A first look Apple’s iPad OS multi-tasking improvements

I think you'll get much more done on your iPad thanks to these.

Apple, WWDC, iOS 13, iPad OS, How to, multitasking
Apple

I’ve spent a little time working with the new multitasking features you’ll find in the now available iPad OS beta, and thought some first impressions of these might be of some small interest to readers.

What did Apple do?

Apple made a huge deal around the improved multitasking features within iPad OS.

“iPad transforms how people work and express their creativity, and with iPadOS, we’re taking it even further by delivering exciting capabilities that take advantage of its large canvas and versatility,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering in a press release.

I think Apple is certainly heading in the right direction, and the improvements it has applied mean its tablet has become an even more effective computer replacement for an even wider number of tasks. Particularly with its external storage support.

Split View and Slide Over

You can now open 3(+) Safari windows

You can now open three completely different Safari windows – two in Split View and one in Slide Over. You do find some interesting differences between the behaviour of these when using three at once:

When you click a link in Safari you usually get the following:

  • Open in New Tab
  • Open in New Window
  • Download Linked File
  • Add to Reading List
  • Copy

Share.. (which takes that link to the Share menu).

ipados slide over Apple

I'll probably start using Slide Over more because of this. 

However, you cannot open links in new tabs in Safari in the Slide Over window, but can in both Safari instances when working in Split View. Instead, you’ll see the following options:

  • Open in Background
  • Open in New Window
  • Download Linked File
  • Add to Reading List
  • Copy
  • Share…

You will also see a pop-up preview of the linked web page – which effectively means you will be looking at four Safari-generated windows at once on your iPad.

[Also read: WWDC: 16+ ways Apple improved iPad productivity]

Apple calls this feature, “Apps in multiple spaces”. One more thing – Safari on an iPad will now automatically open up full desktop versions of the website. This is very useful. At least to me – does it help you?

What about Split view in other apps?

You can also open multiple instances of other apps, but this is a little hit and miss. I’ve found that opening multiple pages windows is fine if you want to use Split View, but not so easy to achieve in Slide Over.

You must also be wary when attempting to open a new Slide Over window in Split View. It is important to watch for what elements of the screen become grayed-out.

If one of the currently open Split View windows goes grey then once you release the icon of the app you are attempting to open that window will be replaced, rather than creating a new Slide Over window.

Adding multiple apps to Slide Over

Of course, once you get used to the way the grey highlight system works in iPad OS you will be on the way to getting more from using Slide Over.

You see, as Apple demonstrated at WWDC, you can have multiple apps active within your Slide Over window.

All you need to do is drag new apps that you want to make active in that window gently up to Slide Over -- watch the grey highlights thought to ensure you don’t accidentally open that app in Split View.

Once you’ve added a whole bunch of apps (up to five) to Split View, then you can navigate between them extremely easily: You just need to drag up the lower vertical black bar you see at the bottom of the app view in Slide Over to get to a new App Switcher.

This feels a little as if you are reaching for your iPhone to get data while working on an important task in your main window.

ipados slide over Apple

I'll probably start using Slide Over more because of this. 

Spaces for iPads

Important tasks sometimes take a lot of time and require an awful lot of windows be open at once.

That’s the kind of problem Spaces on macOS tries to solve (a much-ignored feature I rely on more and more).

This kind of logic is now available on iPads.

To get to it, just drag up from the bottom of the screen until the Dock appears and the main window moves. Drag a little further and let go and you’ll be rewarded with the main App Switcher view.

This is just the same as it ever was – all your current apps are listed, but now has a brilliant new twist:

You will also find all your Split View windows kept there.

This means the two Safari windows side by side can be selected with a tap, as can those two Word items you opened in another Split View window.

This attempt to retain work states means you should find it very much easier to work on complex projects using your iPad.

App Expose

It seems inevitable that over time you will create multiple windows for every single app that supports them (not all do, at least, not yet – but Apple will require them to do so by the time iPad OS ships). So, how do you navigate them all?

You are meant to be able to get to this view by holding your finger down on the app icon, but I’ve never managed to make that work.

What does work is that if you summon the Dock (short swipe up), while you are in an app (Safari, for example), you’ll be rewarded with a view in which you will see all the currently open windows containing that app.

This will usually consist of one or more main windows and one or more Slide Over views.

You can open one with a tap, making it pretty simple to move between all the active instances of your current app.

[Also read: 13 easy-to-miss iOS 13 improvements you’ll want to use]

Then there’s the floating keyboard

I’m a fan of the floating keyboard already, particularly when I’m working one something in Split View/Slide Over.

To get to this all you need to do is make a pinch in gesture on the keyboard to make it smaller or pinch out to return it to normal size all over again.

I find this quite useful when trying to navigate numerous open windows as I can move the keyboard about as I see fit – and it doesn’t take up around a third of the space.

While some elements – such as three-finger swipe – remain a little unpredictable, I think most iPad owners will be very pleased with these enhancements.

There are also a whole bunch of new iPad OS keyboard commands and gestures, there’s free PDF describing these available here.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

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