How to Use Multi-Touch Gesture Navigation on an iPad

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Just like last week’s tip on controlling the iPad’s cursor for selecting and editing using Trackpad Mode, the iPad’s multi-touch navigation features are easy to miss or forget about. In fact, I hadn’t used this feature in a couple of years myself. Since I use a Bluetooth keyboard so often, I tend to use the available keyboard shortcuts to switch apps and return to the Home menu. Thanks to @skrimaging for the great suggestion via Twitter to highlight this feature.

There are three navigation gestures available, using either four or five finger motions. For the first gesture, from within any app, pull your fingers in toward the center of the screen to exit the app and return to the Home screen. An example of this gesture can be seen in the photo above.

The second gesture is a four or five finger swipe left or right between open apps. This motion does not open the App Switcher, but simply moves from app to app in a linear fashion. It can only be done within an app.

The third and final gesture opens the app switcher with a four or five finger swipe upward across the screen. This is the only gesture of the three that can be performed from the Home screen, elsewhere in Springboard, or from inside of a Folder.

Again, all three gestures require either four or five finger swipes. I find using five more comfortable, but I’m sure that will vary from person to person. I’m glad that Apple gives users the choice.

These gestures are controlled from the Settings app, under the General-Multitasking menu.

As you can see, the three gestures are described under the third option. This setting is enabled by default so you shouldn’t need to come to this menu unless gestures have been previously disabled.

For users of keyboards and keyboard cases like myself, these gestures may have limited usefulness. As I said at the outset, I didn’t think of this as a tip because I haven’t used them for a long time. However, I know there are many more users who are multi-touch all the way, and for them, gestures that can save you from having to constantly go back and forth to the Home Button are a great way to streamline navigation.

Thanks again to @skrimaging for the suggestion to cover this tip. I continue to be open to any suggestions for future tips, features, or questions for futures Tips and Tricks articles, so keep them coming. Whether it is something you want to hear more about, or a tip you already know about, but think will benefit other users, drop me a line in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog or @jhrogersii. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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3 thoughts on “How to Use Multi-Touch Gesture Navigation on an iPad”

  1. Thanks for the guide. I didn’t know there was this feature in an Ipad. I’ve finally learned something new. Does the position of the fingers on the pad matter in navigating ?

    1. Glad it was helpful! For the return to Home and swipe between apps gestures, I think that the finger movement is more important than where your hand is on the screen. However, the motion to bing up the app switcher does have to start lower on the screen, so you have room to swipe upward.

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