Multitasking iPad

iOS screen gestures: how to navigate your iPad faster

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5 min read

You can do almost everything on your iPad without touching a button—in fact, all the new models have removed the home button completely. Whether it’s closing an app, switching apps, opening the control center, or searching for something, iOS has multiple gestures that can save time or unlock additional features. Once you get proficient with them, they can really save time in the cockpit.

Apple has added some new gesture options over the years to provide quick access to the Notes and Screenshot features. Here’s a look at all the options, starting with the gestures you’ll need to know when using a newer iPad without a home button.

Gestures to replace the home button

Swipe up (a little) for the dock – From any app, just swipe up from the bottom of the screen about an inch to display the tray of favorite apps. The ones on the left are set by you; the ones on the right are auto-filled by the iPad based on popular or recently used apps. This is a fast way to change apps, and it’s also how you set up a split-screen (see below). 

Bottom app tray iPad

Swipe up (a lot) to close the current app – This is the home button replacement. Swipe up to about the middle of the screen and you’ll close the current app and display the home screen. If you’re on one of the secondary home screens, doing this will return you to the first page of apps.



Swipe down from the top right corner for Control Center – The Control Center provides quick access to some of the most commonly used settings, including Airplane Mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and screen brightness. It’s also where you turn on the flashlight feature, so this is a frequently-used menu. Make sure you’re swiping down from the top right corner.

Control center iPad


Swipe down from the top for notifications – Did you get an alert and want to review it? Swipe down from the top of the screen to see a list of all your notifications, whether it’s a new email or an expected route from ForeFlight.


Swipe down from the middle of the home screen for search – Most people learn this one by accident, but it can be useful if your iPad has a lot of apps. Swipe from top to bottom on the center of the home screen and you’ll see a search box at the top. You can use this to find an app that’s hidden in another folder, a contact, or even search the internet. Swipe back to the left to return to your home screen.


Swipe up and hold to see the app switcher – Use this instead of pressing the home button twice to access recently-used apps. Swipe up from the bottom until about the middle of the screen and hold it for a second.


Drag an app from the dock to get split-screen – While an app is open, swipe from the bottom of the screen to display the tray with favorite and recent apps. Then, tap and drag an app icon to overlay it on the app that’s already open. This is a great way to use a checklist app or an E6B app without closing your favorite EFB app. Some apps go a step further and allow a full split-screen view, with two apps side by side. To view this, first drag an app icon out of the tray to display a second app and slide it over the far left or right side of the screen. You should see your original app resize and both apps will be active at the same time. You can even go from a 50/50 split to an 80/20 split by then dragging the new window from the left edge.

You can also use the iOS multitasking controller at the top center of the screen to activate split-screen multitasking—learn more about how to do that here.

Multitasking iPad

Swipe right on the home screen to view widgets – When viewing the home screen, swipe from left to right in the middle of the screen to view your widgets.




Multitasking Gestures

Next, here are several gestures that require four or five fingers—Apple calls them Multitasking Gestures. To activate this functionality, go to Settings -> General -> Gestures and enable the toggle for the “Four and Five Finger Swipe” setting.

Pinch to the home screen – Use this instead of pressing the home button to access the home screen from within any app. Place four or five fingers spread out on the screen, and pinch together.



Swipe up from the app switcher to close multiple apps – Once you’ve opened the app switcher, you can close apps that are running in the background by swiping up. This doesn’t delete the app, it simply closes it down completely. However, you can close multiple apps at the same time by swiping up with multiple fingers. This is handy if you want to close a lot of open apps, which is useful if you’re trying to troubleshoot. 


Swipe left or right between apps – This allows quick movement between applications that are currently running. With an app running, place four or five fingers spread out on the screen. Now, move your hand to the left to switch to the last opened app. With the same motion, move your hand back to the right to switch back to the previous app.

Corner Gestures

Apple added new “Corner Gestures” back in iOS 15, but many pilots only stumble across these accidentally. These allow you to customize a few actions when swiping up from the bottom left or right corners of the screen. By default, swiping up from the bottom right corner of the screen launches the Quick Note feature, which can be used to jot down a quick thought or note:

You can disable the Quick Note gesture by going to Settings -> General -> Gestures and setting the Right Corner Swipe action to Off. Additionally, you can also set the left or right corner swipe action to take a Screenshot, which you may find more convenient than simultaneously pressing the power and volume buttons to accomplish this action.

3 replies
  1. GG
    GG says:

    Thank you for sharing these shortcuts/moves! I am new to iOS/iPad and this article on gestures was very informative and succinct.

  2. Ron Ems
    Ron Ems says:

    I got into split screen once inadvertently while flying and couldn’t get rid of it. How to quickly return to “normal”
    would be nice to include in these descriptions.

  3. Jonathan Reel
    Jonathan Reel says:

    Going to settings, gestures and turning off “right corner swipe” had no effect at all. I think Apple products are losing their attractiveness. More and more, as Jobs said of Windows, “they have no taste.”

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