How to Multitask on an iPad

Use the iPad's split-screen mode to view two apps on your iPad at the same time

A person operating an iPad

 Pexels / Public Domain

The iPad moves into the enterprise level of productivity with the ability to multitask. A feature found in both the iPad and the iPad Pro models, multitasking on the iPad isn't limited to just switching between apps. The iPad is also capable of split-screen multitasking, which includes both docking an app on one side of the screen and splitting the screen in two. Even better, the iPad is capable of a picture-in-a-picture mode where streaming video can run in a window on top of another app.

How to Get Started Multitasking on the iPad

A screenshot of the iPad task manager

While there are some very robust multitasking features available such as the iPad's split-screen mode, we shouldn't overlook the power of quickly switching between apps. The advantage of fast app switching is that each app gets the full screen.

The easiest way to toggle between two apps is to use the iPad's dock. You can open the dock at any time by touching a fingertip to the very bottom edge of the screen and then sliding the finger toward the top of the screen, careful not to lift the finger from the screen until the dock and task manager screen is revealed. The three app icons on the far right of the dock will generally be the last three active apps, allowing you to quickly switch between them. You will also see small windows of your most recently used apps.

However, an even faster way of switching between apps is to use the multitasking gestures. These gestures use the tips of four fingers on the screen at the same time. You can quickly switch from one app to the next by sliding these four fingers from left-to-right to switch to the previous app or from right-to-left to switch to the formerly active app.

You can toggle multitasking-gestures on or off through settings:

  1. Launch the Settings app
  2. Choose General from the left-side menu
  3. Select Multitasking & Dock
  4. Tap the on-off button next to Gestures

How to Use the iPad Split-Screen Mode

A screenshot of the iPad split view mode

Fast app switching is supported by all iPad models, but you will need at least an iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 or iPad Pro to perform slide-over, split-view or picture-in-a-picture multitasking. The easiest way to start multitasking is with the dock, but you can also use the task manager screen.

  • With the first app open, you can reveal the iPad's dock by sliding up from the bottom edge of the screen. You only need to slide your finger about an inch to reveal the dock.
  • The dock contains all apps you have docked on it and the three most recently used apps. You can drag any of these apps onto the screen by holding your finger on the app icon on the dock for a moment until it expands slightly, and without lifting your finger from the display, drag it to the middle of the screen.
  • If you swipe too far when opening the dock, you will open the task manager. You can still multitask from this screen. Instead of dragging the app icon to the middle of the screen, drag it to the app window and hold your finger on the screen until that app window expands to full-screen mode.
  • Apps that support multitasking will be displayed with a horizontal rectangle around them. If the app icon has a square window around it, it does not support the iPad's multitasking and will launch in full-screen mode.
  • Is the app you want to use not on the dock? You can close out of your current app by clicking the Home Button and launch the app you want to use. You can then repeat these directions and the app you originally had open will appear on the right side of the dock as one of the recently opened apps. If you frequently use multitasking or split-screen view with a specific app, try pinning that app to the dock for quicker access.
  • When you drop the new app onto the screen, it will appear as a floating window on one side of the iPad. You can drag this window to the left side or the right side using your finger. This makes it easy to position it so that you can use the full-screen app. 

 

How to Split the iPad Screen in Half and Run Apps on Each Side

A screenshot of the iPad split screen mode

Would you rather completely divide the screen? Having an app in a floating window above a full-screen app can be great for certain tasks, but it can also (literally) get in the way at other times. You can solve this by attaching the floating app on either side of the full-screen app or even dividing the screen into two apps.

  • You can attach an app to the side of the iPad by "grabbing" the app window, which is accomplished by holding your finger down on the small horizontal line at the very top of the app window, and dragging it up towards the top edge of the iPad. This works in both landscape and portrait mode for the iPad, but it works best in landscape because the original app will have more elbow room.
  • You can also divide the iPad's screen in half. You will need to have two apps on the screen at the same time with the second app 'attached' to one side of the screen as in the previous step. In the space between the two apps is a small vertical line about the size of a fingertip. If you tap and hold this line, you can drag this divider toward the middle of the screen to enter split-screen mode.
  • You can stop multitasking by dragging the app off one side of the iPad's screen. If the app isn't attached, which means it is still in windowed mode, you can tap and hold the small horizontal line at the very top of the window and drag it either left or right until it disappears from the screen. If the app is attached to the screen, you can use the middle divider to do the same thing: drag it towards the nearest side of the display until it disappears.

    The iPad's split-screen mode and picture-in-a-picture features are only supported by the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 or newer iPads including the iPad Pro models.

    How to Use Picture-in-a-Picture Mode on the iPad

    ipad multitasking
    Picture in Picture mode allows you to operate the iPad as normal -- launching apps and closing them -- all while watching a video.  Screenshot

    The iPad is also capable of picture-in-a-picture multitasking. The app you are streaming video from will need to support picture-in-a-picture. If it does, picture-in-a-picture will be activated any time you are watching video in that app and close out of the app using the Home Button

    The video will continue playing in a small window on the screen, and you can use your iPad as normal while it is playing. You can even expand the video by using the pinch-to-zoom gesture, which is accomplished by putting your thumb and index finger together on the video and then moving the thumb and finger apart while keeping them on the iPad's display. The video window can expand to about double its original size.

    You can also use your finger to drag the video to any corner of the screen. Be careful not to drag it off the side of the screen. The video will continue playing, but it will be hidden with a small drawer-like window remaining on the screen. This small portion of the window gives you a handle to drag it back onto the screen using your finger.

    If you tap the video, you will see three buttons: a button for taking the video back to full screen mode, a play/pause button and a button to stop the video, which closes the window.