How to use split-screen mode on your iPad

No matter if you use it for watching Netflix, writing up your work, or just doomscrolling on social media, the major benefit of an iPad is having access to a larger screen. That large screen means it’s useful for so much more than your standard smartphone, but did you know the iPad can use that large to open more than one app at a time? iPadOS comes with support for a split-screen mode, so you can use that large screen to split your view between two apps at once.

All you need to get started is a little knowledge, and we’re here to deliver that know-how. Here’s how to use split-screen mode on iPadOS 14.

Further reading

Split that screen

The dock is the heart of all split-screen features on your Apple device, as that is where all apps are located for launch. First, make sure you set up your iPad via Settings > Home Screen & Dock > Multitasking. Then, toggle on the three controls to Allow Multiple Apps, Picture-in-Picture, and Gestures. This ensures maximum flexibility.

  • Move an app icon to the left side of the dock: First, line up all the apps you plan to use in the dock. You only have to do this once. Tap and hold an app you want to use and drag it to the dock if it’s not already there. Icons can be added only on the left-hand side of the divider. On the right are the icons of apps you recently used. Alternately, if you don’t want apps to live in the dock, you can quickly launch and close the apps you want to use in order to place their icons in the dock for easy access later.
  • Launch an app: If you have a main app that you are splitting the screen with, and you want its window to be larger in size, open that app first. You can split the screen 50-50 or 25-75, so your choices are limited to using two apps at one time, though you can have several more open and waiting in the wings.
  • Swipe up from the bottom to access the dock: After your first app is launched, swipe up on the toolbar to reveal the other apps in the dock, and then choose your second app.
  • Select and drag the app icon: Tap and hold on your second app, and drag up off the dock. As you hover it over the open app, a rectangular window appears that you can drag to the left or right side of the screen, then release to open the second app.
  • Arrange the split screen: With one large window occupying most of the screen, and another smaller one off to the side, you can arrange the windows any way you want, left or right.
  • Hide and show the app tab: If you want to hide one of the apps, tap the grey bar at the top of its window and drag it to the side of the screen, which will cause the app window to disappear temporarily.
  • Split the screen evenly: The second tab sits in front of the first by default, but you can divide the screen evenly between the two apps by tapping and holding the gray bar at the top of the second tab and dragging it down (or up). Both tabs will blur temporarily but will divide the screen equally when released.
  • Turn off multitasking: Anytime you want to quit using these features, you can return to the Settings and switch them off.

The iPad’s multitasking gestures act as a manual shortcut to the app switcher or the Home screen, but it may take some practice to get fluid with these gestures. For the app switcher, swipe up with one finger from the bottom edge of the screen and hold in the middle until the app switcher appears, and then choose the app you want to use. To switch between apps, swipe left or right with four or five fingers to switch to a previous app. On an iPad Pro with Face ID, iPad Pro 11-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation), or iPad Air 4, this gesture involves swiping the bottom edge of the screen. To return to the Home screen, swipe up from the bottom edge or — this is the easiest move — pinch five fingers together on the screen.

Slide over slickness

You can use the Slide Over feature in Split View to have even more apps open at the same time — the process is much the same. Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to view the dock, drag the app on top of the app divider to open an app in the windowed Slide Over view. Slide Over view opens another app in a smaller window that floats atop your main apps. You can move this window around and use it much the same way you’d any other app.

If you open multiple apps in Slide Over, you can switch right or left between them using the black bar at the bottom of each window. If you want to close an app, swipe up on and hold the middle of the screen to show all the apps you have open. Swiping up again will close the app.

Move content in split-view apps

If you have two or more apps open on your device, you can drag and drop to share content, like texts or photos, between them. Or you can pull text or images from an email or webpage straight to your Notes app or from a webpage to a text message. The options are virtually limitless.

  • Open two apps in the Split View or Slide Over feature.
  • Tap and hold down the item you wish to move over. 
  • When it detaches, then carefully drag it over without removing your finger from the display. Drop the content to your other app.
  • Try selecting several items at once by using several fingers; as you’re dragging the first image across, select your second piece of content with a different finger and detach that item as well.

Picture-in-picture mode

You can play videos in a different window while tackling other tasks on your device, like scrolling through your emails, thanks to picture-in-picture mode. The video should continue streaming on your device even if you have a second app open and running. You can move the image out of your way by sliding it to any part of your screen. Just touch the arrow icon in the top left of the screen and the video will shrink to a smaller square. Now you can use your device as you usually would while you’re still watching the video. To expand the video back up to a full-screen image, tap the arrow again in the lower-left corner. If the need arises, you can also hide your video by dragging it to the side of your screen.

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