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Posts tagged with "keyboard"

External Keyboards, iPadOS 14, and Obscuring Tab Bars

iPadOS 14 apps use sidebars, but only in certain size classes, so tab bars still get hidden behind the keyboard row.

iPadOS 14 apps use sidebars, but only in certain size classes, so tab bars still get hidden behind the keyboard row.

I love using the iPad as my primary computer, but a long-standing frustration I’ve had involves the keyboard row that lines the bottom of the screen when an external keyboard is attached. I like the row itself, as it usually offers valuable utility such as in Apple Notes, where a text formatting menu is available in the keyboard row. The problem is that iPadOS doesn’t adapt apps’ UI to account for the keyboard row, rather it simply hides the bottom portion of an app – which in many cases means hiding the app’s tab bar or other important controls.

This is mainly an issue when using Split View or Slide Over, not full-screen apps. But most of my iPad use does involve Split View and Slide Over, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to manually hide the keyboard row so I could access an app’s tab bar. This is a regular occurrence when writing articles, for example, as I’ll keep Ulysses and Photos in Split View, and the keyboard row that appears when working in Ulysses obscures Photos’ tab bar so I can’t switch tabs in Photos without manually hiding the keyboard row. The row also hides the share icon when viewing a photo, which is what I press many times when writing an article so I can run shortcuts via the share sheet. So as a workaround I have to manually hide the row, a short-lived fix because it then reappears after typing a single keystroke in Ulysses.

In iPadOS 14, Apple is halfway solving this problem. Because apps are being encouraged to switch from a tab bar-based design to one that involves a sidebar, there are fewer occasions when tab bars will be visible. In the iPadOS 14 beta, if I have Ulysses and Photos in a 50/50 Split View, there’s no longer a tab bar for the keyboard row to obscure, because Photos uses a sidebar instead where I can easily navigate to the view I need.

Unfortunately, this is only a partial solution because iPadOS 14 apps still revert to using a tab bar in a compact size class (i.e. when they’re an iPhone-like size). So all Slide Over apps retain tab bars for navigation as before, meaning those important tabs will be hidden any time you’re also working in an app that uses text and thus presents a keyboard row. The same is true for Split View when an app is the smaller app in your multitasking setup. If the app you’re writing in is the larger app in your Split View, the smaller app will have its tab bar obscured by a keyboard row. This is especially problematic for writers, who live in a text editor all day, but it also applies to anyone working in a note-taking app, messaging app, or anything else involving text. iPadOS 14 improves things via sidebars in certain situations, but in many multitasking contexts the years-old problem remains.

But there’s a happy ending of sorts, at least for me. My inspiration for writing about this issue was the discovery of a feature in Ulysses that fixes the problem for me. The app’s View Options inside its Settings panel contains a toggle that has been there for quite a while, I simply never thought to activate it: Hide Shortcut Bar. What this does is perpetually hide the keyboard row whenever a hardware keyboard is attached to your iPad. No keyboard row means no hiding tab bars in other apps while I write.

Ulysses does place some important shortcuts in the keyboard row, but most if not all of them can be triggered via keyboard shortcuts instead, making the keyboard row unnecessary (for my uses at least).

After making this discovery, I dug around in a few other apps’ settings to see how common this feature is. iA Writer offers it, as does Drafts, and possibly many other apps I haven’t tried. It seems more common in text editors than note-taking apps. It’s a shame that the whole keyboard row needs to be hidden just to account for an iPadOS design flaw, but I’m thankful that third-party developers have stepped in to address the issue themselves.

Ulysses is the app I multitask in most frequently, so the ability to keep its keyboard row hidden forever has truly made my day. I tried explaining to my wife why I got so happy all of a sudden, and she didn’t really get it. I don’t blame her.


Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro: A New Breed of Laptop

The Magic Keyboard and my iPad Pro, featuring the iVisor matte screen protector.

The Magic Keyboard and my iPad Pro, featuring the iVisor matte screen protector.

Following the surprise early release of the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, I’ve been waiting to get my hands on Apple’s highly anticipated accessory and evaluate it from the perspective of someone who uses the iPad Pro as a tablet, laptop, and desktop workstation.

I received the Magic Keyboard for my 12.9” iPad Pro yesterday afternoon; fortunately, I was able to order one in the US English keyboard layout from the Italian Apple Store last week, and the keyboard arrived three days ahead of its original scheduled delivery date. Obviously, less than a day of usage isn’t enough time to provide you with a comprehensive review; however, given that plenty of iPad users are still waiting for their Magic Keyboards to arrive, I thought it’d be useful to share some first impressions and thoughts based on my initial 24 hours with the keyboard.

Let’s dive in.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.4 with iPad Cursor Support and Keyboard Improvements, iCloud Drive Shared Folders, and More

Today Apple released the latest updates for its suite of software platforms, most notable of which are iOS and iPadOS 13.4. Timed with the release of the latest iPad Pro models, the hallmark features include brand new systemwide support for mouse and trackpad on iPad, plus a handful of external keyboard enhancements. Shared folders for iCloud Drive is the other big addition – first announced at WWDC last June then delayed out of the initial 13.0 release, iCloud users may finally be able to consider reducing their Dropbox dependency. Beyond those highlights, Apple has also included smaller OS tweaks in a variety of areas.

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How the iPad’s Trackpad Support Works

Dieter Bohn at The Verge:

We can answer some of your questions about how trackpad support will work today and we’ll get a chance to actually use it ourselves in the public beta. In the meantime, here’s what we definitely know about how it will work based on videos Apple has released publicly and on a video presentation given to reporters this morning.

Bohn gives a great bullet-point walkthrough of how iPadOS handles input from a trackpad or mouse, complete with the roster of navigation gestures supported by trackpads.

Best of all, however, the article includes a video Apple created in which Craig Federighi, Apple’s software head, demos the trackpad on the iPad Pro’s new Magic Keyboard. Presumably it’s exactly what Federighi would have done if the company had been able to introduce the iPad Pro at a press event.

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Logitech Introduces Combo Touch Keyboard Case, Bringing a Trackpad to the iPad, iPad Air, and 10.5-inch iPad Pro

Today following Apple’s debut of the new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard, and cursor support coming to all iPad models that can run iPadOS 13.4, Logitech has announced a brand new accessory coming in May: the Combo Touch, which brings a keyboard case with trackpad to the iPad (7th generation), iPad Air, and 10.5-inch iPad Pro. From the product listing on Apple’s online store:

Logitech’s Combo Touch for iPad combines a precision trackpad with a full-size backlit keyboard…Enjoy comfortable typing on a full-size keyboard with backlit keys that are perfect for working in dark environments like on an airplane or late at night. And the flexible design supports four use modes for extra versatility.

Despite all modern iPads gaining full cursor support, Apple currently only offers a first-party keyboard with built-in trackpad for the iPad Pro, not any other iPad model. Filling that gap, Logitech’s Combo Touch will be available for $149.95 as a great solution for users of other modern iPads. The Combo Touch covers the front and back of the iPad, includes a full keyboard and trackpad, and even offers a dedicated holder for the Apple Pencil. Notably, the device’s trackpad will also support all the same multitouch gestures that Apple’s Magic Keyboard offers.

Between Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, and Logitech’s Combo Touch covering the iPad, iPad Air, and 10.5-inch iPad Pro, the only modern iPad where a keyboard case with trackpad isn’t being offered is the iPad mini.


The New iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard with Trackpad: The MacStories Overview

The new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard.

The new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard.

With a press release published earlier today, Apple officially announced the fourth generation of its iPad Pro line. The new iPad Pro models – available, as with the current generation, in 11-inch and 12.9-inch flavors – feature the all-new A12Z Bionic chip, a new camera system that includes an ultra-wide camera and LiDAR scanner for augmented reality, and integration with a long-awaited accessory, which will become available starting in May: the new Magic Keyboard with trackpad.

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Cursors on the iPad

Fantastic column by Jason Snell, writing for Macworld, on the rumor that Apple may bring a trackpad to the Smart Keyboard and update the iPadOS UI to support external pointing devices this year:

What makes the iPad great is its ultimate flexibility. When I write about iPad keyboards, people inevitably say: Why don’t you just use a MacBook, already?

But the iPad lets me tear off the keyboard when I’m not using it, and a MacBook doesn’t. I can use my same iPad Pro, and all the same apps, when my iPad Pro is completely naked, when it’s attached to a keyboard, when I have an Apple Pencil in my hand, and yes, even when I’ve got a Bluetooth mouse attached.

This is why I love the iPad so much. It’s everything I want it to be, when I want it to be that—and not when I don’t. Yes, there are definitely tasks my Mac is much better at performing, and in those cases using an iPad can be a compromise. But using a MacBook that can’t be transformed into a light touchscreen tablet is also a compromise. And unlike the current Windows experience, I don’t have to retreat into a weird faux-Mac interface to get real work done.

As I’ve argued many times before, the iPad’s greatest strength is its ability to transform into different types of computer depending on what you need. Here’s how I concluded my Beyond the Tablet story last year:

At a fundamental level, after seven years of daily iPad usage, I believe in the idea of a computer that can transform into different form factors. The iPad is such a device: it gives me the freedom to use it as a tablet with 4G while getting some lightweight work done at the beach, but it becomes a laptop when paired with a keyboard, and it turns into a workstation when hooked up to an external display, a USB keyboard, and a good pair of headphones. For me, the iPad is the ultimate expression of the modern portable computer: a one-of-a-kind device that morphs and scales along with my habits, needs, and lifestyle choices.

A few years ago, I described the iPad as a “liberating” experience that married power to portability and allowed me to work from anywhere. I stand by that concept, but I’ll revise it for 2019: the iPad is a liberating device that transcends its form factor. Its range of configurations, combined with a new generation of powerful iOS apps, delivers a flexible experience that eludes classification.

Adding a trackpad and native support for external pointing devices to UIKit wouldn’t turn the iPad into a laptop: it would just add to the list of potential, optional configurations for the device. That’s been true for a while with other accessories; I don’t see why mice and trackpads shouldn’t be next.

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Brydge Announces Pro+ Keyboard with Trackpad for the iPad Pro and a Standalone Trackpad

(Source: Brydge)

(Source: Brydge)

Today Brydge announced the Pro+ keyboard for the iPad Pro, which incorporates a trackpad. The keyboard was first revealed in connection with a lawsuit filed by Brydge against another keyboard maker that Brydge says violated a patent on the company’s keyboard hinge. Although Brydge’s official announcement doesn’t disclose when it will begin taking pre-orders, the company says it will be soon. Brydge also says that the first 500 pre-orders will be shipped in late February, with the remaining pre-orders shipping in late March.

With iPadOS 13, Apple added accessibility support for pointing devices like mice and trackpads. Pointing devices can be connected via USB or Bluetooth using iPadOS’s Assistive Touch Accessibility feature, which permits navigation of the OS’s UI. Although the experience of using a pointing device with an iPad Pro partly resembles using one with a Mac, it’s also different and more limited. As Federico explained in his iOS and iPadOS 13 review:

The first and most important difference between iPadOS and macOS is that UIKit is still designed and optimized for touch input. When you enable mouse support in iPadOS, you’ll notice that the system won’t react to the hover state of the pointer: if you hover over a button in a toolbar, you won’t see a tooltip; if you wait with the cursor over the edge of a document, you won’t see a scroll bar; in Safari, hovering over drop down menus of a webpage will not automatically expand and collapse them.

I’ve used iPadOS 13 with a Logitech MX Master Mouse 3S and agree with Federico’s assessment that if you go into mouse or trackpad use on iPadOS expecting precisely the same sort of experience as a Mac, you’re likely to be disappointed. Still, the feature opens up exciting possibilities beyond the accessibility needs it addresses, such as the ability to assign shortcuts to button presses.

(Source: Brydge)

(Source: Brydge)

Brydge’s new keyboard closely resembles past models but adds a trackpad to the center of the wrist rest. The keyboard comes in two sizes to accommodate the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, connects via Bluetooth 4.1, has three levels of backlighting, 3-month battery life, and is space gray. With the trackpad, Brydge says users will also be able to open the dock with a two-finger tap on the trackpad and trigger App Exposé with a three-finger tap. Users will also be able to tap the bottom left or right-hand corners of their iPad Pro’s screen to return to the Home screen.

The 11-inch model of the Pro+ will cost $199.99, and the 12.9-inch version will be $229.99. If you are interested in ordering the Pro+, Brydge encourages registering on its website to receive an alert by email when pre-orders begin.

The Brydge trackpad. (Source: Brydge)

The Brydge trackpad. (Source: Brydge)

Separately, Brydge announced a standalone trackpad, which should appeal to existing Brydge keyboard owners who want to add a complementary trackpad without purchasing the Pro+. Brydge hasn’t disclosed much about the standalone version of its trackpad, although the company says it is coming soon, will be glass with a ‘Multi-Touch Engine,’ connect using Bluetooth 4.1, and will have a 3-month per charge battery life.

It will be interesting to see how Brydge’s Pro+ keyboard and standalone trackpad do with users. Off-the-shelf pointing device support was an important addition to iPadOS 13 for people who need the feature for accessibility reasons. I’ve experimented with the feature on several occasions, but until it’s more refined, I have a hard time seeing myself using a pointing device with my iPad Pro regularly. As a result, I’m not that interested in the Brydge Pro+, but I’ll withhold my final judgment on that score until I’ve seen reviews by people who have used production models of the device and tried one myself. I also wouldn’t be surprised if iPadOS 14 strengthens mouse and trackpad support, making the Pro+ an even more attractive option later this year.


Apple Updates Its MacBook Pro Line with Faster CPUs and New Keyboard Mechanisms

Apple updated its MacBook Pros today with new, faster processors and changes to the notebook line’s keyboard mechanism. According to an Apple press release:

The 15-inch MacBook Pro now features faster 6- and 8-core Intel Core processors, delivering Turbo Boost speeds up to 5.0 GHz, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar features faster quad-core processors with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.7 GHz.

Apple says that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with an 8-core processor is up to two times faster than the previous top-end quad-core model. To put that performance in perspective, Apple claims that:

  • Music producers can play back massive multi-track projects with up to two times more Alchemy plug-ins in Logic Pro X.
  • 3D designers can render scenes up to two times faster in Maya Arnold.
  • Photographers can apply complex edits and filters up to 75 percent faster in Photoshop.
  • Developers can compile code up to 65 percent faster in Xcode.
  • Scientists and researchers can compute complex fluid dynamics simulations up to 50 percent faster in TetrUSS.
  • Video editors can edit up to 11 simultaneous multicam streams of 4K video in Final Cut Pro X.

Interestingly, Apple’s press release makes no mention of the MacBook Pro’s keyboard. However, the company spoke to Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch who was told:

  1. The MacBook Pro keyboard mechanism has had a materials change in the mechanism. Apple says that this new keyboard mechanism composition will substantially reduce the double type/no type issue. Apple will not specify what it has done, but doubtless tear-downs of the keyboard will reveal what has been updated.
  2. Though Apple believes that this change will greatly reduce the issue, it is also including all butterfly keyboards across its notebook line into its Keyboard Service Program. This means that current MacBook Pros and even the models being released today will have keyboard repairs covered at no cost, in warranty and out of warranty.
  3. Apple tells me that repair times for keyboards have been longer than they would like. It is making substantial improvements to repair processes in Apple Stores to make repairs faster for customers with issues.

According to Panzarino, failing third-generation keyboards will be replaced with the new fourth-generation keyboard found in these updated MacBook Pros.

It’s not unusual for Apple to release product updates shortly before a major event that don’t make the cut for the keynote presentation. Notebooks with faster CPUs fall squarely into that category. With the company’s annual developer conference just around the corner, today’s announcement is likely also be designed to try to satisfy one its biggest pro user groups that the company is trying to put keyboard issues behind it. However, only time will tell whether this version of the MacBook Pro’s keyboard is more reliable than prior iterations.