All the new gestures coming to iPad in iPadOS

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iPadOS 13 Drag and Drop Gesture
New gestures in iPadOS give you something to do with your hands.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

After an action packed WWDC, we’ve finally had a few days to see what Apple has in the works for iOS in 2019. One of the big surprises for us was the introduction of iPadOS – an iPad specific fork of iOS 13.

With the addition of iPadOS, Apple has started to formalized the differences between iPhone and iPad as it comes to interacting with the OS. One of the big differences is in gestures and multitasking. Many of the gestures on iPad are remaining mostly the same, but there are a few news ones to take note of.

While it’s early days of the beta and some of the new gestures feel a little clunky or broken, there’s a bunch new in the system that’s sure to make the iPad even better.

New iPad gestures

One of the first things they showed was the new cursor placement action. With the old method, iOS required you to hold for moment, get the magnifying glass pop-up, then drag the cursor. In the new system, you can simply grab the blinking cursor and drag it as needed, making it faster and more fluid.

You can also select words quicker by holding the cursor in place at the beginning of a word, then dragging over the text you want selected. It’s fiddly and takes some getting used to, but seems far more fluid when it works.

There is also a new 2-finger gestures when looking at item lists (like emails and notes). Without changing mode, simply drag 2 fingers up or down a list of items, and iPadOS will switch into the select/edit mode and allow you to quickly select multiple items. This makes selecting longs lists of notes or emails fast and easy.

A second gesture that uses 2 fingers is drag and drop between apps. It’s not new in iPadOS 13, but it is one of the more powerful gestures in the system that makes the iPad great. To use drag and drop, simply select some text, choose an image, or press and hold for a moment on almost any piece of content in the system. From there, you’ll see the item lift off the app.

Once that is in hand, using another finger (or your other hand) swipe or tap into another app, and drop the item in your first hand where you want the content to go. This could be useful for dropping an image into an email, or taking something from a note and dropping it into Safari.

Copy-Cut-Paste also got a gesture overhaul in iPadOS, allowing you to use a 3-finger-pinch to copy, a second 3-finger-pinch to cut, and a 3-finger-drop (spreading your fingers) to paste. During the keynote demo, this seemed very buggy, but in our testing, it’s actually bee reasonably reliable.

Another gesture that you can do with 3 fingers is undo/redo. By swiping 3 fingers across the screen to the left or right, you can undo or redo (respectively) the previous action. This makes it faster and less awkward than shaking your device to undo a type-o or the dreaded accidental-over-delete.

There are also a couple 4 and 5 finger gestures that have been around in iOS for years, but they are some of my favorites. Using 4 fingers, swipe upward on the screen to jump into multitasking. Swipe left or right with 4 fingers to move through recently opened apps – similar to swiping on the home indicator of the iPhone or new iPad Pro. Use 5 fingers and pinch on any open app to immediately return to the home screen.

New slide over features

Slide over also saw some minor changes in iPadOS. Now, in addition to being able to pull any (supported) app from the dock to the right side and launch it, you can now launch multiple instances of the same app as well. Each app in slide over now stays available in a slide-over multitasking list, which can be opened by sliding up on the home indicator of the slide over app. You can also swipe left and right on the slide over home indicator to quickly cycle through previously open slide over windows.

Getting slide over off screen is currently one of the more buggy interactions in the new iPadOS – but it may just be a bug. Currently, to send a slide over window off screen, you need to pull it partially into the middle, then swipe it away. Previously, it could be quickly dismissed with a quick swipe on the side or with the grab handle at the top.

So far, those are all the major changes to gestures in the system, but if we come across others, we will let you know. iPadOS is expected to ship this fall alongside iOS 13, watchOS 6, and macOS 10.15 Catalina. Until then, we’ll highlight all the exciting things you can expect in this years releases.