The iPad is a suitable portable replacement in many ways, and iPadOS ‘multitasking features and Apple’s Magic Keyboard take it to the next level. iPadOS differs from iOS in several ways and includes keyboard shortcuts and touchpad gestures that unlock functionality you can’t get on an iPhone.
First things first: To get started with iPad keyboard shortcuts and gestures, set up a keyboard and trackpad with your iPad – either the official Magic keyboard or a third party option. To see the available keyboard shortcuts for the app you are currently using, press and hold Command button and select from the various categories displayed on the screen.
Some of the common ones you might see are Cmd + C to copy, Cmd + V to insert, and Cmd + Z to undo the last action, e.g. These match the same shortcuts on macOS on the desktop and certainly make it easier to handle text editing – you can use Command + I to italics, Command + B too bold, and Command + U also for underlined text that you probably know in word processing apps.
In several apps you can use Command + N to create a new file, Command + O to open an existing file, and Command + P to print the current file. Others are more specific, such as Command + R to reply to messages and Command + Shift + F to forward emails in the standard Mail app developed by Apple. Hold down Apple Calendar Command and press a number from 1–4 to switch between the different views.
You’ll need to research your favorite apps to see if there are any keyboard shortcuts available (for example, Things more than most), but in some specific apps, these shortcuts must be turned on. With Gmail for iPad, you have to choose Settings from the app menu, then press Enable keyboard shortcuts. Hold down the Command key, and you can then take advantage of the same shortcuts that Gmail uses on the Web—C to compose, E to archive, R to answer, and so on.
If you spend a lot of time in Safari on your iPad, you can use many of the same keyboard shortcuts that you do on macOS: Command + T to open a new tab, Command + W to close a tab, Control + Tab (or Control + Shift + Tab to cycle through open tabs and so on. Then there are the system-wide shortcuts that do not depend on an individual app and will work anywhere:
- Command + H: Return to the iPadOS home screen
- Command + space: Show the search box (or hide it if it’s already visible)
- Command + Tab: Switch to the most recently used app
- Command + Shift + 3: Take a screenshot (which is sent to the photo gallery)
- Command + Shift + 4: Take a screenshot and open Markup to view or edit it
- Command + Option + D: Show or hide iPadOS Dock
- Command + Tab: Get the apps switcher interface up on the screen
- Command + right or left arrow: Quickly switch between open apps
- Command +. (period): It corresponds to the Esc key
- Loss: Navigate between fields or lists
- Globe + S: Open Siri ready for a voice command
- Shift + Globe + A: View the app library on your iPad
- Control + Globe + right or left arrow: Snap a window to the right or left of the screen
- Globe + (reverse slash): Call up the Slide Over interface
- Globe + right or left arrow: Move the Slide Over panel
- Globe + F: Go to full screen mode
- Globe + C: Open the control center
You can also create your own custom keyboard shortcuts. To do this, select Availability from Settings, then Keyboards, and then turn on Full keyboard access. Choose Commander, then select the command to which you want to assign a shortcut, and then select your custom key combination. Press done to confirm.
It is also possible to change the change keys (such as Command or Globe), which iPadOS recognizes as launching shortcuts. From Settings on your iPad, select General, Keyboard, Hardware keyboard also Modifier keys to make changes – This can be useful if you use a third-party keyboard that does not have some of the same keys that Apple makes.
If you use a Magic Keyboard (instead of a Smart Folio keyboard), then you can take advantage of touchpad gestures just like with a MacBook.
- Swipe down with two fingers: Open Spotlight search / scroll in Safari
- Press with two fingers: Get the context-sensitive menu with quick actions
- Swipe down with three fingers: Return to the home screen
- Swipe upwards with three fingers: See open apps in the multitasking view
- Swipe left or right with three fingers: Jump between open apps
While the iPad does not support quite as many shortcuts as Apple’s desktops and laptops do, even just using a few of the keyboard combinations we’ve mentioned here can make a big difference in how you use your iPad – and do the more a genuine MacBook replacement.