iPad for Writers: iPadOS 13 Review

Text Editing and the Keyboard

Text editing has changed quite a bit in iPadOS 13. There are new gestures to get used to in order to manipulate text, including a new way to move the cursor around the screen.

To move the cursor, just tap it and drag it where you want it to go. Overall, this gesture works more reliably than the others and rarely gives me problems. I like being able to place the line where I want it to go, rather than having to tap the arrow keys several times, or trying to negotiate the loupe and hoping my finger doesn’t slip at the last second, placing the cursor in a completely different place than I’d intended.

In order to highlight text, you can either double tap a word and then drag the highlight slider to capture more text beneath the blue bar OR you can tap and hold on a word, then drag your finger to highlight the subsequent text you want.

The latter method is new in iPadOS 13 and when it works, it’s great. I’ve found problems when trying to highlight text right next to the cursor, which typically results in an accidental grabbing of the cursor. Instead, I have to start a few words behind it, then drag forward to highlight the text I actually want. Or I just move the cursor out of the way.

Then, if I want to copy the text I’ve highlighted, I pinch three fingers on the screen. To cut it, I pinch again with three fingers and the text vanishes. To paste it, I position the cursor where I want the text to go and spread three fingers on the screen.

Again, when it works, it’s like magic. When it works. Some apps don’t support the new gestures, such as Apple’s own Pages app. I don’t get that. An official Apple app not supporting official Apple gestures? As of this review’s publication, Pages still has not been updated to incorporate the new text manipulation gestures and that seems egregious.

Where the new gestures excel are in undo and redo. In iOS 12 and earlier, undoing something required you to pick up and shake your iPad like it owed you money. That’s been replaced with two new swipe gestures:

  1. Swipe left with three fingers to undo
  2. Swipe right with three fingers to redo.

These are simple to carry out and require very little in the way of precision.

The cut, copy, and paste gestures have a distinct “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” feeling to them, like the iPad is still finding its way in the world. After all, we’ve had over 30 years of desktop computing to perfect the way we interact with text. The iPad has introduced new paradigms, some of which will mature naturally while others will need to be shoved in front of our faces long enough for us to adopt them.

And that’s the biggest problem with all these new gestures: discoverability. You have to know they’re there or be shown them, and then you need to put them into practice, otherwise you forget them. As Apple increases iPad functionality, it also increases complexity, and unfortunately there are going to be many users to don’t know what their machine is capable of because so much of it is hidden beneath the surface.

I don’t know what perfect text manipulation on the iPad looks like, but for as much as these new gestures try to solve, they seem to open up all new problems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s