App Control: How to Manage the Dock on Your iPad

The iPad Dock is a handy area that stores frequently used and recently accessed apps, sparing you from having to hunt through multiple screens or folders to find a certain program. You can also use it to more easily multitask by opening two or more apps in Slide Over or Split View mode.

Introduced with iOS 11, the Dock has gained a few new tricks over the years. The process for adding and rearranging icons has changed over time. Plus, you can paint the Dock with a darker background by turning on dark mode. Here’s how to use the Dock on your iPad.

How to Access the Dock

You can access the Dock a couple of ways depending on your current screen. At the home screen, the Dock is always visible. If you’re in a folder or an app and want to see the Dock, swipe up from the bottom of the screen, but not too much; just enough to trigger the Dock.

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You can give the dock and your entire screen a darker look through dark mode. Swipe down from the top right of the screen to display Control Center. Press down on the control for brightness, then tap the Dark Mode button to turn it on. Return to the Home screen, and the Dock now sports a dark background.

Go Dark

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How to Add Apps to the Dock

You can add an app icon from the home screen to the Dock a few different ways. Lightly press down on an icon and drag it onto the Dock. You can also long-press on the icon and choose the Edit Home Screen command from the pop-up menu. The icons will then start jiggling. Alternatively, keep pressing down on the icon even after the menu appears, and the icons will eventually start jiggling.

Add an App to the Dock

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Hold down the icon and drag it into the Dock to the left of the vertical border separating recently used apps. Swipe up on the screen or tap the Done button in the upper right to stop the jiggling. You can also use this process to add entire folders to the Dock.

Drag Apps into the Dock

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As you add more icons, the existing Dock icons shrink—even more so if you hold your iPad in portrait mode. How many icons can you add? That depends on the size of your iPad. The larger the iPad, the more icons it can typically house in the Dock. Experiment with your iPad to see just how many icons you can squeeze onto the Dock.

See how many icons you can squeeze onto the Dock

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You can also change the order of the apps in the Dock. Simply drag an icon from one spot in the Dock to another. Alternatively, long-press any icon in the Dock and choose Edit Home Screen from the pop-up menu. After the icons starting jiggling, drag and drop any icon you want to move to a different location in the Dock.

Move Apps Around the Dock

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How to Remove Apps From a Cramped Dock

Too many icons crammed into the Dock? Kick some out. Lightly press down on an icon and drag it from the Dock to the Home Screen. Otherwise, long-press on an icon in the Dock to display the pop-up menu, tap Edit Home Screen (or just keep pressing on the icon). When the icons start to jiggle, hold down the icon you want to remove and drag and drop it onto the Home Screen.

Remove Apps From a Cramped Dock

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To completely delete an app nestled on the Dock, again long-press on it until you see the pop-up menu and then tap Edit Home Screen (or keep pressing on it). When the apps start to jiggle, tap the minus sign in the icon’s upper-left corner. You’ll receive a prompt with given two options:

  • Delete App: Completely remove the app from your device.

  • Remove from Home Screen: Delete the app from the Dock but keeps it accessible in the App Library.

Delete Apps From the Dock

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How to Manage Recently Used Apps

The Dock reserves space for recently accessed or suggested apps; they appear on the right side of the Dock, on the other side of the horizontal divide. As you open new apps, you’ll see their icons appear. This section can hold as many as three regular icons, plus one for the App Library, including those available through Apple’s Handoff feature. The permanent fixtures in the Dock can eventually start squeezing them out, depending on how many you have.

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Work With the Recently Used Apps Section

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Don’t need to see one of those recently used apps? You can wait until it gets replaced by a new one or delete it from the Dock. Long-press any icon, select Edit Home Screen from the menu, and then tap the minus sign to delete it. Alternatively, select Hide App from the menu, and the icons immediately disappears. Deleting the icon from the recent apps section doesn’t remove the app from your iPad.

Ditch a Recently Used Icon

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Don’t want to see recently accessed apps in the Dock at all? Disable that feature under Settings > Home Screen & App Library. Turn off the switch next to Show Suggested and Recent Apps in Dock. Return to the home screen, and you’ll see that your recent apps no longer appear. Now you have more space to add icons.

Disable Recently Used Icons

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Multitask With the Dock

The Dock comes in handy if you want to work with two or more apps on the same screen, and at least one of those apps is on the Dock. Open an app and swipe from the bottom of the screen to display the Dock. Hold down the icon for the second app and move it to one side of the screen until it turns into a small vertical window. Release your hold, and the new app appears in Slide Over mode alongside the first app.

Multitask With Slide Over Mode

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Drag the new window to the right until the other window starts to shrink and both apps fade out. Release your hold, and the window on the right slips into place in Split View mode. You can now resize the two windows by dragging the vertical center bar left or right. Note that Split View mode works only with certain iPads, including the iPad Pro series, the 5th generation iPad and later, the iPad Air 2 and later, and the iPad mini 4 and later.

Multitask With Split View Mode

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