While every iPhone gesture will work on an iPad, not every iPad gesture will work on an iPhone—and some of the lesser-known but most interesting iOS gestures happen to be iPad-only.
Read on for six handy gestures for iPad—and only for iPad—starting with…
Swipe up with four (or five) fingers
Any iPhone or iPad user knows the shortcut to the iOS multitasking screen—that is, the screen that lets you swipe back and forth between all your running apps. Double-tap the Home button, and you’ll see all your background apps displayed as a series of swipeable cards.
All well and good, but there’s another (and arguably easier) way to the multitasking screen for iPad users: just swipe up with four or five fingers.
When you do so, you’ll zip directly to iOS’s multitasking view; tap a card to switch apps, or swipe down again with four (or five) fingers to return to the app you were just using.
Note: Is the four-finger swipe not working for you? If not, make sure you have the iPad’s Multitasking Gestures setting enabled. Launch Settings, then toggle on the Multitasking Gestures switch.
Swipe one way or another with four or five fingers
If you want to switch apps without dealing with iOS’s multitasking screen, try this: Using four or five fingers, swipe from left to right or right to left.
When you do, you’ll start cycling through all your open apps, one after another—no need to tap the Home button.
Pinch the screen with five fingers
Here’s yet another inventive way for iPad users to avoid touching the Home key. To get back to the home screen at any time, just “pinch” with all five fingers. (If you can’t quite picture how a five-finger pinch works, try this: open your hand about halfway, touch all five fingers on the screen, then slowly pull your fingertips together.)
When you do, the app you’re using will shrink and disappear, revealing the home screen.
Swipe from left to right within an open Mail message
While viewing the iPad’s Mail app in “landscape” orientation (that is, with your iPad in a lengthwise position), you’ll see your inbox in a pane on the left side of the screen, with your open messages filling the rest of the display.
If you turn your iPad so it’s in “portrait” orientation, however, the inbox pane will disappear, leaving only your currently open message. To see the inbox again, you’ll have to tap the inbox arrow in the top-left corner of the page…
…or, just do this: Make a short swipe gesture from left to right within the body of a message.
When you do, the inbox pane will quickly slide into view.
Once you’re ready to hide the inbox pane again, just swipe again in the body of the open message, this time from right to left.
Pull the keypad apart with your fingertips
If you’ve ever tried typing on the iPad’s virtual keypad using your thumbs, you’ll know that it’s an exercise in futility… or at least, it is for those of us who lack Mr. Fantastic’s super-elastic limbs.
That said, if you’re really determined to go all-thumbs on your iPad’s keyboard, here’s a trick: Hold the keypad with a fingertip on each side, then pull the keyboard apart.
When you do, the keypad will split into two separate halves, making typing with your thumbs a whole lot easier.
If you can’t manage to split the keypad with your fingers, tap Settings > General > Keyboards, then toggle on the Split Keyboard setting.
Tap, hold, and swipe your Safari tabs
Unlike on the smaller iPhone screen, Safari for iPad boasts actual desktop-like tabs along the top browser toolbar, perfect for quickly switching between tabs or closing a tab.
Also, just like browser tabs on the desktop version of Safari (or just about any browser, for that matter), your Safari for iPad tabs can easily be rearranged any way you like.
Just tap and hold a tab, then drag it one way or the other. As you do, your other Safari tabs will scoot out of the way.
Bonus: Drag more icons into the home-screen dock
On both the iPhone and iPad, you can drag and drop any apps you want in and out of the home-screen dock (the little gray stripe sitting at the bottom of the screen). Indeed, you can even drag all four apps out of the dock if you want, leaving the bottom of your iPhone or iPad home screen empty.
Unlike the iPhone, though, the iPad doesn’t restrict you to just four apps in the home-screen dock. Go ahead and tap, hold, and drag a fifth app into the dock—or a sixth, if you’re feeling particularly daring.
Bonus: Flick the side switch to lock the screen
No, flipping the switch on the side of your iOS device to mute the volume isn’t a gesture that’s unique to the iPad—that is, unless you count a special, secondary side-switch feature that only the iPad can do.
First, tap Settings > General, find the “Use Slide Switch to” heading, then tap Lock Rotation.
Now, go ahead and flick the iPad’s side switch—and when you do, you’ll lock the screen’s orientation in place.
It’s the same feature as you’ll find in the swipe up Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen, then tap the button with the padlock), just minus the extra swipes and taps.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices.