The iPad isn’t a true desktop alternative for me until it has this feature

By , Apr 19, 2012

Make no mistake about it, the iPad is a wonderful desktop alternative for some. I know plenty of people who use it as their main computing device, which makes it live up to Apple’s Post-PC billing.

But there’s still one gripe in my mind that is holding the iPad back from true greatness. It’s a missing feature that’s inherently obvious when you’re blogging, or doing anything else that calls for true multitasking.

The iPad needs a way to view two or more apps simultaneously.

Of course you can work around this limitation; plenty of people are doing it on a day-to-day basis. But the fact of the matter is this: in many cases you’re working slower than need be.

Solving this problem is incredibly simple, and with the processing power of the the new iPad, it’s beyond feasible. 

Apple can go about implementing this functionality in any number of ways. Literally, I can think of nearly half-a-dozen strategies that it could use to pull this off wonderfully.

For one, they could extend the already existing multitouch gestures. A simple swipe from the bottom of the screen yields the App Switcher, and from there just tap and drag the second app to the main portion of the screen. 

Open the app switcher, then tap and hold on the app that you want to add to the MultiLayer.

Apps could be snapped into place side by side, or one app could overlay another to quickly switch between the two. To remove an app from the MultiLayer view, simply select the app and press the Home button once, or kill it like we’ve been doing from the App Switcher. That will present the bottom layer app back into a normal full screen view. 

Drag the selected app into the main view and release.


A MultiLayer app view will be created. The selected app will appear on top of the original app. You can drag the selected app to reveal more of the original, swap views, etc. using intuitive multitouch gestures.

As stated, this is just one strategy that Apple could take, it’s probably not even close to the best solution that their engineers could come up with. 

Of course this isn’t the only problem Apple needs to stamp out before I would consider the iPad as a true desktop replacement, but it would go a very long way to helping the cause.

Really, when you think about it, what else does Apple have left to do with the next iteration of iOS besides implementing a ton of Snow Leopard-esque refinements?

Running two apps together side-by-side is overdue for the iPad. Lets make it happen, Apple.

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  • Anonymous

    OMFG! THIS IS GENIUS! Why did no one ever thought of this? If its done, it will be great. Also, I didn’t know you developed apps? Nice :)

    • http://www.youtube.com/myjailbreakmovies/ Jeff Benjamin

      I don’t develop them, I just make rudimentary concepts with the hopes that someone will. :P thanks.

      • http://twitter.com/TebanRC esteban

        that will never happen… if u want that feature go to some cheap windows based tablet… Apple wont do it cuz its not ergonomic… and u should know better than us that If Apple didnt include it in the change from iOS 4 to iOS 5 is cuz they have amde a lot of stidues bout it and it just doesnt work….

  • Luke Row

    Yeah it is something that needs to be implemented. Switching between apps can be a bit cumbersome at times.

    Your method is almost like the windows 7 snap feature or the Mac App Store’s Better Snap Tool

  • http://www.mobile-world.co.cc/ Akshay Shah

    Nice idea. How’d you create the concept?

  • Anonymous

    Watched the video for the second time.. This is incredible..

    • Luke Row

      lol calm down mate haha

  • http://www.ideaprison.com/ ideaprison

    Split screening apps is something i have been doing since forever on my mac, esp since little apps cam out that help you divide windows on your screen.
    So i’d like a feature kinda like this too, but also giving 50% of the screen to each window would be nice

  • http://twitter.com/hxclos Carlitos 

    You couldn’t do this with memory intensive apps like running two games side by side but Apple should definitely allow us to run basic apps like a calculator next to a notepad.

    • http://www.youtube.com/myjailbreakmovies/ Jeff Benjamin

      Easy way to solve this is to designate which apps have MulltiLayer capability. If it’s a game, then obviously not, but I think most apps would qualify depending on their memory footprint.

      • http://twitter.com/OrangeSn0w ☃OrangeSn0w☃

        You could have a game running with notepad, so you can note the code back to the level

  • http://twitter.com/Demon13King Demon13King

    Why does any on this world make a app for flash player so we can view flash video that’s the other thing that all apple divides need now :( – skyfire and photon and puffing are not that good – there must be a good person who can make flash and pages like u did on video :)

    • Anonymous

      I think everyone should stop developing in flash instead.
      HTML5 is basically right there and flash hogs so much of my memory on my macbook, it’s ridiculous!
      Whatevs, just my 2¢

      • http://www.facebook.com/tx.mattscott Matthew Scott

        Agreed.

  • Manuel Vallellanes

    I truly think that is pretty neat. Would actually like to use such a feature.

  • http://twitter.com/christodouluke Luke Christodoulou

    I like the idea but it would need further development. As far as I see it, it looks a lot like the app snapping feature of windows 8.

  • http://twitter.com/Marnix1991 marnix

    allot of people wished this it’s not a new concept sorry for having to tell you that but maybe apple’s waiting on the jailbreak world to do it for them, and then improof it or just see if allot of people would use it if they had the possibility by spying on the jailbreak world

  • http://twitter.com/costee Nagy Konstantin

    I could imagine a Windows 8 like snap feature to iOS. It would be nice to see Reeder or Tweetbot with Safari.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Hagans/100000519586260 Stephen Hagans

    Say what you will about Windows 8 but on a tablet it seems pretty awesome. I could definitely see Windows like multitasking and window snapping built into the iPad, or some variation of it. This looks good, someone get one this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531547859 Habib Ullah Khan

    ipad can never take a desktop replacement even it cannot be a laptops replacement

  • cruzcontrol1001

    I griped about this on my new iPad until a friend told me to try photon browser its not completely what your asking for but split window browsing flash enabled and works great worth it’s price on the iPad.

    • http://twitter.com/TheNajiBrothers Air Genius

      I like photon browser but I feel like puffin Web browser implements flash on websites the way any flash enabled device would for a better user experience. But photon runs a little smoother

  • http://twitter.com/MBlackskull Muath Wajih

    That is the same idea as the windows tablet, right?

  • http://twitter.com/OrangeSn0w ☃OrangeSn0w☃

    What about if one of the apps ran as the iPhone app, a lot smaller in one of the corners?

  • http://twitter.com/robogobo rob nienburg

    I doubt this will happen. In fact, it goes against the basic idea of the iOS experience- maximize screen space for focused tasks. The only thing cumbersome about switching between apps is using the double click home button method. Using the four finger swipes left and right is a snap, and much better than layering apps. No way is the iPad screen big enough to make this a productive feature.

    • http://www.youtube.com/myjailbreakmovies/ Jeff Benjamin

      I don’t think the screen-size, or lack thereof is a problem at all. You can easily slide each app in and out of view to suite your needs.

  • Anonymous

    man this is awesome. ive always wanted to be able to do this. i always have a couple of things side by side on my desktop!

  • Alejandro Marez

    I’m some instances, I could see the use… But really, would it that much easier? You would have to double tap the home button/swipe up with four fingers, press and hold the app’s thumbnail on the switcher, then fight with the positioning of the two apps… I would much rather simply swipe four fingers left and right to quickly switch back and forth between apps. And with the new notification center, you could easily stay up to date on all your “tweets.” I think you’d be trying to reinvent the wheel with this one.

    • http://www.youtube.com/myjailbreakmovies/ Jeff Benjamin

      Yes, when you’re trying to write a blog post, and reference a video, or another piece of text it could absolutely be instrumental. I’m sure a lot of other great uses could be found as well. I know it’s not necessary for everyone’s workflow, but I think the majority would welcome it with open arms.

      • http://granniethegeek.tumblr.com/ GrannieTheGeek

        Great article. My son-in-law and I were just discussing this the other day. Thanks for sharing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/mike.rodman1 Mike Misha Rodman

        It could work really well using the snap feature (side by side only) with an app on oneside running as usual, and the other being inactive (suspended in the memory) but still visible; simply tap the app on the other side to resume it and suspend the other. Perhaps pinch where the two apps meet together to swap the two?

        Seems like it could be fairly doable and memory efficient this way, and would be pretty congruent with apples ios multitasking method.

    • Eric Morgan

      Absolutely. Thisis a dumb idea.

  • Anonymous

    I just use my iPad and iPhone at the same time :P But yeah I would love this feature. I hope a cydia tweak comes out soon :D

  • http://twitter.com/dault2 Derek Ault

    I would even be happy if I could run two iPhone apps side by side on my iPad…

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to kill the buzz, but Windows 8 for tablets is already coming out with this feature; there are several videos online from Microsoft themselves – Let’s hope Apple will include this by next year, but they won’t for this years iOS update :(

  • http://twitter.com/jdogg84able Jdgg84

    They have this on Android, sorry to burst the bubble. Its called cornerstone. Jeff you should check it out. Its much like the idea you have here. I would definitely love to see this on the iPad as well. We need that tweak week to come back exclusive to the iPad, when the JB is released.

  • Imahottguy

    I love the idea for this. What about the four finger swipes that allows one to swith between apps? I don’t use it that often, but it works well. I guess the only thing I would see as a problem, in my opinion, is how often does one find themselves wishing they could have two apps running side by side? Perhaps modifying the multitasking tray so that when apps are actually running in the background it will show a live slide of what is going on would be cool. By doing so the tray would take up more space than it does now, say 1/3 of the screen to show the live screen shots. Great concept though, I definitely think Apple could improve how multitasking is handled on iOS, especially on iPad.

  • Anonymous

    great idea
    or something like a persistent switcher that insta-switch apps (as if they were maximized windows)

  • Lucas Venarotti

    what you are proposing is very windows 8 kinda thingy, but still, it`s a great idea. :P

  • http://twitter.com/KAB00M_18 Luis Noé

    They should add the multi tasking features that were added to lion

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zeljko-Nikolic/1646404156 Zeljko Nikolic

    Nice conecpt Jeff.I am really excited about the Iphone 5.How it will be?A new Design?Siri Final?I have a concept too.But this no software.The Iphone should have a lcd like nexus to stretch it around the Iphone and the upper and lower side.Touchscreen allaroud.Only the edges should be made of liquid metal or stainless steel to protect the glass which should not be higher then the edges (from the height of the iphone).If it falls down,rear camera,facing the ground then the glass should not break.This would be awesome.I am holding my iphone with 4 fingers- never mind if right or left hand.Could you image how you could unlock your iphone?With gestures or positions of your fingertips,adjust (i hope)3D camera,scroll with your thumb or even control your ipad with the fingers your holding it with.That would be amazing.Jeff,tell me you are here or show me a sign you have read this.Never got a answer from you ;-( hehe.Maybe my english is too bad…Greetz from Germanistan.Jeff,continue your good work.Best site so far.always good news.What do you think?Write it down below in the comments section….haha…..I like you say “Folks” haha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=801804921 Gerard Hampton

    Its a good idea as long as it doesnt chew your ram and make it run slower. for me theres a lot more things it needs to do before replacing a desktop.

    ie keyboard and mouse, usb and other i/o sockets for memory cards etc.

    For example on my android tablet (tf101) i can use my canon eos to take pics, pull out the card and put it in the keyboard dock, open up photoshop and edit, upload to wherever. (please dont say fandroid etc i have apple products to)

    They could make a slightly thicker ipad with all the common ports, faster cgu/gpu and run osx on it.. that would be cool. Sell it for a higher price than the common ipad and call it something like, the “ipad complete”

    and yes apple i am available to work for you ;P

  • Mark de Vocht

    so Jeff is making concept videos, nice one.
    I think Ryan Petrich would be the man for this job.

  • CANF800SL CANF800SL

    Nice concept. I think you might have to wait until the iPad has a quad-core chip, at least 2GB RAM and a bigger screen.

  • http://twitter.com/GuyBey0ndC00L eDDie

    You hit that right on the money. I would also add a tweak I like opening App Links in the Background. Example if your in Tweetbot an want to open that link in Safari instead of switch to Safari right away. It will open the Safari App in the background without switching over yet. Almost like saving it to Read Later Tweak. The App Switcher is still pretty useless at times and needs flash. I know apple hates flash but its use like 90% Around the net. Share links to SMS for entire iOS. Quick Messages

  • Anonymous

    This will happen when iOS meets Windows 8.

  • http://twitter.com/architsharma97 Archit Sharma

    The concept is actually nice. But the problem is it will initiate a whole new series of litigations, this time involving Microsoft and apple, where apple will be blamed for stealing the feature of Microsoft OS 8 for tablets. Apple already has a lot on its plate with android. It could certainly avoid litigation process with Microsoft.

  • Stewartcaron

    I also think that they need multi-user capabilities. It is not acceptable to expect every person in every household to have their own iPad. It should have multiple user springboards and apps etc…

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisNAiello Chris Aiello

    Very good idea; simple and clean. I feel like Apple could implement it really well.

  • http://twitter.com/xpineappIe Eddie Z.

    Look up Polyonix.

  • Anonymous

    A file manager. Really I’d love to download images and documents and manage them on a file system. Some websites I post images to I can’t use on the iPad because I cannot upload images via safari. It has a way to go, but I like this thought too

  • billypuntove

    did you seriously just said that? Have you not seen Google’s Experiments? (all HTML5-based)
    That could have definitely be done with HTML and even have a better result.
    Honestly, you need to pay a visit to some great HTML5 experiments and see what can be done.
    (not to mention that website looks like something out of the year 1999)

    • Alexander Reimann

      Then why are all new Movie websites still made in Flash??

      • billypuntove

        Because HTML5 is new. That’s like saying, but “Why is most software still coming out in floppy disks?” when CDs were only coming out. Do you want to be like the people who resisted CDs in favor of floppy disks? Where are those now? Do you want to be like those who resist the cloud in favor of thumb drives? It’s going the same way.

        The argument of why something still thrives does not make it better than new tech.

      • Alexander Reimann

        Until HTML5 becomes standard across all browsers and 70%+ computers and adds all the functionalities of Flash, there is still a place for Flash

    • Alexander Reimann

      Also, youtube is the most used multimedia website in the world and their HTML5 beta has been going on for so many years, if Flash is so bad, why would they not have switched over??? BROWSER COMPATIBILITY, HTML looks different in every browser, especially older versions, not to mention issues with fonts and multimedia content that can’t be displayed across browsers in HTML consistently. Have you even ever developed in Flash?

      • billypuntove

        YouTube is a google company. Do you know how many years Gmail spent in beta while it worked perfectly fine?

        Anyway, about your lastest comment. There will still be a place for flash as long as people keep developing with it. But as more people see the advantages it will continue to disappear. I could still use the example of floppy disks.

        It honestly always comes down to Internet Explorer and their resistance to make all users upgrade to the latest version. Always leaving one or two versions supported (those which did not fully support HTML5)

        Of course, that creates a need to work with flash so does users are not left out. But that should not be the way innovation works.

        There will be a place for flash as long as there are people working with it, that number is undeniably diminishing each day. I for one am glad Apple does this kind of thing from time to time. If it were not for companies doing that, we would live in a world of storage units with 1.44 MB of space, among many other things.

      • Alexander Reimann

        Totally agree, Internet Explorer is the bane of any developer’s existence. The one nice thing in Flash is that it’s stand alone, maybe HTML5 will figure out a way to circumvent browser incompatibility soon too. HTML is definitely the future, agree with you there.

      • billypuntove

        I definitely see that happening. I really think they just needed the support of Microsoft, which it finally (kind of) got since it recently made its user upgrade to at least the version that supported HTML5. I can’t remember the number. It was a matter of “either you go along with the ride or you get run over and left behind.”

        Only time will tell but I’m confident.