by David Kanter
May 12, 2011
What are gestures? Gestures aren't anything new. If you have an iPad, you've already been using them to unlock your device, swipe between different home screens, turn pages in iBooks, browse your music collection, or zoom in and out of a picture. The difference is that multitasking gestures typically use four or five fingers for the interaction, and they allow you to switch between running apps. Multitasking itself came to to the iPad in iOS version 4.0. It was a huge win for iPad owners everywhere. Until 4.3 was released, there wasn't a fun way to switch between running applications other than the physical home button. Enabling multitasking gestures makes switching applications much easier, plus it feels a little like magic! Why would I want to enable gestures? Enabling multitasking gestures allows you to navigate from any running application directly back to the home screen with a simple pinch of your five fingers. It allows you to switch running applications by either swiping left or right (think of it as a futuristic COMMAND-TAB) or swiping from the bottom up to view the multitasking bar. OK, you convinced me, how do I turn this on? To get started you'll need the following three items: 1. A Mac running 10.x or later 2. An iPad running 4.3 3. A valid iTunes account Five steps for enabling multitasking gestures 1. On your Mac, go to the App Store and download Xcode (This will set you back $4.99, but maybe you'll be inspired to write a game!). You'll want to do this on a fast network connection (or before you go to sleep) because it's a 4.25GB download. When it's completed, the App Store will automatically install Xcode for you. Make sure iTunes is closed for the install, or it will ask you to shut it down. 2. Plug the iPad into your computer's USB port. 3. Open Xcode and click the "Use for development" button from the organizer. 4. If it asks you to login to the developer portal, just cancel and proceed to the next screen. 5. If it tells you there's an unknown iOS detected, click the Collect button. 5. Once it's done collecting, the multitasking gestures setting should be available to you in your iPad. On your iPad go to the Settings App and choose General. You will now see a "Multitasking Gestures" switch for you to turn on. If it's not already on, enable it. Once you enable multitasking gestures you should be able to start using gestures right away. Things to try With an application open (Settings, Mail, Safari, any will do), put all five fingers on the screen, and pinch as if to close them. Like magic, the Settings app will animate and shrink back to the home screen. Load another app, and put four fingers on the right side of the screen, then swipe from the right side to the left side. If everything went well, you will actually switch to another application. While an application is running, check what other apps are on the multitasking bar by placing four fingers on the bottom of your iPad's screen and drag them up to reveal the multitasking bar. You can choose to run an app from that bar by tapping it once. To hide, swipe in the opposite downward direction. Note that this is an experimental feature, so some of the swiping motions might not work in all apps. One app that I've noticed doesn't always respond to these swipes is the new Adobe Easel app. This app requires five fingers to bring up some of the various menu options. When you have the menu screen up and attempt to swipe from left to right, the screen will shake and then return to the running app. This is something to be on the lookout for. See the video below for a demo of the gestures. How you switch your running apps is really a matter of personal preference. I like swiping up to reveal the multitasking bar because I prefer knowing what's running first, as I often forget. Others may prefer to focus on two power apps like Mail and Safari and then switch between the two during the session. Whatever works for you is best. At this point, you should never need to use your iPad's home button again!