Using Drag and Drop on iPad

There have been several shining moments in history that shook the very foundations of civilization as it was known.

Discovering how to create fire.

The printing press.

The Internet.

Drag and drop on the iPad.

Okay, yeah, that last one’s a bit hyperbolic, especially considering drag and drop has been a mainstay on computers for decades now.

Nevertheless, the ability to drag files around and drop them wherever you’d like was, I believe, the top feature in iOS 11. It took the already capable iPad and evolved it into a productive workhorse.

The iPad was introduced in 2010 and ran on an operating system that kept your work locked in apps that couldn’t easily communicate with each other. It took the release of iOS 8, four years later, to introduce a feature dubbed “Extensibility” that allowed content to be more easily shared between apps.

Software development is all about iteration. You’re not going to find a piece of technology that arrives fully formed and 100% stellar.

Much like humans, a device like the iPad needs time and dedicated work to grow and mature into something better than it was.

I believe that’s what the iPad has become now. It still has a ways to go before it can be considered a laptop replacement for most people, but drag and drop brought it one giant step closer to that ideal status.

How Exactly Is Drag and Drop Done?

I’m on the record for not agreeing with the idea of “multitasking.” Rather, in this case I prefer to think of drag and drop as “doing a single task super well.”

Let’s think of an example.

I’m planning on creating an in-depth guide for all my readers and future visitors on how to use the incredible service, Trello, as a way to manage web design projects and collaborate with clients.

I want this to be an informative tutorial, so it shouldn’t be filled with imposing walls of text. It might be information dense, but if the guide looks like a boring chore to read, then what good is it?

That’s where colorful and attractive images come in. Everyone loves a good image that helps to illustrate a point, yeah?

I need to pull an image from online or access one I’ve already got saved in a cloud drive somewhere. I’m going to take a screenshot of Trello, save it to my iCloud Drive, and then drag and drop that screenshot into the document I’m working on. It’ll be a piece of cake.

Let’s take each step in detail.

  1. I opened Trello and navigated to the board of a recent website build project. On my iPad, I pressed the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button (or the Sleep/Wake and Volume Up buttons on the newer iPad Pros) to take a screenshot.
  2. From the lower left hand corner, I tapped the screenshot window to maximize it. I pressed the share button in the upper right hand corner and navigated to where I wanted to save the screenshot in my iCloud Drive. I clicked “Add” and then ditched the screenshot window.
  3. With the image now saved, I opened up the guide document in Pages. I slid my finger up from the bottom of the screen, bringing up the Dock, touched the Files app, and dragged it to the right side of the screen, starting a Split View session.
  4. After navigating to the screenshot, I touched the file, dragged it over to the Pages side, and dropped the screenshot onto the template image in the document.
  5. Celebration 🎉

With practice (and a good bit of “getting in the zone”), that whole process can be accomplished within a small handful of seconds.

The great thing about dragging and dropping on an iPad is that you’re not limited by what you can drag around. Links? Go for it. Text? You got it. Documents? Drag it around, friend.

When it comes to dragging and dropping on the iPad, you’ll find that one of the only limitations you may run into is your imagination. As with anything, practice makes perfect.

Along with Split View and Slide Over, your iPad is now the powerhouse computer it’s always had the potential to be. Working on it is just presents a slightly different way of doing things, but it’s all in the same spirit as whatever’s possible on any other computer.

My advice with learning how to use this capability is to put yourself in situations where you’ll have to use it.

If you need to make a presentation for work or school, open up Keynote or PowerPoint and start dragging images you need onto your slides. If you need to quote text in a document you’re writing, highlight the text, drag the words away, and drop them in their new home in your document.

Drag and drop isn’t just a way to make moving things easier to manage, it’s what has allowed me to turn my iPad into my main and preferred computer over the last year. It makes my work easier and, as a result, my life more enjoyable.

Drag some good stuff into your life, cats.




Always chasing that cozy feeling of being snuggled under a heap of warm blankets in a cold room. Also trying to find cats to pet 😻

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Sean Anderson

Sean Anderson

Always chasing that cozy feeling of being snuggled under a heap of warm blankets in a cold room. Also trying to find cats to pet 😻

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