingers on a display and swipe left of right to fly through active apps.
  • Pinch four fingers together to close the app you are in and return to the Home screen.
  • (In Safari, pinch five fingers together to see all your active Safari windows.)

How to use the Dock

You get to the dock by sliding up slightly from the bottom of the screen. You can include up to 13 apps there.

The three app icons to the right of the Dock generally represent the apps you’ve used most recently, though you may sometimes see an app representing something you are currently doing on another device (such as a Safari page of email) in Continuity mode. (You control this in Settings>General>Multitasking & Dock.)

If you gather your apps into folders — such as photography apps, productivity, games — then you can place up to six folders in the dock instead of apps to make it easier to find the apps you use. You can add apps to the Dock by long-pressing an app icon on the Home page and dragging it into position once it begins to wriggle.

Understand and use Drag & Drop

You can drag & drop items between apps. To do so, open both apps in Split View or Slide Over. You then touch and hold the item you wish to move until you see it "lift" up, surrounded by a white box effect.

To move multiple items, select the first one and drag it slightly and then tap additional items while continuing to hold the first — you should see a red badge appear, letting you know how many items you have selected.

When you’ve selected all the item(s) you want to drag, you just drag and drop them on the other app. This is an excellent way to open items held in the Files app in different apps, for example.

The Task Manager screen

Slide your finger half way up the screen to find your Task Manager/Control Center screen. In this view, you’ll see your dock, as well as all your currently open apps (and Control Center controls).

Using Picture-in-Picture mode

When you watch a video in an app that supports Picture in Picture in iOS, you can choose to watch the clip in a small window that floats above your screen, which means you can continue working in other apps. When available, you just need to tap the PiP button to enter the mode — it looks like a large white screen with an arrow that points to a smaller, dark screen. You can increase or reduce the size of a PiP window by pinching or spreading two fingers on the window.

A note about support

To use these multitasking tools, you must be running iOS 11 or later on a relatively current iPad or iPad Pro. The iPad mini 2 and 3 and iPad Air only get a very limited Slide Over implementation.

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