VoiceOver Four and Five Finger Gestures in iOS 7 and iOS 8 for iPad

iOS & iPadOS

Since using VoiceOver I have discovered some four or more finger gestures that I find useful. As far as I can tell these gestures seem to be undocumented by Apple.
Note: Multitasking Gestures have to be turned Off in Settings to use these gestures.

These gestures have only been tested on an iPad. They work fine on a iPad 3rd generation and on an iPad Air, however, on smaller screens using four finger gestures might be more difficult. If anyone would like to try them on an iPhone or iPod please post the results here.
Here is what I have found:

These notes were originally written for iOS 7. I have added notes for similar gestures using iOS 8.

It is well documented that a three finger flick left, right, up and down moves the screen one page left, right or up and down. However, if one uses four fingers one can ‘freely’ scroll up or down in safari, for example, or left and right in some applications. The free scroll up or down can be a fast flick or a slow swipe. The four finger swipe in VoiceOver is equivalent to a single finger swipe or flick without VoiceOver on.
iOS 8: use five fingers for same results.

The four finger gesture can be used in VoiceOver in other circumstances where a single finger gesture is used without VoiceOver. I will give the normal, non-VoiceOver, one finger gesture and then the equivalent four finger VoiceOver gesture below: iOS 8 use five fingers.

Swipe right with one finger in many apps that have a side bar list such as Mail, Notes, etc. to display the side bar list. VO gesture: four finger swipe right. iOS 8: use five fingers.

In Safari one can swipe with one finger from the left bezel to go back to previous open page or from the right bezel to go forward to the next open page. VO gesture: use the same gesture but with four fingers, with at least one finger starting from the bezel. iOS 8: use five fingers.

Single finger swipe from top bezel displays Notification Center. VO gesture: four finger swipe from top bezel with at least one finger starting on the bezel. iOS 8: no equivalent 'undocumented' gesture, use standard gesture.

Same as above from bottom bezel to display Control Center.

Thumb and one finger pinch in or out to zoom page in or out in Safari, Mail, Photos, etc. VO gesture: thumb and all four fingers pinch in or out to zoom. This is much easier than using the Rotor. iOS 8: this five finger gesture sometimes works but is unpredictable.

When using Globe2Go or Pressreader from Newspaper Direct in the Text to Speech (TTS) mode called ‘Listen’ in the apps one can go to next or previous article without VoiceOver on by flicking right or left or to previous or next section by swiping up or down with one finger. For both these actions one would expect to achieve this in VoiceOver by using a three finger flick. However, this does not work and one has to use a four finger flick. This also works when in the normal page view to go to next or previous page. iOS 8: use five fingers.



Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, September 1, 2014

The 4 finger swipe up and down does not work for me on my iphone 5 in my otterbox case to access the notifications or control center. Can anyoen else get that one to work?

Submitted by J.P. on Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It works just fine! The reason for your issue is number of fingers. For Control Panel and Notification Center is 3 finger swipe.

Submitted by dvdmth on Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Club AppleVis Member

I think these gestures work because VoiceOver is passing them through when you use four or five fingers for anything other than tapping. That allows the standard multitasking gestures to work with VoiceOver enabled, assuming that multitasking gestures are also enabled.

On my iPad, I had no trouble getting the notification center to come up, but I had all sorts of trouble with the control center gesture. It appears that your rightmost finger has to be right above the home button when you start the gesture, or else it won't work. Even then, it was very hit and miss whether or not the control center came up when I performed the gesture.

The gestures for going back and forward in Safari worked, though I had to have all my fingers along the edge of the screen when starting the gesture. The scrolling and pinch gestures worked without any issues, and I do agree that this is more convenient than the rotor for zooming.

Now I need a quick way to toggle multitasking gestures on and off, since I use the four-finger swipes left and right pretty regularly to change apps.

Submitted by bobcat on Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In reply to by dvdmth

Replying to a couple of responses:

With a bit of practice ... and trial and error, the four finger gestures starting from the bezel on the iPad can be done with only one finger actually starting on the bezel. The gesture to get the Control Center to pop up is, however, the most stubborn

I emphasise that Multitasking Gestures have to be turned off to use the gestures I have described. I find that the App Switcher, invoked by double-clicking the Home button with VoiceOver on is a much better way of moving between apps for someone with Low Vision because it is easier to find the app one wants to reopen. So the lack of Multi Tasking Gestures is not a loss for me.

The 'normal' VO gesture to open the Control and Notification Center is a tree finger swipe after first selecting the Status Bar. The four finger gesture that I have described does not require you to select the Status Bar first.

If anyone has tried the gestures described in my original post on an iPhone it would be good to hear from you to indicate whether any of them work on the iPhone.

Submitted by bobcat on Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Since posting my comments on using 'undocumented' four finger gestures I have found another posting giving an alternative gesture for opening the Notification and Control Centers. This alternative uses one finger and will probably be useful for the smaller iPhone and iPod screens. I have tried it on the iPad and it works.

Here is the other AppleVIS posting:

See: How to do it. at this link:


Submitted by dvdmth on Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Club AppleVis Member

There are two reasons why I have multitasking gestures turned on. The first is that it's easier to switch between two apps while exercising, either on a treadmill or on a bike, with four-finger swipes. I find the home button to be less convenient in this situation. Secondly, when I'm using a Bluetooth keyboard, I can use Command-Tab and Command-Shift-Tab to switch between apps, but those keystrokes require multitasking gestures to be enabled.

Having said that, I am seriously considering changing my usage habits after learning about the trick posted here. In particular, I have found the gesture for notification center to be very useful. For some reason, the notification center comes up much faster when using the four-finger technique described here than when using VoiceOver to activate it. I have enough vision to see the animation that happens when bringing it up, and the animation is considerably slower when VoiceOver is used.

Submitted by Dane on Friday, September 12, 2014

I have an iPhone 5s and can confirm that these gestures do not work on it. However, I also have an iPad mini and can confirm that these gestures do in fact work well there.

Thank you for sharing!

Submitted by Dane on Friday, September 12, 2014

Tip: If using these gestures on the home screen to change pages, it's possible to have VoiceOver automatically announce the page number if you put the VoiceOver cursor on the adjustable located just above the doc first. Just make sure that you perform the gesture well above the doc, somewhere in the middle of the screen to avoid accidentally moving the cursor away from the adjustable while changing pages.

Submitted by bobcat on Thursday, September 18, 2014

I have installed iOS 8 on an old iPad 2 to try iOS 8 out before I install it on my newer iPad. I have found that non on the 'unofficial', undocumented four and five finger gestures that I described in my original post work in iOS 8.
What a pity! I have become quite dependent on some of these.
It is possible that this 'problem' only exists on the older devices but I strongly suspect that these gestures will not work on any device running iOS 8. If anyone has tested them on a newer iPad let me know if they work.

One major bug I have found in iOS 8 when using VoiceOver is that if one has Accessibility Zoom on with VoiceOver the following happens when moving between Home pages:
In Portrait view if one swipes left with three fingers to go to the next Home page Spotlight opens and but if one swipes up or down with three fingers one goes to the next or previous Home page.
In Landscape view, with the Home Button to the right the swipes work as expected. However, if the Home Button is on the left swipes work opposite to what one would expect.

Submitted by bobcat on Friday, September 19, 2014

Update to my previous post:
In iOS 8, with Multi Tasking gestures turned off, it is possible to use five fingers to do many of the gestures I described in my original post. These include:
Free scrolling in Safari and other apps.
Reveal side bar in Mail, Notes, etc. Note: it is not necessary to start from bezel.
Move to previous or next page in Safari, starting from bezel.
Zoom in or out in some apps. It sometimes works in Safari and a five finger pinch takes you to the Pages view (just like a two finger pinch with VoiceOver off).
Five finger pinch can be used in Photos when looking at fullscreen photo but it is more likely to take you back to the thumbnail views.
Not working as well as the four finger gestures in iOS 7 but I find them useful.