A better way to type and edit text using iPad’s virtual keyboard (with video)

Tapping directly on text to move the cursor works well for small portions of text, but we don’t just write short portions of text anymore! When performing lots of edits in larger documents the direct interaction metaphor falls apart for cursor control. Even short portions of text can be painful to edit when you need to move the cursor to a precise location. Would you ever want to write a document on your computer without using the arrow keys? This is the reality iPad users face because they do not have the equivalent of arrow keys. There is a better way.

Take advantage of gestures by making a drag over the keyboard UI move the cursor. Move the cursor in word increments when dragging with two fingers. And finally, let the user select text while dragging when they hold down shift. Here, watch:

If you’d like to let Apple know you want this feature:

1. Go to bugreport.apple.com, sign in and click “New Problem”
2. Set the Title to “Editing Text on iPad (duplicate of rdar://11365152)”
3. Set the Product to “iPad”, Version Number to “N/A”, Classification to “Feature (New)” and Is It Reproducible to “Not Applicable”
4. Copy the brief letter below and paste it in the Problem Details section then click submit

I just saw Daniel Hooper’s iPad keyboard demo and I want that for my iPad! (Check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGQTaHGQ04Q) Apple says the iPad is the future of the Post-PC world; if it’s going to be my primary keyboard, I want a better way to edit text!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]


  1. Looks like someone’s been using Pages 🙂 From here:
    To move the insertion point, do any of the following:

    Swipe left or right with one finger to move the insertion point one character to the left or right.

    Swipe left with two fingers to move the insertion point to the beginning of the current word, or to the beginning of the previous word.

    Swipe right with two fingers to move the insertion point to the end of the current word, or to the end of the next word.

    Swipe left or right with three fingers to move the insertion point to the beginning or end of the current line.

    When you swipe to move the insertion point, it moves in the direction that you swipe. For more details about using gestures on your mobile device, see Touchscreen basics for Pages.

    Of course the difference is that he desires to break the way Apple’s implemented alternate characters by having you move the insertion point by touching the keyboard area. You want to choose an alternate é, but the keyboard has to wait a moment longer than it already does first to see if you’re going to swipe…

    But, see, he doesn’t use alternate characters so the fact that his solution shows no support for them is NOT his problem 🙂

    1. But you’re wrong. You DO have to hold for a brief moment before the alternate characters show. The swiping to move cursor is shorter than that, so the two can coexist. I guess that would mean people have to swipe quickly, but that is the whole point of this method of cursor-moving – to be quick.

      If anything, this would interfere not with choosing alternate characters, but with the current behavior that if you hit the wrong character, you can slide your finger a bit to the one you actually want. But, perhaps the swiping only kicks in for cursor movement if you go more than a couple characters away from where you originally hit. I don’t think people typically make their initial tap on “j” and then say “oops” and slide their finger to “d” before releasing.

  2. This is why the darned thing should have come with a manual. There are a zillion little tips like this out there, and no common resource for finding them out.

    1. Tell me about it.

      Like that time (at band camp) when Apple broke the feature to multi-select photos by swiping your finger over them. Turns out in iOS 5 they changed it to require two fingers to swipe. It would have been nice of them TELL us and make it clear in the release notes !! Instead of causing me the grief it did when I had to delete 1000’s of photos. That’s for f-ing telling !
      Seems like something a company that changes the function of a hardware switch would do. Oh, wait…

      For all their amazing products they really fail in many areas and they are somehow able to hide this fact from so many.

    1. Alot of Apple’s touch gestures don’t make sense at first until you try them. If swiping the keyboard currently has to effect then exploiting it for this purpose is a great idea. Why not ? As it is today, editing alot of text is just crap.Lack of arrow keys and more lack of a Delete key is CRAP. Anything will help at this point.

      1. Lack of a delete key? I’m assuming you are specifically speaking of a forward delete key that some folks like to use….?

        Because there is a delete key… Unless you prefer to call it backspace. 🙂

  3. This gesture placement of the cursor works moderately well in Pages but not in any other text box including Apple’s Notes app.

    I also noted that although moving the cursor one character works reliably, Using two or three fingers is sometimes interpreted as scrolling right or left or even worse as pinch. I suggest they use a line of dedicated selection buttons such as those that appear in the app TextKraft if only for better discovery.

  4. Add a bloody DELETE key to the keyboard FCOL. Its long overdue.
    I cant believe to this day I can’t Delete text to the right of the cursor like “Delete” on a PC keyboard. Mac supports it via key-combinations because Apple are still too stubborn or ingorant to accept the fact its badly needed.
    That has been my beef every time I have used an Apple product for years. It drives me nuts on my iPad. It could be as simple as a combo of Shift+Backspace to act like Delete.
    It’s really cumbersome as a workaround to move the cursor around and then backspace. In fact it’s retarded.
    Things like this still make Apple look like they don’t get it when it comes to business uses like this.

    1. Can someone explain the functional difference between deleting from the left and deleting from the right? If I’ve just typed a word I don’t like, would I tap at the start of the word just to forward delete? And, if I want to delete a word further back is it just a preference to tap the start of the word rather than the end?

      I get the feeling it’s something older folks do just because they’re used to it. Haven’t seen a need for it myself.

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