Improving The iOS Keyboard

Improving The iOS Keyboard

Chris Bowler, writing about possible improvements for the iOS keyboard:

The negative with writing on the iPad is typing. It’s a bit of a mixed bag experience — the iOS autocorrection is (at times) brilliant and I can fly along with confidence, knowing the OS is going to correct my typos. But when mistakes are made and are either not autocorrected, or autocorrected incorrectly, then the iPad becomes a less comfortable environment.

Remember when, ahead of the original iPad’s announcement in January 2010, rumors tended to focus on what the “tablet keyboard” would be like? Here are a few examples. In spite of the iPhone having shown that Apple simply wanted a regular keyboard’s appearance translated to multitouch, several people wondered whether Apple should do something different for the bigger screen. The answer was that they simply designed a “full-screen” keyboard.

As Chris notes, over the years third-party developers have extended the iOS keyboard with additional bars. Look at Writing Kit, Pythonista, Textastic, and iA Writer for examples of these modifications.

I think the discussion on the iOS keyboard often mixes writing with editing. Personally, I believe the iOS keyboard is great for writing, because it’s just a normal keyboard, but iOS text selection is in serious need of an update, because it feels outdated. I’m not sure the average user cares about better text selection, but for the sake of the argument, I will say that a better solution should be explored.

If you read those old pre-2010 posts on the “iSlate keyboard”, you’ll notice a common thread: that Apple must build something revolutionary for text entry. I recall some people guessed a split keyboard could be a possible implementation, and, in fact, that one came true in 2011. But what about text selection? I don’t think keeping on adding bars above the keyboard is feasible. Especially on the landscape iPad, a single bar alone sensibly diminishes the space available for writing – space being one of the most commonly cited advantages of the iPad against 16:9 and 16:10 tablets. On the iPhone 5, it’s an acceptable solution thanks to the taller screen, but, then again, the bar is too narrow to be a meaningful improvement.

Rather, I would say entirely new ideas for text selection and manipulation are the future. It’s the reason everyone got excited for the Hooper Selection: once you saw it, it just made perfect sense. Too, I wouldn’t completely forget about features that Apple put on the shelf, as they tend to come back.

So here’s my hope for the future of iOS for writing: the same keyboard, but also new, fresh ideas for text selection and editing.