Jailbroken iPads can now multitask apps

Jailbroken iPads can now multitask apps

Summary: The Quasar windows manager allows standard iOS apps to be run in separate windows. They can also be moved, resized and manipulated in all the ways that you might play with windows on a Windows or Mac system.


A few weeks ago I suggested that the killer feature missing from the iPad is multitasking. For owners who have jailbroken their iPads, such a feature is now available.

Multitasking is brought to the iPad thanks to an application called Quasar, from BigBoss developer Pedro Franceschi. Quasar is a windows manager that allows standard iOS apps to be run in separate windows on the iPad. These windows can be moved about the screen, resized and manipulated in all the ways that you might interact with applications on a Windows or Mac system.

Quasar is fully integrated with the iOS Notification Center, which means that clicking on notifications will open the app in a window. It will also automatically open App Store, YouTube, and web links in the appropriate windowed app.

Quasar is also optimized to run iPhone apps on the iPad at the correct resolution.

For anyone who wonders whether the iPad has enough processing power to handle multitasking, this video should answer that question. In fact, even the first-generation iPad has enough horsepower to multitask applications.

The multitasking effects appear smooth and responsive, with no lag or visual artefacts visible on screen. The iPad's hardware is clearly up to the task, meaning this omission is a limitation of iOS platform and not of the iPad itself.

Be warned that there do seem to be a few bugs in the application. For example, moving a window off the screen causes the app to be annoyingly chopped in half. Bugs are to be expected given that this is a first release, and the developer has promised fixes.

The only drawback to this app is that it requires a jailbroken iPad. If you're running a device with iOS 5 or earlier then this isn't going to be a problem. For those on iOS 5.1 -- which includes all iPad 3 owners -- things look bleak. The only jailbreak available for this iOS release is untethered -- which means that if you reboot your device you will need to connect it to a computer to reinstate the jailbreak -- and only works for a limited selection of hardware.

This app is the single best reason I can think of to jailbreak your iPad.

Quasar is available from the Cydia Store and costs $9.99.

If a jailbreak app can bring multitasking to the iPad, It's hard to come up with a compelling reason why Apple can't do the same.

Image credit: BigBoss.


Topics: iPad, Apple, Apps, Mobile OS, Mobility

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  • Multitasking has been around since before the Pentium . . .

    "For anyone who wonders whether the iPad has enough processing power to handle multitasking . . ."

    Umm, what?

    It has more power than an 8086, right?

    [b]The first multitasking CPU Intel came out with was the 286, which initially ran at 6 MHz.[/b] Anybody who thinks you need some form of "incredible processing power" to multitask clearly is out of touch with the history of computing systems.

    Also, windowing has been around since the mid-'80s! The first version of Windows had Windows =).

    The question has never been of power. Computers have been technically capable of multitasking for a very, very long time now. It's always been of implementation. Yes, it can be done. Always could. The only question has really been whether or not it makes sense from a UI perspective.
    • I've run...

      UNIX clones on 8086 processors, back in the day...

      The Amiga was multi-tasking as well (68000), although Apple failed to make MacOS multitasking back then as well, on the same processor, the best they could manage was multi-finder, which froze applications, displaying only 1 at a time, exactly like the iPad today...

      Given the same timescale, you can expect official multi-tasking (multiple windows) on the iPad in another 12 years or so. :-P
      • Heh...

        Actually the iPad chooses when to multitask, and when it chooses to do so it's proper pre-emptive multitasking (what classic Mac OS did was co-operative multitasking, each process had to yield so one stuck process mean everything stopped - yep, it's about as good as it sounds, early Windows worked the same way, though to be fair Microsoft had pre-emptive multitasking in Windows NT 3.1).

        The iPad isn't meant to be this kind of system (and this is deliberate, and there are plenty of reasons this is a "good thing" to counter balance the advantages of unfettered multitasking). The idea is the system should be invisible when you're running an application, there should be no indication that the device can do anything else (chrome-less). Given this design there are fewer use cases where multitasking is a benefit. Some of those the iPad chooses as exceptions (the music player is an obvious example), while others are catered for by handing off to the OS (this is how Skype works, the OS handles the "ringing" part, if you choose to answer Skype is launched and answers the call. This "slight of hand" means the user could quite easily think Skype has been "multitasking" all the time - there is no way to tell the difference from our side of the glass).

        The upside is (perceived) performance, and battery life. Unlike the Amiga the iPad has memory protection, and sandboxing - so no "Guru Meditation Numbers"...
      • @jeremychappel

        Show me an unjailbroken iPad that will display a Safari page alongside a Pages page, so that I can read reference material whilst writing a document and we can talk about multi-tasking.

        The problem is there in your first sentence. The iPad decides when IT will do multi tasking (and how), not when and how the user will...

        This is one of the main reasons why tablets in general are not even on my radar, I spend around 98% of my time working with 3 or more windows visible. With only one visible window, my proctivity would drop like a stone (I do a lot of technical writing and documentation, so I need to see multiple reference documents whilst writing).

        That is why real, on-screen multi-tasking is so important for many users.
    • It's more complicated then that

      It's not just hardware that is the issue. You also have to consider the application you are running. Multitasking NotePad and MineSweeper would be trivial on an 8086. OTOH, try doing the same with a complex Excel workbook and GTA IV.
      • The point being, it can be done.

        Yes, it is the case that some apps may not play well together. That's actually almost always the case - even on my quad core machine, if I were to start rendering video or something it would bog down everything else. The point being, it can be done.

        Of course, with Windows (and I assume other modern OSes as well), I limit it to two or so cores, and that certainly helps, but if I were to let it use all four I could certainly arrive at a similar situation with several apps competing for CPU resources.
  • Correction:

    "The only jailbreak available for this iOS release is [b]untethered[/b] ??? which means that if you reboot your device you will need to connect it to a computer to reinstate the jailbreak ??? and only works for a limited selection of hardware."

    You mean tethered, right?
  • I wouldn't go there

    iOS of course has the ability to multitask as it is UNIX based. Disallowing multitasking is a feature not a limitation. All these types of limitations are what makes the iPad so desirable to the masses, ironically. Use your PC or laptop if you want windowed multitasking.
  • Better watch out kids...

    ...Stevie Boy may just reach out of the grave to touch you! You know how much this sort of thing pi$$es him off. :-)
  • When is an iPad not an iPad?

    Just because it can be done, doesn't mean it has to. By its very nature, it is a multitasking OS. By design, it is a controlled multitasking OS without windowing. That is the difference between iOS and Android. One is designed to be a consumer appliance, the other trying to be a full fledged computing device.
    • It's just there are times

      I would love to be able to view two screens on the same device at once.
      It would make a number of things easier.
      Why can't we as users have the ability to decide whether or not to use it?
      Oh wait! That would would mean we can actually make a decision.... :O
      • Choice

        You have a choice - Apple will quite happily sell you a machine just like you're describing. They call it a MacBook Air.
  • Ah Yes the Fanbois Speak

    Windowed multitasking, like many other features that appeared for jailbroken iPhones prior to making their debut in iPhone proper (folders, decent notifications, video camera, etc) is a feature we don't need, that actually detracts from the experience of the phone, right up until the time the boys and girls at 1 Infinite Loop incorporate the exact same feature into iOS. Then it is brilliant, magical, life changing, innovative.
    • sarcasm aside

      its only a matter of time before this functionality appears in iOS...
  • I agree that this is not a good feature for iPad

    True story: my next door neighbor calls me over because her Internet was down. After a few seconds of troubleshooting, it turns out that the real problem was that she couldn't open an attachment from an email message. Actually, she could but for some reason, Windows decided to open the attachment window behind the email window. She had about 30 copies of the attachment open as she kept clicking and clicking and clicking.

    The truth is that she did not need the "benefit" of a windowing OS and in fact, it actually made her life more difficult. The iPad is not meant to be a PC clone. It has different use cases. Adding this "feature" will make the iPad worse, not better. If you want this "feature" on your tablet, buy a Windows slate instead.
    • Ahhhh.... Niiiice......

      So she had it set to open behind so therefore this functionality should not be enabled.

      Shocking even.
    • Or...

      Or even a MacBook Air.

      I'm not at all sure something with Metro and classic desktop is going to be anything other than utterly bewildering to someone who doesn't understand overlapping windows. And I agree, you see this fairly often. As well as utter befuddlement at the (Mac/Windows) filesystem. If I had a penny for every time the question "Where did you save it" was answered with "I did it in Word" then I'd have my own island.
      • Never suggested otherwise

        [i]I'm not at all sure something with Metro and classic desktop is going to be anything other than utterly bewildering to someone who doesn't understand overlapping windows.[/i]

        Absolutely agree. However, if you do understand overlapping windows, and you want a tablet with overlapping windows, buy a Windows slate. If you want simple and are willing to give up some power, buy an iPad or a Windows RT tablet. I don't even mean to be insulting when I say "give up some power". I have an iPad and use it a lot for things that simply don't require "complicated" features like overlapping windows. I have nothing but good things to say about my iPad.
  • I here it can

    copy and paste too.
  • WOW! That looks incredible.

    WOW! That looks incredible. True window management on a tablet would be incredible.

    It's such a shame Apple are unlikely to bring it to iPad any time soon. I imagine battery life is effected and Apple like being able to say "iPad lasts for 10 hours". The app centric model of iPad is also where Apple are heading generally.