I have tried using an external keyboard with an iPad since 2010 and while it is possible, it’s nowhere near as good as on MacOS. I have tried various keyboards over the years, including Apple Wireless Keyboards, Magic Keyboards, third-party keyboards, but I am currently using a mechanical Doro67, which is fully user-programmable, connected via USB-C.
Below are some immediate gripes and comments I have regarding external keyboard implementation in the current beta of iPadOS 13:
- Sometimes, when I
Cmd + Tabinto an app, e.g. into Ulysses from Safari, I can immediately continue writing where I left off. The keyboard is active and the cursor is waiting for input. At other times it is not. There is no key that I can press to resume writing without first physically touching the screen with my finger.
Cmd + Tabbinginto Safari, sometimes everything works as intended and I can use the
Cmd + Lshortcut to input the address I want to open or
Control + Tabto the Tab I need. I can then use the arrows, PgUp, PgDn or Spacebar keys to navigate webpages. Unfortunately, sometimes iPadOS and/or Safari behave as if there is no keyboard connected and I have to touch the screen to make it active again.
- Sometimes the keyboard just behaves like it’s not connected at all and I have to touch the screen to get it to work.
- When switching between apps, there is a small delay, which I need to wait out before I can start typing. This delay is extremely frustrating.
- Sometimes iOS/iPadOS thinks the
Cmdkey is stuck, especially after quickly
Cmd + Tabbingthrough your list of previously used apps.
- When using the
Alt/Option + Shift + Left/Right Arrowto select text in e.g. Ulysses, the selection stops at the end of a word, omitting the space and/or punctuation marks after the word. When doing the same thing in Safari (editing text in WordPress), the word and the space behind it are selected. If there’s a comma or full stop after a word, and then a space, those get selected automatically too. This is inconsistent and Safari’s implementation is wrong. Perhaps this has something to do with WordPress and is not Safari’s fault but I don’t know that.
- The above problem also happens when moving the cursor when editing text. E.g.
Cmd + right arrowwill move the cursor to the end of the word in Ulysses (correct) or to the beginning of the next word in Safari (wrong).
- Ulysses has a typewriter mode, which often loses my set position. iA Writer has the exact same problem. I hope it’s not something the developers of those apps can’t fix.
- My PgUp and PgDn keys often don’t work, e.g. in text editors such as Ulysses.
Fn + Arrowsdon’t work either. Curiously, Safari is fine.
- It is (mostly) possible to use both MacOS and Windows without taking your hands off the keyboard. There’s basically a way to do almost everything without using a mouse or trackpad. I have been a keyboard-shortcut user for the past three decades, since the DOS days, just because it’s faster. iOS is woefully behind in this regard.
- I use the character picker almost constantly on MacOS (
Control + Cmd + Space, to add arrows, etc. when needed. There is no way (that I know of) to do this under iOS/iPadOS (the emoji keyboard doesn’t have all of the symbols that I use, e.g. the arrow I used below).
- If you use an external keyboard with your iPad, please make sure to go into Settings → Keyboard → Hardware Keyboard to turn auto-capitalisation and auto-correction on or off (off in my case).
- If you use more than one keyboard language in iPadOS, you can use the
Control + Spaceshortcut to switch between your languages — just hold
Controland tap the
Spacebarto cycle between them.
Keyboard support has been getting better over the years but it’s getting there at a glacial pace and is still far behind MacOS. I really hope they focus more on it in the future, perhaps even before iPadOS 13.0 rolls out this Autumn.
Photo: 11-inch iPad Pro with a Vortex Race 3.