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Advanced Keyboard Shortcuts on the Apple iPad

written by: •edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 7/22/2011

While the software keyboard on your iPad might appear quite basic, it is in fact hiding several advanced, traditional Apple shortcuts than can only be accessed by attaching a hardware keyboard to your tablet.

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    Getting to grips with any new platform can be tricky, but if you have found yourself wielding a new Apple iPad you might be a little unsure of a couple of things. For instance, while you might be content in the knowledge that these devices don’t come with a mouse, you can use your finger to interact with the iPad.

    Similarly, while there is no physical keyboard, an on-screen software keyboard is supplied to provide you with all of the text entry options that you could possibly need… except that’s not quite accurate. The iPad offers all of the text entry options that the designers could foresee you needing, but there are a few things that are a little trickier to achieve.

    For instance, while it might be obvious how to type your name, it isn’t quite so clear how you might forward delete on an iPad. While using the iPad keyboard might initially seem to be straightforward, it is in fact hiding various secrets.

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    Getting to Grips with a Software Keyboard

    There are some that feel the only way to get the best out of an iPad is to use it with a hardware keyboard, but for others this defeats the object of having a tablet computer.

    As such, the standard software keyboard is appropriately designed, allowing you to quickly reveal and hide the touchscreen display overlay that appears. The iPad software keyboard is a standard QWERTY device with the expected SHIFT, RETURN, BACKSPACE and SPACE keys as well as the ?123 key for accessing a secondary keyboard of punctuation and numbers.

    Additionally, several things are automated; for instance, the first letter of every sentence is automatically capitalized, and any word that is selected from the text prediction system features a space right after it.

    In truth, you should be up and running with the Apple iPad keyboard within a few minutes of switching on the device, and for casual users this should be enough.

    However, if you have purchased the device in order to use it for work, you will probably notice that a lot of shortcuts are missing. For these, you will need to use a hardware keyboard.

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    Switching to a Hardware Keyboard

    Using a hardware keyboard with your iPad Various hardware keyboards are available for the iPad, and these are designed to connect to the device as well as provide a stand to prop the display up so that it can easily be viewed.

    Alternatively you might opt for the flexibility of a Bluetooth keyboard, but whichever option you go for will allow you the opportunity to access an extended range of commands that simply aren’t available using the multi-touch software keyboard.

    The lack of availability of these commands is something that Apple hasn't really spoke about, other than to clarify that extended commands are available via hardware input devices.

    In fact, this is a little bit of an understatement as there is a massive selection of keyboard combinations available on an iPad with a hardware keyboard connected.

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    Function Keys on the Apple iPad

    To begin with, various functions can be adjusted from the hardware keyboard on your iPad rather than having to open the settings screen or switch tasks. For instance, volume can be controlled with the F11 and F12 keys, while F1 and F2 manage the screen brightness. F7 through to F9 allows you to play, pause and skip tracks on your music player.

    The full list is as follows:

    • F1 (Dim Screen)
    • F2 (Brighten Screen)
    • F7 (Back one song)
    • F8 (Play/Pause Music)
    • F9 (Skip one song ahead)
    • F10 (Mute)
    • F11 (Volume Down)
    • F12 (Volume Up)
    • Eject key (Show/hide on-screen keyboard)

    Having the eject key control that particular function is quite useful, as some apps (third party and native) are not aware that a hardware keyboard is in use. Begin able to quickly hide the on-screen keyboard in this way makes using a hardware keyboard a good option, although not all features are so easily supported.

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    Selecting Text and Deleting Characters

    As we mentioned above, forward deleting on an iPad (that is, deleting a character to the right of the cursor/insertion point rather than the left) is tricky to achieve. In fact, there is no standard delete function that will allow you to perform this task.

    The easiest way of doing this is to either use the CMD+K combination to delete all text from the insertion point to the end of the line, or to use the CMD+F combination to move the cursor forward and then use the backspace to delete the character concerned.

    The following list provides details of all available key combinations when using a hardware keyboard on an Apple iPad.

    • CMD + e - takes the cursor/insertion point to the end of the line
    • CMD + a - jumps to the beginning of the line
    • CMD + k - deletes text to end of the line
    • CMD + f - moves the cursor forward
    • CMD + b - shifts the cursor back
    • CMD + n - skips to the next line
    • CMD + p - moves back to the previous line

    In addition to these very useful shortcuts there are various standard tools for editing and jumping around documents that will be familiar to users of Windows and Mac OS X:

    • CMD + c - Copy selected text
    • CMD + x - Cut selected text
    • CMD + v - Paste
    • CMD + z - Undo
    • CMD + SHIFT + z - Redo
    • CMD + Up Arrow - Jump to top of document
    • CMD + Down Arrow - Jump to bottom of document
    • CMD + Left Arrow - Jump to beginning of line
    • CMD + Right Arrow - Jumps to end of line

    There are also some shortcuts that come close to offering a forward delete function; instead, they offer variations on the standard backwards delete.

    • CMD + Delete - Deletes everything on the current line to the left of the cursor
    • Option + Delete - Deletes the word to the left of the cursor, and its preceding space

    While the forward delete option isn't present on the iPad, Apple have nevertheless made plenty of other keyboard functions available.

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    Buys, Jon. "iPad Keyboard Shortcuts",

    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Magnus Manske