The Swipes You Need to Know to Multitask in iOS 11 on an iPad

With iOS 11, the iPhone and iPad interfaces continue to diverge, which makes sense, since the iPad is a bit more than an overgrown iPhone. Particularly when you pair an iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, you can now get real work done on an iPad more fluidly than ever before. The “hard” part is learning how you switch between apps, display a second app in a Slide Over panel that floats on top of another app, or make two apps share the screen in Split View.

Not all apps support Split Screen and Slide Over, and not all iPads support all of these functions, but give them a try!

Switch Between Apps

Moving between apps is a key aspect of using the iPad. Apple has provided multiple ways to switch so you can pick those that best fit your style:

  • Press the Home button, and on the Home screen, tap another app’s icon. If you have a connected keyboard you can press Command-H to get to the Home screen.
  • While on the Home screen, you can also swipe down to show Siri app suggestions and search for another app.
  • While in an app, swipe right or left with four fingers.
  • While in an app, make a short swipe up from below the bottom of the screen to reveal the new Dock, and then tap an icon on it. Note that the three rightmost icons are the most recently used apps (or sometimes an app you are currently using on another nearby device). If you have a keyboard you can press Command-option-D.
  • As above swipe up from below the bottom of the screen, but make it a long swipe up to reveal the new app switching screen, then tap an app thumbnail to switch to it. Swipe right to see less recently used apps. You can also activate this screen by double-clicking the Home button.
  • If you have a connected keyboard, press Command-Tab to bring up an app switcher. Release both keys quickly to switch to the previous app instantly, or keep Command down while you tap Tab repeatedly to move sequentially among the shown apps, letting up on Command to switch. While the app switcher is shown, you can also tap an icon in it. This is very much like using Command-Tab on a Mac or Alt-Tab on a Windows computer.
  • If you have a connected keyboard, press Command-Spacebar to bring up Siri Search.

Display an App in Slide Over

Say you’re having a sporadic conversation in Messages while browsing the Web in Safari. You don’t need to see both apps all the time, but you also don’t want to have to switch back and forth. With Slide Over, you can put Messages in a panel that floats over Safari and then hide and show it.

The easiest way to put an app in a Slide Over panel is to use the Dock, so this technique works if the app’s icon is already on the Dock. For instance, while you’re in Safari, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to display the Dock. Then touch and hold the Messages app’s icon until it dims slightly. Keeping your finger down, drag the icon over Safari until it becomes a vertical lozenge. Lift your finger, and Messages appears in Slide Over.

If the app you are dragging turns into a square instead of a rectangle, that means that it only supports being run in full screen mode.

If the app you want to put in Slide Over isn’t on your Dock, you can use a two-handed procedure to get it from another location and drop it onto another app. For instance, you can start dragging an app icon from any place where app icons appear, including the Home screen or Siri search screen. Once you’ve started dragging it, use your other hand to switch to the other app (perhaps via the Dock or pressing Command-Tab on a keyboard) and then drop it over the other app. Don’t worry if you find this approach confusing at first—it takes some time to become accustomed to two-handed usage.

Once an app is in Slide Over on the right side of the screen, you can swipe right on its left edge or using the grip on the top to hide it, or swipe left to move it to the other side of the screen. Once it’s hidden just swipe from off the edge of the screen to restore it. You can also swipe up on the small grip mark on top of the panel to switch to Split View, as long as the underlying app also supports running in Split View.

Put an App in Split View

This only works with the iPad Air 2 or later. Displaying two apps side-by-side in Split View is almost the same action as Slide Over. The only difference is that, instead of dropping the app lozenge on top of the current app, you drag it to the far left or right of the screen, and drop it once the screen shows a 90/10 split—after you drop, the split changes to 70/30.

Drag the handle between the apps to switch to a 50/50 split or a 30/70 split; if you drag the handle all the way to one side of the screen, the app that’s shrinking in size disappears entirely. One of the two apps in Split View will have a handle on its top as well, and dragging it down slightly converts that app into a Slide Over panel. (You can also drag a Slide Over panel’s handle down slightly to switch to Split View.)

Split Screen & Slide Over Combo

If you already have two apps in Split Screen mode, you can also add a Slide Over panel on top of them. Drag the app lozenge and drop it onto the split. If you’re too far to the right the right pane will turn grey, indicating that it will replace the right pane. Or if you’re too far left the left pane will turn grey, indicating that it will replace the left pane. But if you’re centered right on the split the window will float above.

Picture-In Picture

Some video apps allow you to watch a video in a small thumbnail while you do other things on your iPad. Just start playing a video in one of the supported apps and press the home button. The video will continue to play in a small window. This window can be dragged to any corner of the screen as needed, it can be dragged off the left or right edge of your screen temporarily, or it can be resized with a pinch gesture. Currently this works on the built in Movies app (for iTunes purchases and rentals), Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and others.