At this point, my iPad has effectively replaced my laptop for everything other than photo management and documents. The former isn’t going to change, but I realized that having a keyboard might notably improve my ability to work on longer docs and emails. I’m currently trying out the Apple wireless keyboard (with handy protective sleeve from local vendor SFBags) though I’ll also give the new Logitech ultrathin keyboard a try (if/when it ever ships).
In my first day the difference was notable. I’ve created Evernotes, long emails, and in general found the keyboard goes a long way. Yay for that. Further, there are some handy keyboard shortcuts that make using it even more pleasant. But I think this could go a long way from where it is. Granted, there’s no debate that the overall experience around finger-based controls and gestures absolutely trumps using a keyboard, but that doesn’t mean a few power features couldn’t go a long way. Here are some hopefully easy-to-implement shortcuts that I think would improve the existing experience:
1. Multi-task app switcher (⌘-tab)
Pushing this combo in OS X results in an application switcher. You can use your mouse to pick an app, or arrows to navigate between them. Same functionality could be present in the iPad – and once you are using a keyboard, it’s actually fairly inconvenient to tap on the screen to do this.
2. Menus (⌘-N, ⌘-R, ⌘-D, etc)
In an app-specific sense, enable shortcuts for “menu features.” For example, in Mail, ⌘-N could start a New Message, ⌘-R could reply, ⌘-D could delete, etc. App developers could have certain liberty here (potentially) or there could just be a limited set of commands. Either would be good for any “text-heavy” app where the keyboard is in use.
3. Home (⌘-Esc or ⌘-Eject, etc)
Simple one – exit the current app back to the home screen.
4. Navigation (⌘-cursor keys)
Per (1) above, but extend it further: if the user is in the “Springboard” interface (aka the “home screen” where you pick an app), enable me to rapidly scroll through apps (or pages of apps) with the keyboard.
5. Switch windows (tab)
Inside any app (with support), the Tab key should switch between windows/frames/inputs. This is already present in Mail, but only when composing messages. Why not elsewhere?
6. App shortcuts (⌘-1, ⌘-2, or F1, F2, etc)
This is definitely a “power user” feature, but let me assign 10 apps I use a lot, and quickly launch them from the keyboard. Alternately, these could be restricted to the 6 apps in the Dock (at the bottom of the home screen).
7. Search (⌘-space)
Much like other tips above, this is borrowing straight out of OS X. Especially considering the amount search is intended for active use within iOS.
8. Settings (⌘-,)
On my Mac, pushing ⌘-, shows preferences for that application. In iOS, there’s a global settings screen (not to mention the plethora of apps that have their own). This shortcut could launch either.
9. Settings Toggles (⌘-F1, ⌘-F2, etc)
Could be predetermined or user-configurable, but how about direct access to toggling certain settings, such as airplane mode, WiFi on/off, etc. I’d want a Bluetooth one too, but it’d probably only work in one way…
I know in the grand scheme of things this is a pretty minor issue. The grand majority of iPad owners aren’t using keyboards, and probably never will. But if someone had time to program Siri with enough depth to tell Zooey Deschanel that it’s not raining out, I can’t see this being too far out of scope…