iPadOS lets you open multiple instances of the same app for powerful multitasking

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Ipad app windows
The iPad now has app windows.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

In the next version of iOS, the iPad will be able to open several “copies” of the same app. You can then switch between them, treating them just like any other individual apps, or you can combine these instances with other apps.

For example: You could have one “space” with your Mail app and your to-do app in a 50:50 Split View. And then you can have another space with a different instance of your Mail app and, for instance, the Notes app. Each version of the Mail app can show a different folder or message.

You can even have two versions of, say, the Maps app, sharing the same screen, showing totally different places. It’s a powerful addition to iPad multitasking. Let’s see it in action.

Windows on the iPad

Launching a second, third and subsequent version of an app is easy. Let’s use Maps as an example. With Maps open on the screen (either alone or already paired with another app), just tap the Maps icon in the Dock. The iPad will switch to this Exposé-style view, showing your current instances:

Tapping an app's Dock icon shows you this Exposé view.
Tapping an app’s Dock icon shows you this Exposé view.
Photo: Cult of Mac

To create a new Maps “window,” just tap the + button at the top right corner. This will add a new instance of Maps to the Exposé space. You can then tap the new window to open it. As you can see in the screenshot, the Exposé window also includes any pairs containing the Maps app. If you have Maps paired with Mail, and another instance of Maps paired with Safari, both those paired screens will show up here.

Working with Split View

What about adding one of those instances to a new Split View space? Say you’re in regular full-screen Mail, and you want to pull up one of your several Maps windows. How do you pick the one you want? Easy. Just drag the Maps icon from the Dock to start a Split View, the same as you do in iOS 12 right now. You’ll see this:

If an app has multiple instances, you can pick the one you want when you start a split view session.
If an app has multiple instances, you can pick the one you want when you start a Split View session.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Then, just pick the instance you want from the large thumbnails. The same thing happens if you want to add an app to a Slide Over view. Just drag the app icon into a Slide Over position, and when you drop it you’ll see a similar version of the Exposé picker.

Entering Slide Over from the Exposé picker.
Entering Slide Over from the Exposé picker.
Photo: Cult of Mac

This takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you grasp it, the whole system makes sense. Everything is contained in an app’s icon. This makes it even more useful to keep your most-used apps in the Dock. (And, if you run out of space, keep them in folders in the Dock.)

iPadOS brings big advantages for iPad multitasking

I love having these multiple versions of apps. Not only is it handy to be able to have two windows of the same app open together, just like on the Mac (you can drag and drop between two Files app windows, for example), but you no longer get dropped into an existing Split View session when you tap an app’s icon. It’s still a little convoluted, but once things are set up, you can leave them that way.

Other notes

You can access an app's windows directly form its icon.
You can access an app’s windows directly from its icon.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Here are a few more tips.

  • If you have multiple spaces containing an app, and you launch that app from the Home screen, then the last-used space opens.
  • Each instance keeps its own settings. You can have one Files app using a date-sorted column view, and another with a name-sorted list view, for example.
  • If you long-press (but not too long) an app’s icon, then a contextual menu pops up (it’s the 3D Touch menu). You’ll see an option to Show All Windows (see screenshot above). Yes, that means that Apple is officially calling these “windows.” Tap it to see the Exposé view, and to open a new window.