Apple added 4- and 5-finger gestures last October, but the features don’t seem commonly used. After two weeks with my new iPad, however, I’m suddenly taking advantage of these gestures and they make the iPad experience even better. Here’s a quick list of these useful gestures.


At the beginning of last year, Apple added iPad gesture controls in iOS 4.3 as a developer option. And with the debut of iOS 5 in October of last year, Apple made these multi-finger gestures official. Since then, however, I really haven’t seen the company promote this functionality the way it does for its laptop trackpads.

However, after two weeks with my new iPad, I’m suddenly taking advantage of these gesture functions like never before. In fact, I can think of only three instances that I even need to hit the home button anymore: Waking the device, grabbing a screen shot and getting out of the mode that lets you delete or move apps around.

Gone is the hardware button double-tap to switch back and forth between apps. No more pressing the button to return to the home screen either. After rediscovering these gestures and then making them part of my navigation workflow, I’m getting around the iOS environment far faster on my iPad. Here’s a summary of the multi-finger gestures currently available for iPad navigation; aside from the standard two-finger pinching and double-tap to zoom functions.

Five-finger pinch: Here you just “grab” the screen at any point to get back to the Home screen. It’s quick, fast and simple.

Four-finger swipe up: Want to see the multitasking bar, showing you the most recently used apps? This gesture replaces the double-tap of the Home button. You can pick a different app here or simply swipe four fingers back down to hide the multitasking bar.

Four-finger swipe left / right: Thanks to this gesture, I actually don’t use the multitasking bar much, if at all, anymore. By swiping four fingers left or right, the iPad quickly moves you through your running and most recently used apps. I strategically open my most used apps one after another, so I can quickly swipe between Mail, Safari, and the Kindle app for example.

A few extra hints and helpers

First, you have to make sure that gestures are turned on for your iPad. Look in Settings, General, Multitasking Gestures to set the slider to On if needed.

Second, you can actually remove an app from your multitasking bar with gestures, although you can’t remove an app from the Home screens without the Home button. To do this, use the four-finger swipe up to show the currently running and recently used apps.

Then tap and hold on any of these apps to get into editing mode. Tap the upper left badge — the red minus sign — on any app or apps you want to remove. When done, simply do a four-finger swipe down to hide the multitasking bar and the selected apps are gone!

Again, these gestures first appeared over a year ago and you could have enabled them by a little bit of tweaking effort and a $5 download. But they’re the real deal now and after embracing them these past two weeks, I find the iPad much simpler, intuitive and quicker to use all around.

Maybe I’m just slow to the multi-finger gesture game though. Let me know if you’re using them in this simple little poll as I’m wondering if these gestures are a type of hidden function that some iPad owners don’t know about.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. How is this an article? Unless you’ve been living under a iPad rock this is not news. Or even worth publishing.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel Jcl Monday, April 2, 2012

      Wow, sorry this wasn’t of any value for you, Jcl. I simply thought that not everyone had embraced these gestures yet and figured to share. Not every one knows every little nuance of every device or OS, so we occasionally share useful tips.

      1. Kevin – I appreciated the article and have forwarded it to my wife. I don’t live under a rock, but spend all day in front of a pc working on spreadsheets and don’t have as much time to play with my iPad.

        1. Much appreciated to you and all the other readers that gained some value from the article. Glad to help! :)

      2. I thought it was a very helpful article. Thank you.

      3. Being a brand new iPad owner, I too was not aware of these functionalities so I found the article informative and helpful. Thanks for posting!

      4. I am a first time iPad user. This article really helped me :) Thanks a lot.

        1. Kevin C. Tofel Ramky Saturday, June 2, 2012

          Glad it helped, Ramky, thanks!

    2. Well I guess I’ve been living under an iPad rock. I have a Mac that’s a year old and it’s always helpful to have the upgrades described.

    3. B Lois Stuart Jcl Monday, April 2, 2012

      It was a great article for me. I just got my first IPad for Christmas and am trying to learn it’s navigation. I guess I have been under a rock. I had no idea about multiple finger gestures. Thanks so much for sharing.

      1. By the look of your avatar you’re well on your way on becoming a rock. So I guess this would apply to you.

    4. Wow, a bit bitter there JCL? I liked this article precisely because I’ve been an iPad user for a long time, long before these new gestures existed, so this article woke me up to the changes.

  2. Blake Helms Monday, April 2, 2012

    I use these gestures all the time. It just feels so natural to navigate with.

  3. I live under an iPad-rock. It’s called a Playbook.

  4. Just one quick point, after using the four finger swipe up to reveal the multi tasking bar, to return to normal and hide the multitasking you don’t need to swipe back down using four fingers as stated in the article, a simple tap of any finger on the main part of the screen will close the multi tasking bar. Great article btw

    1. Kevin C. Tofel Mark Monday, April 2, 2012

      Ah… great tip, Mark. Thanks!

  5. Steve guile Monday, April 2, 2012

    I’ve been an IPad user from day 1, and I found this article to concise, informative, and helpful. Kudos and thanks. You’ve made my life a litte easier. Especially because the physical home button on my iPhone is getting sticky–probably shouldn’t use it at the cafe…

  6. These are in fact great, and for iPad 1 to iPad 3 upgraders they where a welcome addition.

    2 problems though: I find myself quitting the photo app when on full screen by doing the 5 finger pinch rather than the 2 finger one which now feels odd.

    If you have kids, these features have to be switched off otherwise the iPad keeps jumping out of their games. The notifications bar was annoying enough already, but these new gestures are just too confusing for little kids.

    1. Agree about the kids. I love the 4 & 5 finger gestures, but had to turn them off as my kids were always closing apps when getting a little carried away with the games!

  7. Charlie Pinker Monday, April 2, 2012

    The gestures are fantastic and essential to fluid iPad use.

    “When done, simply do a four-finger swipe down to hide the multitasking bar and the selected apps are gone!” – or just tap anywhere on the screen to hide the bar!

  8. Yea, great tips, thanks…there is an app iPad secrets – tips and tricks that has a lot of other really good tips – 5 star rated, @jcl, your post was a complete waste of time, and proves u r a complete moron, just sayin’…

    1. well, at least he didn’t resort to name-calling… just sayin’

  9. Christina Lundeberg Monday, April 2, 2012

    Wow, I knew about the five-finger pinch but I didn’t know about the swipe-up. I just got the new iPad so I’m still working my way around. Keep the hints coming :)

  10. Long time ‘fanboy’, early adopter and stockholder, and I consider myself to be fairly savvy with all things Apple. No rock here, but I had no idea these gestures were available on the iPad. Thanks for the great tip.

Comments have been disabled for this post