First look: iOS 9's new cursor-controlling gesture keyboard on iPad

Posted:
in iPad edited September 2015
One of the headline features in Apple's next-generation mobile operating system is the ability to turn the iPad's on-screen keyboard into an ersatz trackpad, an extremely useful addition that power users will love.




The premise of the updated keyboard --?which surprisingly lacks a distinct marketing name --?is fairly straightforward. Dragging with two fingers on the keyboard in any direction will cause the keycaps to go blank and the on-screen cursor to follow your movements.

The gesture is just like the one used on a Mac trackpad for two-fingered scrolling, and will come naturally to Mac users. Notably, the iPad's keyboard still retains its multitouch capabilities during normal use, and the scrolling function is difficult to activate by accident.





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In the first iOS 9 beta, scrolling works well, but the text selection mechanism is a bit wonky. Sliding to the left to expand the selection often expands too far, grabbing entire paragraphs, but this is likely to be refined by the time iOS 9 is available to the general public.

Interestingly, in apps where the new gestures are not yet fully supported --?most third-party word processing apps fall into this category --?the keyboard-as-touchpad works more like a traditional mouse, moving the cursor independent of the text in the window. This could simply be a sign of still-unfinished APIs, but might also be a precursor to more robust input support with Apple expected to unveil a business-targeted jumbo "iPad Pro" tablet in the future.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    This feature is also found on the iOS 9 beta for iPhone!
  • Reply 2 of 51
    michael scripmichael scrip Posts: 1,916member
    I want this on the iPhone.

    I hate the loupe and would prefer a finely-controllable cursor.
  • Reply 3 of 51
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    iOS and cursor. Wow. Who would have thought just a few years ago. Also the quick type keyboard has a paperclip icon on the toolbar. I wonder if we'll be able to browse for attachments outside of iCloud Drive? Or maybe this is a precursor to some sort of exposed file system in iOS. That would really be a shocker.
  • Reply 4 of 51
    Super excited about this. My #1 wish for iPad is mouse controls. This will still be more tedious, but I don't hate its potential.
  • Reply 5 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post



    I want this on the iPhone.



    I hate the loupe and would prefer a finely-controllable cursor.



    Not sure there's enough screen to make that effective.

     

    Anyone with an iPad Mini Retina tried this yet? If it doesn't work well there, it would be even worse on the iPhone.

  • Reply 6 of 51



    You have access to Dropbox, Google Drive (not sure) and One Drive on iCloud Drive "Locations" Menu

  • Reply 7 of 51



    Works very well on iPhone

  • Reply 8 of 51
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,740member

    My chief frustration is that selection in Safari tends toward entire sections.  Narrowing the selection to something smaller (sentence, phrase, even a single word or number) can be difficult or impossible.  Hopefully this will address that scenario.

  • Reply 9 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post



    I want this on the iPhone.



    I hate the loupe and would prefer a finely-controllable cursor.



    It works very well on iPhone, at least on iPhone 6 Plus

  • Reply 10 of 51
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Reply 11 of 51

    If it's better than the current system for selecting text which is awkward and clunky sometimes and always slow, I'm all for it. It's an improvement that won't hurt anyone who won't use it.

  • Reply 12 of 51
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    "MouseFingers"... They're delicious!
  • Reply 13 of 51

    Makes me kind of want a Macbook, it's trying to be something it's not. Seems more useful if it was a keyboard with a trackpad, rather then on screen. 

  • Reply 14 of 51
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,102member
    rogifan wrote: »
    iOS and cursor. Wow. Who would have thought just a few years ago. Also the quick type keyboard has a paperclip icon on the toolbar. I wonder if we'll be able to browse for attachments outside of iCloud Drive? Or maybe this is a precursor to some sort of exposed file system in iOS. That would really be a shocker.

    That button invokes Clippy.
  • Reply 15 of 51
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,754moderator
    If it's better than the current system for selecting text which is awkward and clunky sometimes and always slow, I'm all for it. It's an improvement that won't hurt anyone who won't use it.

    It looks like it's still doing box selections. It should help improve positioning the cursor initially but then it'll just do a single box upwards or downwards from there and it obscures the view with the keyboard still up. I'd rather it was done by having a button at the top of the keyboard like the scissor icon shown, which you'd tap and it would become like the shift-key in a persistent state. The keyboard would then slide down and single finger tap would select a word, tap-drag across a word would select portions of the word, slide upwards over a line would select a whole line, tap an image would select it and there would be a highlight over the selection. Two fingers would scroll up and down and zoom. To deselect, just tap/swipe a selection again. This allows you to leave gaps in the selection so you can jump to an online article somewhere, spreadsheet document etc and in one go take out all the portions you want. To make the copy, the button pressed to start the selection process can do that and disable selection mode at the same time.

    The touchpad movement would still help with cursor positioning, which can be tricky in the URL bar because you have to hold with the magnifier up and drag to the edge of the box and wait for it to scroll across and then overshoot and drag back a little.
  • Reply 16 of 51
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    dklebedev wrote: »
    I hate this as much as copy-paste buttons, PIP, dual windows, custom keyboads, blur, parallax. Useful for power users? Screw that. What the good in a feature only a fraction of users will use? If my designer started getting ideas like that I would beat him with an iron.
    Loved Forstall cause he was strict man. Non of those spazy-glazy belling whistles.

    Seriously? If that's the way Forstall felt I'm glad he's no longer at Apple. At least the current executive team is trying to move these products forward in a meaningful way. Apple finally seems to be giving people what they want not what a cabal of Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall think people want.
  • Reply 17 of 51
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Makes me kind of want a Macbook, it's trying to be something it's not. Seems more useful if it was a keyboard with a trackpad, rather then on screen. 

    I will reserve judgment until I'm able to try out. But from the demo Craig did it looked really cool and the audience was excited.
  • Reply 18 of 51
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 2,096member
    Even if it works, it will be slow and unresponsive. iOS is built around multitouch, not around the mouse. Recall that even on the Macbook trackpad, a "tap" is slower than a hardware "click". There are instances where a touch is not sensitive enough to make precise selections, such as selecting cells in a spreadsheet, but a keyboard hiding half of the screen severely reduces this fonctionality. Then there is the problem of controlling the scroll. Those who cannot even control a simple loupe with their real fingers are not expected to be able to control the scroll of the whole screen with a virtual mouse. They will then scream for scroll bars... even for desktop style windows on a touch device...

    Boring...
  • Reply 19 of 51
    formosaformosa Posts: 261member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dklebedev View Post



    ... spazy-glazy belling whistles.

    :???:

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaronsullivan View Post

     

    If it's better than the current system for selecting text which is awkward and clunky sometimes and always slow, I'm all for it. It's an improvement that won't hurt anyone who won't use it.


    Agreed. Selecting text is an exercise in patience for me. Bring on iOS9!

  • Reply 20 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by formosa View Post

     

    :???:

     

    Agreed. Selecting text is an exercise in patience for me. Bring on iOS9!




    Right. It does work consistently now, but I _can't_ speed up selection and copying and pasting because it relies on multiple long presses and sometimes moving to finger-obscured text. This gives me a way to speed it up and potentially be simpler to boot. Can't wait to try it out.

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