iOS 11 brought a number of changes, but many of its best new features were exclusive to the iPad. Such as the dock, a dynamic quick-access row of app icons that brings the iPad edition of iOS closer to macOS and makes multitasking easier.

In this article we walk you through the dock in iOS 11, and help you get more out of the feature. For more general advice you may like to read our iOS tips, and How to use an iPad.

System requirements

The requirements for getting the dock are simple: you need to have iOS 11 or later, on an iPad. (The iPad Air 1 and later, and the iPad mini 2 and later - and fairly obviously all the iPad Pro models, and the iPad 9.7in 2017 - are compatible with iOS 11.)

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11: Which iPads can run iOS 11?

What's changed about the dock?

You'll recall that iOS has always had a dock, but in iOS 10 and earlier (and even in iOS 11, on an iPhone), it's a pretty simple affair.

The original dock is simply a row of app icons at the bottom of the Home screen that remains there even when you swipe across to other pages, which makes it slightly more convenient to put frequently used apps there. (On iPad you could have up to six in the dock, too, compared to four on each row of the standard Home page grid.)

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11: Differences from iOS 10

The iOS 11 iPad dock is much more interesting. Firstly, it can be accessed from anywhere - not just from (multiple pages of) the Home page. You can have an app open and still be able to access the dock with a single short swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

Secondly, the new dock can have far more than six apps in it: drag down more apps on to it and it just keeps shrinking its icons to fit more in. The most we've managed is 13 on a 9.7in iPad and 15 on the 12.9in - plus three more which have been added dynamically.

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11

Which brings us to the last point. The new dock is divided into two sections: on the left you've got the apps which live there permanently (or until you choose to remove them), but to the right of the dividing line iOS puts three apps it thinks you might like to open - usually the three apps you've used most recently. Handy!

Access the dock

Provided your iPad is unlocked, you can bring up the dock from anywhere. You simply have to do a short swipe up from the bottom of the screen - the same way you used to bring up the Control Centre in iOS 10.

If you do this short swipe you'll see the dock pop up and sit over whatever else you were looking at - so you can keep the app running behind it.

If you're wondering how we get the Control Centre to appear these days, try doing a longer swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The dock will appear, then as you continue to swipe up the current app screen will shrink back and reveal the Control Centre page (which includes recently opened apps and the dock itself).

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11: Control Centre

Change what appears in the dock

If you'd like to add an app to the dock, tap and hold the icon (you'll find you need to hold it for just half a second or so before dragging - the icon will get slightly bigger when it's ready) and then drag it down on to the dock, still holding down your finger. Two icons will move apart to make room; let go now and the new app will be added.

Using the dock to open two apps side by side

This is perhaps the most useful role of the new always-accessible dock.

You can have one app open, bring up the dock, and open another app from the dock so that it sits side by side with the first one. (On the bigger iPads it's even possible to have three apps open simultaneously.) This is handy in a vast range of activities: researching in Safari while writing up an essay in Pages or Notes, checking a route in Maps while writing directions in Mail, and, best of all, drag-and-dropping pictures and videos from one app to another.

The way this works in practice is admirably intuitive. With app 1 open, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the dock - just the short swipe, since we want to keep the first app on screen. Now tap and hold app 2 in the dock and drag it on to the main screen area.

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11: Open a new app

At this point it will change shape. If it turns into a tall thin rectangle (like Twitter, pictured above), that means it's one of the apps that are able to sit in a small micro-window taking up only the righthand third of the screen - most apps will do this. But if it turns into a fat squarish shape, that means it has to have a whole screen to itself. We've seen that Camera and Settings both do this.

If it's a shrinkable app, dragging it on the main screen area and letting go will make it open in this small righthand window. If both apps currently open are shrinkable, you'll be able to interact with both at once, but app 1 is not (if you opened Settings first, then dragged a micro-window of Photos on top of it) then only the top app will be active. You can still view the older app, but if you tap it the newer app will close.

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11

Assuming again that both apps are playing nicely, you can change the proportion of the screen given to each. Do you see the small bar at the top of the righthand window? Swipe down from that, and the view will change so that the two apps are sitting side by side, rather than one being on top of the other.

How to use the iPad dock in iOS 11

And now there's a draggable bar between the two, which you can use to switch between 2/3rd-1/3rd, 50/50 and 1/3rd-2/3rd views.