What’s That Crazy Thing Doing?!

… Taking the Mystery Out of Gestures

What’s that thing that keeps flying up from the bottom of the screen? Where did that dark banner that obscures the entire screen come from? Why did it just switch apps?

You have been invoking gestures without knowing it, but your iPad doesn’t know when you did something intentionally or accidentally. It simply assumes that when you absent-mindedly drape four fingers on the screen that you want to fly from one app to another, and when your thumb misses the Home button and moves toward the screen, that you want to summon Control Center.  There is a method to this madness, and I intend to clarify what’s going on (and how to turn off certain gestures if you find they get in your way).

A gesture is a flick, a tap, or a swipe with one or more fingers on the screen. Different combinations of fingers and types of gestures do different things. For example, if you swipe up from the bottom of your iPad’s screen, Control Center will appear. Here you can adjust the iPad’s brightness, turn Wi-Fi on or off, and keep the screen from rotating, among other things. It’s handy to be able to access these settings quickly without going to Settings and finding the entry for adjusting brightness, for example.

If you swipe up on your iPad with four fingers, it will show you the multitasking window. The multitasking window holds all the apps you used recently. Here you can quickly switch back and forth between apps (tap the app you want to switch to) or force-quit the app (flick the app up and out of the multitasking window). Force-quitting an app can save battery life, but only under certain circumstances. The four-finger upward swipe is a fast way to switch apps, but there’s a better way.

With four fingers, swipe from right to left on the app you’re using now (Safari, for example). You will now see the last app you were using (perhaps you were in Photos last). Swipe from left to right this time, and you will be back in Safari. This is a really useful gesture to navigate your iPad rapidly.

If you are in any app and you pinch with four fingers, it’s just like you pressed the Home button — you will end up at the Home screen again.

Drag one finger down from the top of the screen. This is Notification Center, a place to find the time, weather, and recent notifications about email, iMessages, FaceTime calls, and more. To dismiss Notification Center, flick it back up toward the top of the screen from the bottom.

That is a summary of all the crazy things your iPad can do when you tap and flick with different numbers of fingers. Now that the mystery is gone, you can decide which gestures are useful to you … and which gestures you keep invoking unintentionally. Take a trip to Settings now. Under General, you should see a switch labelled “Multitasking Gestures,” which has a brief description under it about what it does. If you turn it off, you will no longer be able to pinch with four fingers to go Home or swipe between apps. You can always turn it on again if you want to use those gestures later.

If you don’t like Control Center triggering when you are swiping around in an app, head to Settings and tap Control Center. Here, you can allow Control Center to appear in apps and on the lock screen, or you can turn those switches off. If you turn off “Access Within Apps,” Control Center will only appear when you are on the Home screen and swipe up from the bottom. Otherwise, when in an app, you can tap and swipe near the bottom of the screen without Control Center getting in your way.

I find gestures really useful. They are handy to quickly turn on Wi-Fi, adjust brightness on the fly, and check the weather. They can speed up switching from app to app, especially if your collection of apps is large and some live in folders. With gestures, you can switch back and forth between the apps you used most recently.