How to Use Multiple Apps at Once on an iPad

iOS 11‘s new multitasking features make the iPad even more powerful. The ability to access the dock in any app allows you to more easily launch apps in split-screen mode. iOS 11 also adds a new drag-and-drop feature that allows you to move content between apps.

Previously, iOS 9 added a long-awaited feature to the iPad: the ability to have multiple apps on-screen at the same time. iPads support three different types of multitasking: Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture. The other app-switching gestures on an iPad still work, too.

The Dock

Starting with iOS 11, you can now view the dock in any app—not just your home screen. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to view your dock, with your favorite apps at the left and apps you’ve recently used at the right. To add more apps to your dock, drag and drop them to the dock at the bottom of your home screen. Tap an app on the dock to launch it.

The dock also makes it easy to open apps in Split View or Slide Over mode. With the dock visible, long-press an app icon on the dock and then drag and drop it to the left or right side of your iPad’s display.

To open the app in Split View, drag its icon to the edge of your screen until an open space appears next to your running app, and then drop it. To open the app in Slide Over mode, position the app’s icon a bit further from the screen edge. Drop the app’s icon when you see it transform into a rounded rectangle.

If you continue swiping up on your iPad’s screen after the dock is visible—in other words, swipe up from the bottom of the screen but keep going, even after you see the dock—you’ll see the multitasking view, which shows you thumbnails of recently used apps. Tap an app to switch to it.

iPads That Support This: iPad Pro (any), iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad (5th generation), iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Mini 4

Drag and Drop

Drag and drop isn’t just a feature for opening apps alongside other apps. Starting in iOS 11, drag-and-drop is now a way to move data from one app to another, just as it is on a Mac or Windows PC.

To use drag and drop, long-press something you want to drag and drop in an app. While holding your finger down, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to view the dock. Hover your finger over the icon of the app you want to drag and drop the content to. Your iPad will switch to the app, and you can drop the content whenever you like.

You can also drag and drop content between apps running side by side—just drag and drop from one app to the other.

Apps will have to be updated to support this feature, but you should be able to drag and drop images, text, links, files, and other types of contents between various apps.

iPads That Support This: iPad Pro (any), iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad (5th generation), iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Mini 4

Slide Over

Slide Over allows you to quickly bring up an app in “compact mode” without leaving your current full-screen app. You can’t actually interact with both apps at once, but this is a quick way to bring up a note-taking or chat app, for example, and quickly interact with it without losing your place in the original app.

To use this feature, swipe in from the right side of the iPad’s display. A small side pane will appear. This can be done in either portrait mode or landscape mode.

Tap an app in the list to load it in the side pane—it will look a bit like running an iPhone app on the side of your iPad’s display. You can then switch between “slide over” apps by swiping down from the top of the app in the sidebar.

Apps will only appear here if they support this, but developers should quickly update apps to support this feature.

iPads That Support This: iPad Pro (any), iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad (5th generation), iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Mini 4

Split View

If you have a more powerful iPad, you can open a slide over app in landscape mode and you’ll see a handle in between the two apps.

Pull the handle toward the center of the screen to activate split view. You’ll then see two apps on screen at the same time—one app on either half of your screen—and you can interact with both at once.

iPads That Support This: iPad Pro (any), iPad Air 2, iPad (5th generation), and iPad Mini 4

Picture in Picture

Picture in Picture mode is designed for anything video-related—either video calls or just watching videos. This takes a video and converts it to a small thumbnail that can sit over the other apps you’re using, following you from app to app as you use your iPad.

Simply tap the Home button—for example, while on a FaceTime video call or while watching a video in your iPad’s standard  video player—and the video will shrink to a small thumbnail, staying with you as you do other things on the iPad. You can also tap a new “picture in picture” icon that appears in such video players to activate this mode. Developers will have to add support for this feature to their video apps.

You can drag the picture-in-picture video around to position it at different places on your iPad’s display, even moving it slightly off-screen. Tap the video to show buttons that allow you to pause the video, close it, or go back to the app the video is from.

iPads That Support This: iPad Pro (any), iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad (5th generation), iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and iPad Mini 4

The On-Screen Keyboard as a Trackpad

It’s not technically a multitasking feature, but the iPad’s on-screen keyboard received some important updates that will help you actually use it more productively. The most important—and not immediately obvious—new feature is the ability to use the on-screen keyboard as a trackpad.

Simply touch the on-screen keyboard with two fingers and move them around. This will move the text cursor around inside text fields, making it easier to edit text without tapping-and-holding inside the text field and precisely positioning the cursor. The keys on the keyboard will vanish as you do this, emphasizing you’re using a trackpad.

Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.