Multitasking is the core component of usability for me in iOS. It lets you work with multiple apps open beside of and/or on top of each other at once. It is essential for inter-app drag-and-drop functionality, and really simplifies things like taking notes from a book or website. Let’s take a fly-over.

To get started go to: Settings > General > Multitasking & Dock

And switch the following settings to on:

  • Allow Multiple Apps
  • Picture in Picture
  • Gestures
  • Show Suggested and Recent Apps

Once you’ve got those four settings powered up, you can have up to 4 windows open in a single workspace.

There are three multitasking window arrangements:

You can have up to 4 apps open in a single workspace.

  1. Slide Over
  2. Split View
  3. Picture in a Picture (PiP)

Let’s look at these a little closer.

Slide Over

Slide over lets you lay one app on top of another, a lot like putting a post-it note on your computer monitor. To use Slide Over, open the app you want full screen first. Then slide up gently from the bottom of your iPad to show the dock, and drag the icon of the app you want on top (the sticky note) onto the display. When you let go, it will sit on top of the other app. Using the bar at the top of the sticky note app, you can drag it to the left or right of the display.

It is also possible to use Slide Over with apps not in your dock. First, from the home screen, tap and hold down on the app you want on top’s icon, then, with your other hand, tap the icon of the app you want on bottom. Once it’s open, use your first hand (still holding down) to drag the app onto the other.

(If that seems tedious, there is an easier way: first open the app you want on the bottom from the dock or home screen. Then, hit ⌘ + space to bring up the search window and begin typing the apps name. When it appears, simply tap and hold on it then begin dragging it to the right. The search window will disappear and you’ll be able to drop the app right on top of the other app you just opened.)

This mode is great for having a notepad or calculator on top of other apps. It’s also really easy to show and hide the top app: just slide it to the right side of the screen and then you can swipe it on and off the right edge (it will come back into Slide Over if you swipe left from the far right edge of the display). I also use this a lot for Apple Music/SoundCloud to control music while I’m working throughout the day.

There are a couple of apps that are not configured for multitasking and will not resize if dropped on top of another app (especially Gmail, Google Inbox).

Split View

Once you have an app in Slide Over, it’s easy to go into Split View. Just use the handle at the top of the window and drag it to the top edge of the display. You’ll see the windows of the two open apps split the screen, and you can drop the window you’re splitting onto the left or the right side. Use the handle between the apps to change split proportions.

This is the one that I use the most. I love having a book open on one side and a notebook open on the other.

If you’re trying to get two Safari windows open side by side, just press ⌘ + n from within the app.

Picture in a Picture

Most video players in iOS (Safari, Netflix, Amazon, Xfinity Stream, etc) will allow you to swipe up on a video once it’s playing and keep it playing in a small window on top of other windows. You can drag the small window around the screen and drop it in the most convenient area while you work.


You’ve probably gotten the picture by now that multitasking is easier to use with apps you keep in your dock. Being that I’m not huge on cluttered page after page (after page!) of apps, I organize mine in folders by color, then put the five color folders in the dock (show with ⌘ + option + D). My home screen is empty and everything is immediately accessible for multitasking.

It’s also worth noting that long horizontal bar at the bottom center of the screen (under the dock—does it even have a name?!?). You can use it to easily drag between work spaces with a single finger.

Putting It All Together

Everything is a gentle swipe away.

So once you’re in Split View, you can open another app in Slide Over on top of it. Say you’ve got Notes and iBooks open in Split View, you can drop the Calculator icon on top of the handle between the two apps and it will appear on top in Slide Over view. Then you can crunch your numbers and swipe it back off to the right. If you were to open a video you could place it over the split screens, then bring the calculator back again as you need it, all from the comfort of a single workspace.

You can, of course, create several workspaces each with varying Split Views. Use four fingers together on your screen to swipe left/right between workspaces. I often keep Files open with the Photos app on top of it in Slide Over on one work space (so I can drop photos into my git repositories), and then my Markdown editor (MWeb) split in another workspace with my Git client or a terminal, and everything is a gentle swipe away.


About Will Puckett

A 20 year veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area, Will Puckett is an author, artist, and guide. He enjoys styling CSS, and helping friends move furniture. When not parked in front of his iPad, he rescues, restores and rides bikes. Will has been lucky enough to take long rides on both coasts of the United States, and encourages people to explore the world by bike. He tries to lay in his hammock as much as possible reading and planning his future container home, but does enjoy periodically escaping to skate. And of course ice cream.