iPadOS 15: The App Shelf

Eden Hare
3 min readAug 3, 2021

When Apple announced iPadOS 15 and iOS 15 at WWDC in June, they introduced many new features and expanded capabilities. As my 12.9 inch iPad Pro is my primary platform, I was thrilled with the updates to the multitasking capabilities of iPadOS. While multitasking doesn’t seem to be the same as an OS like macOS, switching between different windows for the same app required more effort in iPadOS 14.

To have additional full-screen apps in iPadOS 14, it was often necessary to open the app in split-view and hide the app you wanted in a second full-screen view.

With iPadOS 15, we now have the app shelf. When launching a second instance of the same application, the app shelf appears, allowing you to select the currently running instance of the application or launch a second copy.

Activating the app shelf requires at least one running copy of the application. Touching the same application icon again displays the app and the app shelf. A long press displays the context menu.

The shelf remains visible until you start interacting with the application. We can then see both copies in the App Switcher by swiping up from the bottom of the display.

In the App Switcher, you can still close an application by swiping up, but it is also possible to create a split view by dragging one window onto another. The split view could contain two instances of the same application or instances of different applications.

The app shelf may not seem like a big deal, but launching a second copy of an application just by touching it is a big step in the multitasking workflow. And this is only one of several improvements in iPadOS 15 related to multi-tasking. The other multi-tasking features announced include:

  • the new multitasking menu, allowing the easy selection between a fullscreen, split-view, or slide-over view of the application;
  • the ability to open an email message, note, or other elements in the…

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Eden Hare

Eden is the co-author of seven books and author of more than 100 articles and book chapters in technical, management, and information security publications.