The Best iPhone Gestures You Might Not Know About

iPhone shortcuts for your iPhone 8 and earlier

A person holding an iPhone.

Jan VaĊĦek/Pixabay

The iPhone's touch screen gives you a wealth of options for interacting with apps and communicating with people. But not all of its capabilities are obvious. Other than just tapping on icons on links, iOS contains more subtle capabilities that you can unlock with swipes and different kinds of taps.

Here are some useful iPhone gestures that you may not have known about.

These tips apply to iPhones 8 and earlier.

Fix Your Mistakes in Calculator

Calculator is an especially handy iPhone app if you need to figure out a tip at a restaurant or run some numbers quickly. And while the keys are reasonably large, mistakes happen. This gesture will save some time by letting you erase wrong entries individually instead of clearing the entire number.

Correcting a wrong number in Calculator.

Once you notice you've made a keying mistake, you don't have to tap the C button and start over. With this gesture, you can swipe left or right in the entry field to delete the last number you entered. And it works multiple times. If the error is buried a few numbers back, you can keep swiping until it's gone.

Navigate in Safari

Safari has arrows you can tap to go to previous pages while you're browsing. But you can also do this a little quicker and more organically by swiping from the edges of the screen. Swipe right to go back and left to go forward.

Close Tabs in Safari

Between hitting links in emails, opening new windows while browsing, and just plain multitasking, you probably have way more tabs open in Safari than you realize. You can take a look at all of them by tapping the icon in the lower right corner of the window.

From here, you can tap the X in the upper-left of each window to close them one at a time. You can also swipe each tab to the left to close it even more easily. But if you have dozens of windows open and want to close them all at once, here's how.

How to close all tabs at once in Safari.
  1. Tap the Tabs icon in the lower-right corner of the Safari page. This will show everything that's open so that you can make sure you aren't closing something you might still need.

  2. Tap and hold on "Done."

  3. Tap "Close All Tabs."

You can also tap and hold on the Tabs icon from any webpage to get the "Close All Tabs" option. This is handy if you don't want to review the open tabs before you close them.

Open Recently Closed Tabs in Safari

While we're in Safari, here's another handy iPhone gesture. If you just cleared out all of your Safari tabs and then realized that you were still using one or more of them, a quick way exists to get them back.

Finding the recently closed tabs in Safari for iOS.
  1. Tap the Tabs icon in the lower-right corner of the Safari page.

  2. Tap and hold on the plus (+) icon at the bottom of the screen.

  3. A list of the last tabs you closed will appear. Tap on the one you want to reopen.

If you want to bring back multiple pages, repeat these steps until you've recovered all of them.

Check Time Stamps in Messages

Checking time stamps in Messages on iOS.

If you ever wonder when you sent or received a text in the iPhone's Messages app, you can check it with a simple swipe.

If you place a finger on a Messages conversation and drag it to the left, the time stamps will appear along the right side of the screen. This will tell you when each message arrived to your phone in case you want to know how long you've been waiting for a reply or exactly when a particular, past exchange happened.

Selecting Multiple Photos

Keeping your Camera Roll tidy is important to both maintaining organization and freeing up space on your iPhone. You might also want to share a bunch of images quickly. And that's where this gesture comes in handy. It lets you select a bunch of photos quickly without having to tap each one individually.

This tip only lets you select photos that are next to each other.

  1. Open your Photos app and tap the folder you want to open.

  2. Tap "Select" in the upper-right corner.

  3. Drag your finger across the photos you want to select. They'll get blue check marks.

  4. If you have several rows' worth of photos to manage, you can drag down at the end of the row to highlight the entire next row.

    Selecting multiple images in Photos on iPhone.
  5. Once you've selected a series of images, you can tap individual ones to deselect them if needed.

Different Ways to Zoom

Sometimes it helps to get a closer look at things, even if you aren't typically hard of seeing. The iPhone has several gestures to help you read fine print, make videos bigger, or get a closer look at part of a photo.

The most simple one is "pinch to zoom." You do this by placing two fingers on your touch screen and then drawing them apart. This works on photos, webpages, and embedded videos.

But the iPhone also has a more powerful and versatile zoom option. Here's how to use it.

  1. Open Settings and tap General.

  2. Tap Accessibility.

  3. Tap Zoom and tap the switch to turn it on.

    Turning on Zoom in iPhone Settings.

To turn Zoom on, you'll need to double-tap the screen with three fingers. From there, you can drag across the screen, also with three fingers to move around the screen. And if you double-tap with three fingers and swipe up or down (without lifting your fingers from the screen), you can zoom in or out, respectively.

By default, Zoom affects the entire screen. But you can also make it more focused by changing an option on the Zoom screen in Settings.

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom to get to the Zoom page.

  2. Tap "Zoom Region."

  3. "Full Screen Zoom" is selected by default. Tap "Window Zoom" to change it.

    Window Zoom on iPhone.

With Window Zoom on, double-tapping with three fingers to turn on Zoom will pull up a window that you can drag around the screen. You can use the same controls as with the Full Screen setting to navigate and adjust the magnification amount. You don't have to make the control gestures in the window; they'll work anywhere on the screen.

Scroll to the Top

If you are reading a web page and need to get back to the top of the page, don't waste time swiping and swiping. Just tap the top of the screen right in the middle. It'll get you right back to the top in a jiffy. This works in a lot of other apps to (but of course, not every app).