Multitasking like a Pro on iPad

Problem

Multitasking is essential to get the most out of iPadOS [^This arricle is written in the context of iPadOS 14.], especially if it is run on the larger pro models to achieve some productivity.

Unfortunately, the access to multitasking is quite limited. If you have a physical keyboard attached, the most efficient way to multitask is to Command-Space to open Spotlight. But if there’s no external keyboard attached to the iPad, the only way to open an app in “Split View” or “Slide Over” is to drag it from the dock into appropriate places. The issue is that there’re only so many slots on the dock: 15 on the iPad Pro 12.9, or 12 on all other models. What if I want to multitask with other apps? There’re two relatively obvious options with some drawbacks:

  • First go back to “Home Screen” and launch the app into fullscreen. Now the app is shown on the dock, assuming the “Show Suggested and Recent Apps in Dock” is turned on in “Settings”. Then we can drag it into multitasking like any other app on the dock. But this is way too convoluted to execute.
  • Put all apps in a folder and put the folder on the dock. But I am not a fan of app folders because it’s hard to find apps in them and the aesthetics is off my chart;

Basically it is almost impossible to efficiently fire up an arbitrary app into multitasking, without an external keyboard.

Solution

But this is not the full story today. There’s actually another way, a better and more efficient way. That is to assign “Spotlight” to “AssistiveTouch”, and multitask directly by searching and dragging apps from “Spotlight”. This gives us the same efficiency just like with a physical keyboard. The full steps to enable this are

  • Open “Settings”, and navigate to “Accessibility” – “Touch” – “AssistiveTouch”;
  • Turn on the “AssistiveTouch” toggle on the top;
  • Tap on “Single-Tap” under the “CUSTOM ACTIONS” heading;
  • Choose “Spotlight” under the “SYSTEM” heading as the action.

Now multitasking on iPadOS just gets a lot more efficient. I can simply tap on the virtual home button floating on the screen to invoke “Spotlight” and search for the app I want. Then I can drag the app icon out of the search box into the sides of the screen to put it into “Slide Over” or “Split View”.

Recap

It is well-known that dragging an app to the left/right on the screen puts it into “Slide Over”. But it is not obvious how to put floating apps into fullscreen. This can be done by dragging the top bar of the floating window to the top in the middle of the screen. The full list of gestures of a multitasking master is

  • Drag to Left Edge –> Split View on Left,
  • Drag to Right Edge –> Split View on Right,
  • Drag to Left –> Slide Over on Left,
  • Drag to Right –> Slide Over on Right,
  • Drag Middle Bar –> Resize Split View,
  • Drag Top Bar to Top Centre –> Fullscreen.

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