Multitasking on iPad gets some polish with iPadOS 15

Posted:
in iPad edited June 15
Announced at WWDC on Monday, iPadOS 15 brings notable new features to the device, such as Quick Note and Live Text, but multitasking remains largely unchanged.



Once Apple announced the new M1 iPad Pro at their "Spring Loaded" event, it seemed like big changes were coming to iPadOS multitasking. Some improvements were put on display during Monday's keynote, but in day-to-day use the functionality is very similar to past iterations.

The majority of multitasking on iPadOS is still accomplished with a side-by-side app setup called Split View. When a user has a full screen app open, they are able to drag a second app from the Dock or Spotlight search to either side of the screen and have both visible simultaneously. From there, users can resize an app to take up one-third of the screen or dismiss it entirely.





In addition to Split View, users can add a third app in Slide Over by swiping from the right edge of the screen. These multitasking features were introduced with iOS 9 and continue to be the only methods of using multiple apps on iPadOS.

With iOS 15, Apple adds a new multitasking menu icon that appears at the top of every app with quick actions to enter Split View or Slide Over. This may help users discover the feature, but doesn't add new functionality. One benefit of this new menu icon is a visual cue of which app is currently "active," which triggers when a user starts typing.


Multitasking menu in iPadOS 15


Aside from the menu icon, Apple introduced a new Shelf feature. This allows an app to have multiple windows open in the background and provides quick access to switch between them. Unfortunately, accessing the Shelf in iPadOS 15 is not intuitive and the keyboard shortcut is not currently listed when holding down the Command key on Magic Keyboard.


Shelf displays and app's active windows


App Library, which debuted in iOS 14 for iPhone has now come to iPadOS. The App Library sits in the Dock and allows users to drag apps into Split View and Slide Over with ease.

During the keynote there was no mention of new APIs to take advantage of the 16GB of RAM on iPad Pro, Files app improvements, or better background audio input / output controls. While the new menu icon and Shelf may help some users discover some features, experienced iPad users won't see much difference in multitasking with iPadOS 15.

Follow all of WWDC 2021 with comprehensive AppleInsider coverage of the week-long event from June 7 through June 11, including details on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, macOS Monterey and more.

Stay on top of all Apple news right from your HomePod. Say, "Hey, Siri, play AppleInsider," and you'll get latest AppleInsider Podcast. Or ask your HomePod mini for "AppleInsider Daily" instead and you'll hear a fast update direct from our news team. And, if you're interested in Apple-centric home automation, say "Hey, Siri, play HomeKit Insider," and you'll be listening to our newest specialized podcast in moments.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    I wouldn’t refer to iPadOS 15’s multitasking features as “polish.” It’s still a mess.  No windowing support, we’re still limited to two apps on screen in split view mode, external monitor support is still a broken mirrored mess that doesn’t use the aspect ratio of the monitor. 

    Apple can do so much better than this, I know they can. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 13
    XedXed Posts: 960member
    I wouldn’t refer to iPadOS 15’s multitasking features as “polish.” It’s still a mess.  No windowing support, we’re still limited to two apps on screen in split view mode, external monitor support is still a broken mirrored mess that doesn’t use the aspect ratio of the monitor. 

    Apple can do so much better than this, I know they can. 
    Thank god we don't we don't have to you pointers to constantly resize and drag windows around on a small display.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 13
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,613member
    With iOS 15, Apple adds a new multitasking menu icon that appears at the top of every app with quick actions to enter Split View or Slide Over. This may help users discover the feature, but doesn't add new functionality. One benefit of this new menu icon is a visual cue of which app is currently "active," which triggers when a user starts typing.
    You seem to be dismissing as window dressing something very significant. Far from just being a way to discover SplitView and SlideOver, these are going to be the primary way users invoke them. The button will be vastly easier and more intuitive than the kludgy drag up from the bottom of the screen and hope that we have now. I was hoping for true windowing on the iPad. But setting that aside, this looks to be a vast improvement over the half baked system we have now. One that might actually make SplitView and SlideOver something I use, rather than just curse at. 

    There’s a good hands article over at cultofmac. After reading it, I’m VERY excited to try the new system. 
    https://www.cultofmac.com/744594/hands-on-ipados-15-fixes-a-multitude-of-multitasking-sins/

    edited June 8 Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    Xed said:
    I wouldn’t refer to iPadOS 15’s multitasking features as “polish.” It’s still a mess.  No windowing support, we’re still limited to two apps on screen in split view mode, external monitor support is still a broken mirrored mess that doesn’t use the aspect ratio of the monitor. 

    Apple can do so much better than this, I know they can. 
    Thank god we don't we don't have to you pointers to constantly resize and drag windows around on a small display.
    I don’t know if you’ve ever used Samsung dex, but it has resizable windows, and while it has its quirks, it’s a much much better multitasking experience than the more powerful iPad, in my view. Others may disagree. 

    But with dex you have free-form control over the width/height of most windows (some apps have a minimum size beyond which they cannot go below). And it’s easy to use your fingers to resize windows and move them around the screen. When you resize windows, most apps resize in a way where the text doesn’t get too small to read. You can have your web browser to the left, YouTube open in the lower right, have instagram or whatever other app on the screen as well. All this from a Samsung phone hooked up to a usb-c touch screen monitor. You can customize your multitasking layout to your heart’s content. To the extent you haven’t tried Dex, I suggest to use it and compare the experience to iPadOS. 

    I’m not saying Apple should copy Dex, but there clearly exists a better and more intuitive multitasking implementation on other tablets/phones.  Apple is an extremely talented company so I know they can do better than what they’ve given us. 

    I don’t understand why they put m1 into the iPad only to limit it in the way they have. I guess it’s because Apple caters iPadOS to the minimum specification of iPads, some of which have far inferior processors than the m1 and might be too sluggish with a more multitasking-oriented OS. 
    edited June 8 williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 13
    I wouldn’t refer to iPadOS 15’s multitasking features as “polish.” It’s still a mess.  No windowing support, we’re still limited to two apps on screen in split view mode, external monitor support is still a broken mirrored mess that doesn’t use the aspect ratio of the monitor. 

    Apple can do so much better than this, I know they can. 
    When they announced the latest iPad Pro they made a point of saying it could drive the XDR display. I was really hoping that was foreshadowing of better external monitor support in iPadOs 15. Sadly it wasn't 
  • Reply 6 of 13
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,199member
    I'm pretty sure the disaster that is iPadOS multitasking is a result of Apple's stubborn and persisting attempts to separate the iPad from macOS by refusing to support what has been shown to be the best solution for multitasking over 35 years of computing - namely multiple, overlapping windows. The alternatives for multi-window multitasking on iPadOS seem (and feel) like a horrible, sluggish kludge. They obviously don't have any idea how to make it better without implementing windowing, otherwise they would have done so by now; and I can't see it improving unless someone or something changes at Apple, whereby they allow iPadOS to be more Mac like.

    There are so many things I could use an iPad for if it wasn't hobbled by iPadOS, but Apple knows if they allow people to discover the merits of a more open system there's no going back to the obsessive levels of control they have now. But I can't see it changing, and Apple's assumption (or perhaps guise for more control) that everyone that uses a Mac is thick as two short planks and therefore needs protecting from everything including themselves - is resulting in a level of control and restrictions that is becoming more onerous than it's worth for me.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    Xed said:
    I wouldn’t refer to iPadOS 15’s multitasking features as “polish.” It’s still a mess.  No windowing support, we’re still limited to two apps on screen in split view mode, external monitor support is still a broken mirrored mess that doesn’t use the aspect ratio of the monitor. 

    Apple can do so much better than this, I know they can. 
    Thank god we don't we don't have to you pointers to constantly resize and drag windows around on a small display.
    I don’t know if you’ve ever used Samsung dex, but it has resizable windows, and while it has its quirks, it’s a much much better multitasking experience than the more powerful iPad, in my view. Others may disagree. 

    But with dex you have free-form control over the width/height of most windows (some apps have a minimum size beyond which they cannot go below). And it’s easy to use your fingers to resize windows and move them around the screen. When you resize windows, most apps resize in a way where the text doesn’t get too small to read. You can have your web browser to the left, YouTube open in the lower right, have instagram or whatever other app on the screen as well. All this from a Samsung phone hooked up to a usb-c touch screen monitor. You can customize your multitasking layout to your heart’s content. To the extent you haven’t tried Dex, I suggest to use it and compare the experience to iPadOS. 

    I’m not saying Apple should copy Dex, but there clearly exists a better and more intuitive multitasking implementation on other tablets/phones.  Apple is an extremely talented company so I know they can do better than what they’ve given us. 

    I don’t understand why they put m1 into the iPad only to limit it in the way they have. I guess it’s because Apple caters iPadOS to the minimum specification of iPads, some of which have far inferior processors than the m1 and might be too sluggish with a more multitasking-oriented OS. 
    I don’t share the same experiences as you do with this. I have been using an iPad Pro 12.9” coming up to six years (a got the original in November of 2015) and had recently updated to the release of the one in 2020. Unfortunately, about a month ago it was stolen (I really don’t know why people would take it, I feel it’s useless to them, they can’t do anything with it, or maybe they can, but I’m doubtful). Anyway, so now I’m using an HP laptop from work and using multiple windows is such a pain in the ass. It honestly surprises me that it’s that bad. The  individual windows being layered overtop of each other on a window of different sizes is annoying. I’d far rather use the split screen and a slide over window and a four finger swipe to another app or split screen, then having to meander multiple windows of varying sizes on a laptop with a point and click mouse. 

    However this experience of using a laptop again, as I wait for my replacement to arrive, has helped me possibly understand people’s gripe about multitasking on the iPad. I don’t think it’s the iPad per se that people complain about, it’s the screen size. I think some people make comparisons to using multiple windows and apps on either a wide screen or use multiple monitors and compare that to the small screen of an iPad and then some complain that if it only hooked up to multiple monitors then I’d be able to multitask. If I had this current laptop that I’m using, set up with 2 wide screen monitors I’d feel a hole lot more productive too; but I dont, I just have the laptop screen, and it sucks. Apple’s solution is fast and easy once you change your habits. I am very much looking forward to the tweaks they are bringing to it with iPadOS 15. Hopefully this continuity update with the screens will help satisfy those with your concern. 
    thtwilliamlondonFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 13
    elijahg said:
    I'm pretty sure the disaster that is iPadOS multitasking is a result of Apple's stubborn and persisting attempts to separate the iPad from macOS by refusing to support what has been shown to be the best solution for multitasking over 35 years of computing - namely multiple, overlapping windows. The alternatives for multi-window multitasking on iPadOS seem (and feel) like a horrible, sluggish kludge. They obviously don't have any idea how to make it better without implementing windowing, otherwise they would have done so by now; and I can't see it improving unless someone or something changes at Apple, whereby they allow iPadOS to be more Mac like.

    There are so many things I could use an iPad for if it wasn't hobbled by iPadOS, but Apple knows if they allow people to discover the merits of a more open system there's no going back to the obsessive levels of control they have now. But I can't see it changing, and Apple's assumption (or perhaps guise for more control) that everyone that uses a Mac is thick as two short planks and therefore needs protecting from everything including themselves - is resulting in a level of control and restrictions that is becoming more onerous than it's worth for me.
    I think my above post answers the bolded comment of yours, thinking that multiple, layered, and varied is sizes windows is more productive. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Well, glad to finally see what you look like. I have been listening to your podcast for well over a year. 

    I actually love the multitask upgrades. I can’t see multi tasking on more than two apps at a time on an iPad. Just not enough real estate for more than this. The shelf is very helpful. This is a great upgrade. 

    I don’t see a total makeover coming. This works great and it’s really all that is needed. 
    williamlondonsagan_studentwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 719member
    Well, glad to finally see what you look like. I have been listening to your podcast for well over a year. 

    I actually love the multitask upgrades. I can’t see multi tasking on more than two apps at a time on an iPad. Just not enough real estate for more than this. The shelf is very helpful. This is a great upgrade. 

    I don’t see a total makeover coming. This works great and it’s really all that is needed. 
    Do you ever watch the Apple Insider YouTube channel?
  • Reply 11 of 13
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,199member
    elijahg said:
    I'm pretty sure the disaster that is iPadOS multitasking is a result of Apple's stubborn and persisting attempts to separate the iPad from macOS by refusing to support what has been shown to be the best solution for multitasking over 35 years of computing - namely multiple, overlapping windows. The alternatives for multi-window multitasking on iPadOS seem (and feel) like a horrible, sluggish kludge. They obviously don't have any idea how to make it better without implementing windowing, otherwise they would have done so by now; and I can't see it improving unless someone or something changes at Apple, whereby they allow iPadOS to be more Mac like.

    There are so many things I could use an iPad for if it wasn't hobbled by iPadOS, but Apple knows if they allow people to discover the merits of a more open system there's no going back to the obsessive levels of control they have now. But I can't see it changing, and Apple's assumption (or perhaps guise for more control) that everyone that uses a Mac is thick as two short planks and therefore needs protecting from everything including themselves - is resulting in a level of control and restrictions that is becoming more onerous than it's worth for me.
    I think my above post answers the bolded comment of yours, thinking that multiple, layered, and varied is sizes windows is more productive. 
    Perhaps if you use just two windows then ok - two side by side full screen windows is just fine. But when you have 3 or 4 windows with different content, referencing 2 of them whilst typing into one and seeing the results in another, being stuck with two is a massive chore, constantly having to switch between full-screen apps is much less productive than having the content visible all at once. Switching between full screen apps on iPadOS is slow as well; a quick command-tab on macOS and you're there instantly, the 5 finger swipe on iPadOS just feels sluggish. Then it rearranges the apps such that sometimes you'd have to swipe three times to get to the fourth window, sometimes twice. I can most definitely be more productive on macOS with 3+ windows than I can on iPadOS. 
  • Reply 12 of 13
    elijahg said:

    Perhaps if you use just two windows then ok - two side by side full screen windows is just fine. But when you have 3 or 4 windows with different content, referencing 2 of them whilst typing into one and seeing the results in another, being stuck with two is a massive chore, constantly having to switch between full-screen apps is much less productive than having the content visible all at once. Switching between full screen apps on iPadOS is slow as well; a quick command-tab on macOS and you're there instantly, the 5 finger swipe on iPadOS just feels sluggish. Then it rearranges the apps such that sometimes you'd have to swipe three times to get to the fourth window, sometimes twice. I can most definitely be more productive on macOS with 3+ windows than I can on iPadOS. 
    I can see that you could have more windows open, I just am having difficulty seeing how much of the content would be visible when an app window is a quarter (or less) of a 13” screen. Unless of course the information that you are needing off of one of them is so small and select in nature that you could keep it that small. For me, in that instance, I’d probably just bring up that information on my phone and use that as my small window. Even if I needed to copy something from the “phone window”, to the iPad, that can easily be done with continuity. 

    4 finger swiping is quick, but you’re right that it can be cumbersome if the app that you are using is 3 or 4 back. In those scenarios I would swipe up and select the app I want rather that mindlessly 4 finger swiping through previous apps (or windows or whatever you want to call them). 
    williamlondonthtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 13
    thttht Posts: 3,974member
    elijahg said:

    Perhaps if you use just two windows then ok - two side by side full screen windows is just fine. But when you have 3 or 4 windows with different content, referencing 2 of them whilst typing into one and seeing the results in another, being stuck with two is a massive chore, constantly having to switch between full-screen apps is much less productive than having the content visible all at once. Switching between full screen apps on iPadOS is slow as well; a quick command-tab on macOS and you're there instantly, the 5 finger swipe on iPadOS just feels sluggish. Then it rearranges the apps such that sometimes you'd have to swipe three times to get to the fourth window, sometimes twice. I can most definitely be more productive on macOS with 3+ windows than I can on iPadOS. 
    I can see that you could have more windows open, I just am having difficulty seeing how much of the content would be visible when an app window is a quarter (or less) of a 13” screen. Unless of course the information that you are needing off of one of them is so small and select in nature that you could keep it that small. For me, in that instance, I’d probably just bring up that information on my phone and use that as my small window. Even if I needed to copy something from the “phone window”, to the iPad, that can easily be done with continuity. 

    4 finger swiping is quick, but you’re right that it can be cumbersome if the app that you are using is 3 or 4 back. In those scenarios I would swipe up and select the app I want rather that mindlessly 4 finger swiping through previous apps (or windows or whatever you want to call them). 
    I have it much worse. I've been using my iPP10.5 as my sole personal computer for about 4 years now, and I don't use it with an external keyboard. So, when I enter text, I do it with the software keyboard and that reduces the area for apps about 30%! But actually use Split View, Slide Over this way all the time. Really can't displays more than 2 views at that size. But, arbitrary view sizes and arbitrary numbers of simultaneous, overlapping app views is but one aspect of multitasking. If they allowed background apps to run with much longer timers, up to infinity for some, allow for multiple streams of audio and video, that may be bigger feature than arbitrary, overlapping windows.

    Currently, Apple isn't positioning the iPad to be a desktop computer, where you could have 20, 30, 40 inches of display space. It's really a tablet whose primary use is through touch and used as handheld device. The current external display support is really only for apps to use to display app content. It's really not a system extension. This will probably change eventually as the new multitasking UI mechanisms are designed for both single touch and mouse, and looks extensible to external monitors. So it is coming. Obviously, they are not in a rush as the iPad is a handheld touch computer first, and a desktop PC like 10 steps down the list. But it's coming. The new UI mechanisms make it much more possible. Lots of software to change still, but it's coming.
    watto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.