Navigate iPad & Switch Apps with Shortcuts and an External Keyboard
Did you know you can navigate around the iPad using only a keyboard, without touching the screen at all? It’s part of iOS Accessibility options, and using keyboard navigation makes the iPad feel a lot more like a traditional computer, even sharing some of the keyboard shortcuts that Macs have to do things like the ever useful Command+Tab app switcher. This is a very underused and little-known feature of iOS, but it can really improve and speed up workflow on the iPad for those who use external keyboards with the device.
To use keyboard navigation, you’ll need a keyboard connected to the iPad either through Bluetooth or another external keyboard attached through the power port. Next, you’ll need to turn VoiceOver on by doing the following:
- Open “Settings”, tap “General”, go to “Accessibility”, and flip “VoiceOver” to ON
With VoiceOver enabled you will gain access to the keyboard navigation feature, but there’s also a potentially annoying speaking aspect that comes with VoiceOver, just hit Control+Option+S to silence that. Now for the commands.
iPad Navigation Keyboard Commands
Basic keyboard navigation shortcuts on iPad are as follows:
- Control+Option+H – Home button
- Control+Option+H+H – Show multitask bar
- Control+Option+i – Item chooser
- Escape – Back button
- Right Arrow – next item
- Left Arrow – previous item
- Up + Down Arrows simultaneously – tap selected item
- Option + Down Arrow – scroll down
- Option + Up Arrow – scroll up
- Option + Left or Right Arrow – scroll left or right
- Control+Option+S – turn VoiceOver speech on or off
These keyboard shortcuts can be used from anywhere. You’ll notice many of them are shared between OS X and iOS, making them familiar and quite easy to use for Mac users who are using the iPad.
iPad App Switcher Keyboard Commands
Arguably the most useful set of commands are related to app switching:
- Command+Shift+Tab – switch to the previous app
- Command+Tab – switch back to the original app
- Left+Right Arrow, then Option + Left or Option+Right – navigate through Dock
These shortcuts speed up multitasking in iOS so much that they should be considered mandatory knowledge for anyone trying to do serious work on the iPad with an external keyboard. Memorize and master these and you’re sure to be more productive.
Whether you have a keyboard dock, case, or just a bluetooth keyboard, check these out, they can completely change the way you use an iPad.