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 called VoiceOver, 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, and it can really improve and speed up workflow on the iPad for those who use external keyboards with the device.
First, Enable VoiceOver Keyboard Navigation on iPad
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 because the VoiceOver feature is intended as an accessibility function there’s also a speaking aspect that comes with VoiceOver being turned on.
If you want to silence the speaking of screen items on iPad when VoiceOver is enabled, just hit Control+Option+S to silence the speech aspect of VoiceOver. Now for the commands.
iPad Navigation Keyboard Commands with VoiceOver
Basic keyboard navigation shortcuts on iPad with VoiceOver enabled 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 Mac 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.