Desktop for iPad Offers Multitasking Today

| In-Depth Review

The iPad is a great product, but its current OS only allows one to run and display one user app at a time. Aqua Eagle’s Desktop app allows one to display any two of its selected modules at one time. For example, one can simultaneously view a website and a dictionary. Or even two websites simultaneously.

Until iPhone OS 4.0 arrives, iPad users have to quit one app and launch another. That’s fine for the iPhone, where the ostensible logic is that one can only do one thing at a time with a smartphone’s relatively small display. However, the size and power of the iPad begs for being able to present multiple apps on the screen at the same time.

With Desktop you can do that.

You can chose to display any two of the following modules, and they can be duplicated if necessary.

  • Browser
  • Calculator (simple four-function)
  • Currency Converter
  • Dictionary
  • E-mail composer
  • Maps
  • Disk, memory statistics
  • Translator (text, human language to language)
  • Unit Converter
  • Weather


Other modules can remain running, however, you’re limited to displaying two. The interface couldn’t be simpler. On the upper left side, you pick the two modules. On the right side you select how the screen is to be split. Only the modules offered can be selected, so you don’t have access to just any iPad app. That’s about it for the UI.

If you like, you can make the two modules the same. That can come in handy of you need to view two different websites simultaneously. Another nice mode is to split the screen vertically in portrait mode. That way, you can browse and compose an e-mail at the same time. There are many more possibilities.


I asked the developer, Dan Yadgar, about the philosophy of having each module take up all of 50 percent of the screen, with its own background. That is, instead of letting the module float on the iPad’s desktop.

“I can see both advantages and limitations to this new design. First, you have the limitation that only two utiltiies can be seen at a time (although within the same session you can have more than two open and switch between them - but you will only be able to see two at once). We do not believe this to be a big disadvantage, because the resolution of the iPad probably makes a combination of 3 or more at a time impractical in most cases. Another issue with this design is that a couple of the tools that we included that did not really need so much screen real-estate now occupy a complete panel (example: the calculator).

“However, there are also many advantages to the design, which in my opinion make up for the limitations:




  • Simplicity: the user does not need to resize, move, maximize, minimize. There are no covered windows which he needs to bring back to the foreground.
  • Significant screen real-estate is saved by not needing window bars or a bottom app bar. This specially benefits tools like the web browser, where you want as much screen-estate as possible to be available.
  • The application now maintains a look & feel typical of iPad applications, creating an easier learning curve for our customers.”





The developer states that new modules are coming in version 1.1: world clock, compass and notes editor. A notes editor combined with a dictionary on the same display could be a very handy writing combo.

Desktop from Aqua Eagle is a modest app at a modest price that can solve a set of unique problems for certain users. It’s worth serious consideration for your iPad suite of apps.

Product: Desktop 1.0.1

Company: Aqua Eagle

List Price: US$0.99



Easy to learn, one can have two modules (from a limited, built-in set) visible at the same time and more than two running (but not visible). Low price.


E-mail composition can blot out the other module in some geometries. Limited to two built-in modules visible at the same time. 

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Actually, even after 4.0 arrives for the iPad, you won’t be able to do this (at least with the announced features). Even with the limited multitasking Apple will allow in 4.0, you still only see one app at a time on screen.

Unless Apple is going to allow multiple re-sizable/movable ‘windows’ (each one having a different app) to be onscreen at once, this type of app will still be the only way to accomplish this.

Quite frankly the modal nature of the iPad is once reason I don’t see me replacing a MacBook with an iPad anytime soon. I stopped using modal computers back when Multifinder on the Mac was released and GS/OS on the Apple IIgs was released. smile smile

Mark Hernandez

It appears to me that this app is simply a single app that allows you to view two if it’s internal “objects” at a time.  These guys wrote their own subviews, each accessing the APIs that all developers have access to such as a map view, email view, web view, etc, and you are dependent on these guys adding these features to their “single” app.  Each of their “sub-apps” won’t be able to match all the capabilities of the separate Mobile Safari browser, Apple’s email app, Google maps with street view, etc.

It’s conceivable that, with the APIs that are available to the user, they can also add access to music, video, contacts, etc, but you’ll have to wait for these guys to recreate only a subset of the capabilities that already exist in the separate apps.

John Martellaro

iVoid: Note my wording.  I didn’t say that iPhone OS 4 would be able to do what Desktop does. I did say, ” its current OS only allows one to run and display one user app at a time.” From what we’ve seen from Mr. Forstall’s demo, iPhone OS 4 will be able maintain (I won’t say “run”) multiple user apps at the same time, but still only display one at a time—as you pointed out.

Laurie Fleming

So does that mean more like co-operative multi-tasking than pre-emptive?


eher, seems this is a good app for ipad users, hope it really can do work.
thanks fot the news anyway!
well, learn more info about ipad, including its video and audio formats, apps, games and jailbreak hacks, go to: iFunia iapd column.

John Martellaro

Laurie:  Co-operative multitasking is a phony form of multitasking used when the APIs are NOT reentrant*.  Remember when Apple moved away from the classic API’s to Carbon?  Carbonization of every API in that framework made every API reentrant, required for a true multitasking OS.

The iPhone and iPad use iPhone OS which is a true preemptive multitasking OS. It’s just that Apple arbitrarily limits USER apps to run one at a time. Preemptive multitasking (time slicing) is still used to, say, run music in the background.

Desktop uses objects that are derived from the APIs that can conduct a true form of preemptive multitasking, but in a single app and within Apple’s guidelines so as not to drain the battery excessively.

Write me if you need more info.

*Reentrant APIs allow multiple apps to call the SAME API while they are current without stepping on each other’s data.

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