The iPad Dock

One important feature of iOS that is unique to the iPad is the Dock. When at the home screen, you see the Dock sitting nicely at the bottom with spaces for several apps (and folders). It is an efficient, easy, and empowering way to organize apps on the iPad and to multitask. It also gives you a faster alternative to the home screen to get to your most frequently used apps.

You have the opportunity to set up the dock in a way that most suites your needs. It peaks in usability and efficiency with the careful choice of apps/folders, and after using it several times. You would get used to it such that your finger would automatically go to the appropriate location of the app on the dock. It should also be mindfully approached as a work in progress in that some tweakings and changes would be important in getting the Dock just right for you.

# My iPad Dock

I’m showing you the details of my Dock to provide you with some useful ideas. The best Dock for you should have a setup that is uniquely yours, depending on which apps/folders/shortcuts you depend on the most.

After several itirations, my iPad Dock seems to have settled nicely into having the following (from left to right):

  • Apple Calendar. (I also occasionally use Week Cal HD, but that stays on my home screen)
  • DevonThink. (You could alternatively place Evernote or Apple Notes here)
  • “Documents” folder, containing:
  • Apple Numbers
  • Apple Pages
  • Millel
  • Apple Notes
  • MS Word
  • MS Excel
    • “MCB” folder, containing:
  • WordPress app
  • A shortcut for “MCB Blogging”
  • A shortcut for Instagram
  • Pinterest
    • “Online” folder, containing:
  • Apple Mail
  • Safari
  • Three shortcuts for my frequently visited websites (teaching related)
    • “File Explorers” folder, containing:
  • FileCloud. (For my institution’s cloud service)
  • GoodReader
  • DropBox
  • Yoink
  • Apple Files
    • FileBrowser. (You could, instead, place Apple Files here)
    • AirMail. (An alternative would be Apple Mail or Gmail)
    • Settings. (I believe you should have this on your Dock!)

    These are the files/folders that are fixed/pinned in place on my iPad. To their right, you could see a line. After that line, the iPad places the three most recently used apps that are otherwise not fixed/pinned in the Dock (unless they are in a folder in the dock).

    In total, my Dock holds 24 Frequently-used/Essential apps (including those within folders on the Dock) and 5 shortcuts. The maximum number of apps you could have (if you put them all in folders on the Dock) would be over 200 apps for the 10.5″ iPad (even more for larger models)!!! Honestly, though this is technically possible, I wouldn’t recommend it. Just focus on your most used apps and shortcuts, and leave the rest on the home screen.

    # Using the Dock

    When you are on the home screen, the Dock is permanently there in the bottom, giving you quick access to your apps. The real power of it, though, is in its availability anywhere in the system, and in its multi-tasking role.

    Let’s say that you are in GoodNotes, you could swipe up slowly from the bottom of the screen to expose the Dock. Just be careful that if you swipe up too fast, all apps would be minimized and the system would take you to the home screen. If you swipe up too high, it’d take you to the mutlitasking window where you could see all opened apps. So yes, it needs some getting used to to ensure that you do just the right gesture.

    Ok, once the Dock is swiped up on top of a currently opened app, you could do one of the following:

    – Click on an app on the Dock to open it, in place of the previously opened app.

    – Drag and drop an app towards one end of the screen (right or left) to activate the Split Screen mode (some apps, like Settings, do not work in Split Screen mode).

    – If you already have two apps in split screen, you could drag a new one from the Dock to the top of any one of the present apps to replace it.

    – If you are in Split Screen mode, you could drag and drop the app on top of the separating line to activate Slide Over. This way, you would have two main apps on the screen, and a third one on top of them.

    # One last tip:

    This is useful for those who use a Mac as a desktop computer besides the iPad.

    It would greatly help if the apps and the order of the apps on your iPad Dock are set similarly to those on your Mac. For example, on my Mac, I have OmniFocus, Calendar, and DevonThink towards the far left of the Mac Dock; and Settings, Mail, and Finder towards the far right. The setup is not exactly the same, but it is similar wherever possible. My default email app on the iPad is Airmail, whereas on the Mac it is Apple Mail. Yet, I have my default email app towards the far left of the Dock on both devices.

    The power of this set up is in its training of your muscle memory. After some period of time using both devices, your mind would expect to see the default email app, for example, at a certain location on the dock. If that location is the same on the other device, your workflow would be noticeably more efficient.

    # Conclusion

    I believe that the Dock is an essential element of using the iPad in a productive and efficient way, and in a manner that raises it up to the level of a laptop replacement. Its role in organizing and in multi-tasking is so useful, that I would consider it a required tool for making you truly productive on the go.

    The trick for the optimal value here is to set up the Dock to suit your personal needs. Take ideas from here and elsewhere, have an initial Dock set up, then feel free to tweak it from time to time until you feel that it really works the way you need it.

    Happy computing!



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