Home / iPad / Five keyboard shortcuts every iPad user should know – Cult of Mac

Five keyboard shortcuts every iPad user should know – Cult of Mac

The iPad might be designed for touch, but it’s also surprisingly good with an external hardware keyboard, and includes excellent support for keyboard shortcuts. What’s more, it shares many keyboard shortcuts with the Mac, so if you have these already ingrained in your muscle-memory, they’ll carry right across. Let’s take a look at five of the most useful keyboard shortcuts for the iPad (and iPhone).

Command-Space Spotlight

Spotlight is available anywhere.
Spotlight is available anywhere.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Hit ⌘-Space and the Spotlight search screen slides down, ready for you to type a query. This can be a search term (to find an email of iMessage, for example), a web search, a place (in Maps), or the name of an app you want to launch. Typing brings up a list of results, and you can use the arrow keys to select the one you want. If the result you want is the first on the list, then just hit return to launch it.

To exit back to wherever you were before, just hit ⌘-Space again.

Command-H home screen

⌘-H takes you home. It works just like tapping the actual iPad (or iPhone–all these tips work there too) Home button.

Command-tab app switcher

The app switcher single-handedly turns the iPad into a Mac replacement.
The app switcher single-handedly turns the iPad into a Mac replacement.
Photo: Cult of Mac

This one is a direct carry-over from the Mac. ⌘-Tab brings up the app switcher, a strip that overlays the screen and shows the icons of the last 7-10 apps (in portrait or landscape views) you used. Keep held down and keep tapping the Tab key to cycle through the apps, and release to chose it.

You can also add the key at any time to reverse the direction that your taps cycle through the apps. ⌘~ also cycles backwards, and you can even use the arrow keys to move left and right along the strip. Bonus tip: the Home screen is always the last icon in the row.

Eject key to show/hide keyboard

The Esc key lets you use auxilliary on-screen keyboards along with the external hardware keyboard.
The Esc key lets you use auxilliary on-screen keyboards along with the external hardware keyboard.
Photo: Cult of Mac

When you’re editing text, you can tap the keyboard’s Esc key to hide and show the on-screen keyboard. This is handy if you want access to a special key, or if you’re using a clipboard manager app that presents its own custom keyboard.

Command-Shift-3 Take screenshot

You can always press the home and the power button simultaneously to take a screenshot, or you can press ⌘⇧3, just like on the Mac. The screen flashes, and the screenshot is saved to your camera roll.

Bonus tip: Long-press Command for shortcut list

This keyboard shortcuts overlay is accessible in any app, at the press of a key.
This keyboard shortcuts overlay is accessible in any app, at the press of a key.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If you like these keyboard shortcuts, then you can easily discover more for yourself. In any app, hold down the key for a second, and an overlay will pop up showing the available keyboard shortcuts in the current app. This is something that the Mac doesn’t have but totally should.

These shortcuts really turn the iPad into a great alternative to a MacBook. In fact, I gave my MacBook Air to the Lady a while back, and now I only use an iPad Pro whenever I’m away from my desk. And because the iPad shares so many of these shortcuts with the Mac, moving between the two is almost seamless.


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