Use a Swipe Gesture to Go Back in Many iOS Apps

Nov 27, 2013 - 4 Comments

Swipe to go back with a gesture in iOS apps

Modern versions of iOS introduced a new gesture-based method of navigating back to prior pages, screens, and panels throughout many apps on the iPhone. Essentially, this gesture can be used to replace the “Back” button, and though not all apps support the swipe-to-go-back gesture yet, plenty of Apple defaults do. For now, you can definitely use the trick for going backwards in Safari to a prior web page, back in Settings panels, App Store screens, within the iTunes Store, and a handful of others too. It’s a simple swipe back gesture similar to what would be used to navigate around the home screen panels of icons, but it does require a tad more precision and thus may take a little bit of practice to get right:

  • Navigate within a compatible app so that a “Back” choice is optional, be it to a new web page or deeper in a Settings screen panel
  • Swipe to the right from the edge of the display to go back, try to make the swipe as horizontal as possible

The right-swipe gesture must be initiated from the outside edge of the screen, or almost perfectly horizontal, to trigger the back movement, otherwise you’ll likely scroll slightly down or up instead. Either of those tricks works, but the outside edge method may be easiest for most users.

Go back with a right swipe gesture

It does take a bit of practice, but usually after a few tries you’ll perfect it rather quickly, even if it’s not nearly as forgiving as some of the other iOS gestures, like the one to quit an app. It’s likely more strict to avoid accidentally triggering, but it does give it a slight learning curve to master.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find the back-swipe gesture can make it easier to go back a page/panel when using a smaller screened device with a single hand, like an iPhone or iPod touch, since it can be activated with just a move of the thumb. It’s still handy on the iPad too, but be sure to use a single finger or touch point, otherwise you may wind up unintentionally triggering the app switcher or one of the other iPad specific gestures instead.

Swipe navigation and touch based gestures aren’t particularly new, they’ve been on the iPad for a while, and for Mac users with trackpads or a Magic Mouse, within OS X too for navigating within Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Mission Control, skipping between Spaces, moving about the Finder, and, pretty much identical to this trick for iOS yet for OS X, go back within a lot of Mac apps too.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Vlad says:

    The question was asked before by Memo Soria above.
    Does anybody know if the back swipe can be changed from the left edge of the iphone to the right edge?
    This is a very useful function but it seems to be geared only for left handed people. If you are holding your phone with your right hand the edge is too far for one hand and you need to use a second hand to perform the swipe or switch hands?

  2. Memo Soria says:

    Do you know if there is a soluction to change from Right Swipe to Left Swipe the back function?… thanks in advance.

  3. André says:

    Ooooh ! Swype right to go back. What a strange idea. Exactly the opposite of the natural way of working ! I’m afraid I will never be able to use this gesture.

  4. Emil says:

    The swipe is not strict – you just have to swipe from the edge of the phone – it always works for me.

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