With Apple releasing a second version of the iPad on Friday, it’s easy to feel as if that tablet has been around forever. In reality, though, the original iPad shipped less than a year ago—enough time to become familiar with the tablet’s ins and outs, but hardly long enough to truly master its controls.
Not to worry—we’ve assembled this list of tips for subduing the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, managing your multitude of apps, searching through the contents of your tablet, and more. Learn these skills, and you’ll soon impress everyone with your iPad-savvy, whether you’ve owned an iPad since day one or if the iPad 2 is your first model.
1. The comma key’s hidden powers
Whether you’re a touch-screen typing savant or a two finger tapper, there’s no denying that iPad typing isn’t as convenient as using a real keyboard—especially when you want to access frequently-used punctuation that isn’t even available on the virtual keyboard’s main screen. A little-known trick can help: swiping up quickly on the Comma key will instantly insert an apostrophe; swiping up on the Period key inserts a quotation mark. That’s one quick swipe, instead of a tap on the .?123 punctuation key, and then a second tap on the specific punctuation mark you’re after.
2. Tapping and holding virtual keys
Other virtual keys hold special powers, too. Press and hold on a vowel, for example, and a popover containing accented versions of the selected character appears. (Certain consonants, like C, S, and N, also offer alternate versions when you tap and hold on their virtual keys.)
Similarly, holding down punctuation marks can provide extra options. the standalone Period key—the one on the punctuation keyboard, not the main keyboard—hides an ellipsis. The hyphen offers an em-dash and bullet. And the dollar sign hides symbols for numerous currencies.
Press and hold a vowel key—the ‘i’ in this case—and the iPad will summon a popover with accented versions of the character in question.
3. Common keyboard shortcuts
When you connect your iPad to a regular keyboard like the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock or a Bluetooth keyboard, you can use some of the same keyboard shortcuts you’ve mastered on your Mac. Text editing key combinations—like Command-C, X, and V for Copy, Cut, and Paste—all work, as does Command-Shift-Arrow key-based text selection.
You can also use Option-key shortcuts for typing diacritical characters. Other key combinations that work include Undo and Redo (Command-Z and Shift-Command-Z, respectively), and Emacs-style cursor shortcuts like Control-A, Control-E, and Control-K.
Even with the iPad 2 introducing a new design, external keyboards should still work with Apple’s latest tablet. Apple, for example, lists its Wireless Keyboard as an accessory for the iPad 2, and we’ve heard no reports of changes to Bluetooth keyboard support in this week’s planned iOS 4.3 update.
4. Auto-correction is your friend
One last keyboard-related tip: especially when you’re using the on-screen keyboard, the easiest way to becoming a virtual typing pro is simply to trust the auto-correction algorithm. The slower your iPad typing speed, the more likely it is that you make frequent use of the backspace key. Or to put it another way: slow iPad typists only allow themselves to type precisely the right keys, and delete each individual mistake.
Not power users! Power users trust that iOS will fix their typos for them. When I type “Dippieedl,” my iPad recognizes that I’m after “Supposedly.” After just “Wkeph,” the iPad knows I want “Elephant.” Fix fewer typos, and your iPad typing will ironically improve.
The backspace key is for suckers—true iPad masters know to let auto-correction fix your typing mishaps.
5. Avoiding application exits
Sometimes, you notice something you’d like to check out more closely in an app—at the same instant you press the Home button. Instead of letting the app close, then finding its icon and waiting while the app relaunches, you can tell your iPad to abort your now-unwanted Home button press. Doing so is hilariously simple: don’t let go. If you hold down the Home button extra long—just a few seconds needed—your iPad will abandon its plans to close the current app, and you tap on that enticing link instead.