I’ve previously written only a few short words about one of my newer hobbies — mechanical keyboards — which has been a fantastic journey, keeping me occupied, teaching me new things, while providing a superior tool for all my writing at the same time. This all started over 30 years ago, when I used my first mechs, but which I left behind when I switched to laptops. Unfortunately, I listened a little too much to Jason Snell and John Gruber talking about their mechanical keyboards on their podcasts, so here I am, and I’d like to share what I’ve collected so far…
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.
Ever since I got my 2016 MacBook Pro, I have had a love/hate relationship with its keyboard. Yes, it’s pretty good to type on. No, it doesn’t offer much feedback and the travel is extremely shallow. There was the one (well, two actually) with the Touch Bar, which I got rid of because of its mediocre battery life and being unable to live with Apple’s latest “innovation”. Then I had to have one on my MacBook Pro Escape replaced.