iPad Split View and VoiceOver: Research and Homework Tool

In the 21st Century classroom, students are frequently required to do research via Internet searches. Students often research and then they copy/paste their research or take notes about their research into a Pages, Google Docs or Word document. Previously, students would open two apps such as Safari and Pages and either use a four finger swipe left/right to switch between the apps; or, they would use the app switcher. While doable, only one app was displayed on the screen at a time and moving between the two apps was cumbersome. iOS 11 introduced a new way of multitasking - now, the screen can be split to show two apps simultaneously, 

Allow Multiple Apps must be turned on in Settings before trying to use the Split View feature. Go to Settings > General > Multitasking & Dock > Allow Multiple Apps (turn On). 

Teachers of the Visually Impaired Hint: You may want to turn Multiple Apps Off before using the iPad with students who have multiple disabilities or with young students.

Students who use VoiceOver typically prefer using Split View instead of the floating Slide Over feature.

Teacher Hint:  Most VoiceOver users prefer to turn Off Show Suggested and Recent Apps in Settings, as it is easier to locate apps when they are consistently in the same location. If Recent Apps is on, then these app icons are located on the right side of the Dock, organized by the last app that was opened.

Settings > General > Multitasking & Dock > Show Suggested and Recent Apps (off)

Steps for Split View (VoiceOver commands)

Note: the second app added to the Split View should be located in the dock.

Teacher Hint: When you are learning to use the Split View feature, be sure to listen to all of the VoiceOver hints!

  • Open the Safari App and open the desired website.
  • Teacher Hint: Activate the Reader button (located beside the website URL in the top Tool bar) to eliminate ads and extra clutter from the website.
  • Bring up the dock: Starting from below the screen, use a two-finger swipe.  You will hear a "swish" sound when the Dock is revealed. Note: This command works best if you swipe half-way up the screen; shorter swipes will not always bring up the dock.
  • Swipe left or right in the Dock to locate your Pages, Google Docs, Word or Notes app. (I am using Pages.)
  • When the VoiceOver focus is on Pages, use a one-finger swipe down to hear the Actions Available. Your options will be: Pin Pages to the Left, Pin Pages to the Right, Open Side App, Activate (opens Pages). 
  • Pin Pages to the Left: When VoiceOver focus is on Pin Notes to the Left, double tap to select that option.
    • Pages is on the 1/3rd left side of the screen and Safari is on the 2/3rd right side of the screen.
  • To make Pages and Safari equally share the screen: drag one finger from the left side towards the right, stopping on, 'Side App Divider' (the line between the two apps).
    • VoiceOver announces, 'Side App Divider, Actions available.'
  • One finger swipe down, stopping on, 'Resize to half the screen." Double tap to activate.

Now, two apps are displayed side-by-side, each taking up half of the iPad's screen. Touch the left side to move VoiceOver's focus to the left app (Pages) or touch the right side of the screen to move VoiceOver's focus to the right app (Safari).

Teacher Hint: Use a Bluetooth keyboard to input text. The on-screen keyboard will cover the bottom section of the screen, hiding a good portion of Safari and Pages.

  • Drag image from Safari into Pages: Move the VoiceOver focus to the desired image (touch the image or flick to find the image). VoiceOver announces the image and 'Actions available'.
  • Use a one finger swipe down stopping on,  "Drag Item". Double tap to activate.
    • VoiceOver makes a triple tone sound and a small picture appears, ready to be moved.
  • Move the VoiceOver focus and cursor to the desired location in the Pages document: tap on left side of screen (Pages).
    • Use the Rotor, stopping on, 'Actions'.
    • One finger swipe down, 'Drop at Cursor, drop ready'. Double tap to activate.
  • Copy text from Safari and paste into Pages:
    • Normally, you would set the rotor to 'Text Selection'. VoiceOver announces, "Swipe right to expand selection or swipe left to shrink selection."  Or, swipe down to hear these options: Select All, Character Selection, Word Selection, Line Selection, and Page Selection. Double tap on your desired rotor option, then down swipe to select by that amount.
    • Note: There is currently a bug with Text Selection in iOS 11. 
    • Another option is to use the three-finger quadruple tap to copy the last content spoken by VoiceOver.  

NOTE: If Zoom is enabled, then use a three-fingers to tap five times quickly. Be careful - you can turn the screen curtain on or VoiceOver Speech off if you do not tap 5 times correctly. All of these three finger commands are to toggle on/off, so if you accidently made the wrong command, repeating the same command will toggle that feature.

  • Once the text is selected, touch on the left side of the screen to move the VoiceOver focus back to the Pages document.
  • Move the cursor to the desired location.
  • Paste the text into Pages: Set the Rotor to Edit.
    • Use a one finger swipe down, stopping on, "Paste". Double tap to activate.

In the user-friendly video below, Daniel demonstrates how to use the Multitasking feature, Split View, while running VoiceOver.

Currently, Split View is available on the iPad Pro, iPad (5th generation), iPad Air2, and iPad mini 4. Split View is not available on iPad Air.

View more information on Apple's website about Multitasking and Split View here.

Learn more about Split Screen on other devices here.


Posted by kareneyeSep 03, 2019

I am trying to teach a student how to do a split screen on an iPad 6th Gen. I can do all the steps and it works great when Voiceover is turned off. However, as soon as I turn Voiceover off, I can not get the dock to open. I'm using the 2-finger swipe from the bottom border up towards the center. I've used various speeds and finger separations but I just can't get it to work. I can turn voiceover off, slide the dock up, and setup split screen. Then, when I turn voiceover back on, it works just fine. The only thing that doesn't work with voiceover is opening the dock. Any suggestions?   Thank you

Posted by Diane BraunerSep 03, 2019

Your are absolutely correct! I just tried Split View with VoiceOver running and had the same experience that you are having. 2-finger swipe up did not pull up the dock - no matter how I performed the gesture. If I turned VO off, I could access the dock, then turn VO back on to find the desired app, then swipe down to activate pinning the app on the left (or right) side of the screen.

Let's contact Apple Accessibility and let them know that this is a bug. I'm running iOS 12.4.1



Read more about: Assistive Technology