Master the Multitouch Gestures for iPad

Jan 22, 2013 - 9 Comments

iPad Multitask Gestures

Multitouch gestures are one of the best hidden features of iOS on the iPad, but a surprising amount of iPad users don’t seem to use them. Perhaps it’s because you just don’t know about them, or maybe you haven’t spent the time to learn what they are and why they’re useful. Take a few minutes to learn the gestures and you’ll be doing more with the iPad or iPad mini in no time, because they offer are the fastest way to close apps, get to the home screen, and switch between apps running in iOS.

Enable the Multitouch (Multitasking) Gestures for iPad

First things first, let’s be sure the multitouch gestures are enabled. These are usually turned on by default in the newer versions of iOS but it’s easy to check:

  • Open Settings app and tap on “General”
  • Scroll down to find “Multitasking Gestures” and flip to ON

Enable multitasking gestures on iPad

With the multitasking gestures turned on, you can now use four or five fingers to perform various tasks that will greatly improve the iPads usability.

Here are the four multitouch gestures you should be using right now:

The red arrows indicate finger position and movements, you can use either four or five fingers in any example.

1: Close Apps and Return to the Home Screen with a Pinch

Use a four or five fingered pinching motion to close the current app, sending you back to the iPad home screen. This one is so useful it will likely be the most frequently used of the group.

Close app gesture on iPad

2: Reveal the Multitasking App Bar with a Swipe Up

Use a four or five fingered vertical swipe up to open the multitasking app bar. This is the same multitasking bar you see when double-clicking the Home button, and it lets you quickly switch between apps, access brightness controls, play music, and more. Repeating the swipe down closes the multitask bar again.

Swipe up to see the multitask bar on iPad

3: Switch Apps by Swiping Horizontally

Using a four or five fingered horizontal swipe will cycle through open apps. Try swiping from right to left, since most likely you’re in the ‘last’ app. If you’re on the ‘end’ of the app list (as determined by the multitask bar), you will see a stretch animation and the currently active window will bounce back into place, rather than switching apps.

Swipe gesture to switch apps on iPad

4: Quit Multiple Apps at Once with Four Fingered Taps

If you need to close multiple apps at the same time, use the upward swipe to reveal the multitask bar, then tap and hold on any icon until they start to jiggle and reveal the red (-) close button. Now use multiple fingers to tap the red close buttons simultaneously to quit multiple apps at the same time. This isn’t an ‘official’ multitouch or multitask gesture, but it’s one we have discovered and it works so well that it’s worth including in this list. Also, this is the only iOS gesture listed here that works on the iPhone and iPod touch too.

Quit multiple apps at the same time

I don’t have the gestures on my iPad, why not?
If the Multitasking Gestures are not an option for you in Settings, it’s probably because you’re on an older iPad or older version of iOS. iPads running iOS versions before 5.0 will not have the multitouch gesture available to them.

Got a Mac too? Don’t miss this list of multitouch gestures available in OS X for a variety of apps, they’ll work with any Mac that has a trackpad or Magic Mouse.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Myst says:

    I love the multi-gestures. I was shown the first one to close an app to home screen and discovered other ones just using the ipad. Thanks for showing how to actually close the apps. When I scroll to the side I was getting all my programs and it was driving me nuts.

  2. Guy says:

    Also note the 3 finger double tap to zoom in or out . This used to drive me mad because I kept expanding the view with no idea how I did it or how to get out of it.

  3. Dan says:

    Why the touch-based device so few gestures compared to the macbook still baffles me.

  4. Edwald says:

    Many, maybe most, users who bought an iPad #1 when they came out, may be unaware of these features. How could we be? There is no manual, there is no alert that comes out when Apple introduces features – not all of us have time to track nerdsites like this one to learn how to operate these fine, expensive devices.

  5. Tom says:

    Using them all the time. Comes naturally when using OSX with trackpad. I just wish there would be more OSX gestures available on the iPad (i.e. two finger swipe to flick through webpages)

    • That two finger swipe is being used for another thing in iOS. I discovered a while ago that it’s used to scroll inside containers (divs with scrollbars, iframes, etc.). That way you can scroll without moving the whole website.

  6. Steve says:

    I also teach Multitasking Gestures in my seminars. They are a great time saver! Its funny when sees me use them and they are like “How did you do that” and I forget that most people are not aware of this cool feature. Unfortunately not available on the iPhone.

  7. parakeet says:

    I use these constantly, most also coincidence with OS X too.

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