How to Type the Escape Key on iPad Keyboard

Apr 12, 2019 - 36 Comments

How to press ESC escape key on iPad

Have you ever noticed that dedicated iPad keyboards do not have an Escape key? If so, you might be wondering how to type the Escape key on an iPad keyboard. iPads using an external keyboard, whether it’s an external Bluetooth keyboard, a Smart Keyboard, a brand like Brydge, Zagg, Logitech, or any other dedicated iPad keyboard, will often find there is no Escape ESC key at all. Sometimes there’s either nothing at all, like on iPad Pro Smart Keyboards, or on some iPad keyboards you might find a square button that when pressed will take you to the iPad Home Screen.

So, how do you type the Escape key on an iPad, iPad Air, or iPad Pro keyboard then? Despite often not having an ESC key, you can type it on most iPad keyboards, and we’ll show you several different ways that you can type Escape on iPad using a variety of options.

4 ESC Escape Key Options for iPad Keyboards

Depending on what keyboard is in use with the iPad Pro, iPad, iPad mini, or iPad Air, you have several different options for typing the Escape key. Some of these keyboard shortcut options may work in some apps but not others, and some may work with some keyboards but not others, so try each option out on your own.

Control + [ as ESC

Pressing Control and [ will achieve the ESC escape key function on many keyboard and with many apps on iPad, including with the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, assuming the app(s) in question supports it.

Control (CTRL) and [ (Open Bracket) is not quite as easy to remember as simply pressing a hardware ESC key, but in many cases it will mimic the escape key and is therefore worth remembering, particularly if you’re using a terminal application like iSH linux shell, Prompt, vim, ssh, or anything similar.

Typing ESC key on iPad keyboards with Control and Open Bracket

FN + Square as ESC

If the iPad keyboard has a square shaped Home button in the upper left corner, you can use that with the FN key combined as a keyboard shortcut to function as an ESC key.

Pressing the fn function key and Home (square) button together will mimic pressing the Escape key button on most third party iPad keyboards that have the square / home button on the keyboard.

The Square / Home button is on many third party iPad keyboards, including the OMOTON Ultra-slim iPad keyboard shown here.

Escape key on iPad keyboard with FN Square

Using a Mac or PC Keyboard with iPad? Press ESC!

This is probably obvious, but if the keyboard you’re using with the iPad is a Mac keyboard, like the wonderful Apple Magic Keyboard, or many PC keyboards, then the hardware ESC escape key does exist in the usual spot at the upper left corner of the keyboard.

In that case, just press the ESC key to type the escape key on the Mac or PC keyboard that is connected to iPad.

Escape key on an Apple Magic Keyboard

Pressing a physical ESC key applies with basically any external Bluetooth keyboard that has been connected to iPad, whether a Mac keyboard and almost all generic Bluetooth keyboards for PC as well, as virtually every keyboard includes a hardware ESC escape button (unless of course it’s a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar with virtual escape key which hides and shows depending on what’s going on with the active app, but you probably wouldn’t be using that with iPad anyway so this is unlikely to apply).

Other ESC key options for iPad

Sometimes, but not always, Command + . can mimic the ESC key on apps that requires the escape key and with an external iPad keyboard. Command + Period often serves as a Cancel / ESC type of function on the Mac too, for what it’s worth.

Some third party apps have devised their own unique ESC escape key solutions for iPad as well. For example, Termius for iPad can use CONTROL ` to mimic the Escape key. Prompt and some other third party iPad apps with SSH and command line capabilities will have touch screen controls to mimic the ESC escape key too. The alternative ESC key options for third party apps depend on those individual apps, and are not always the same. The virtual onscreen iPad keyboard does not include ESC by default, unless a third party app added one in an additional function row.

Hardware ESC escape keys are wonderfully convenient things and used frequently by many computing users for many purposes, ranging from at the command line, to VIM, initiating force quit, to cancel, to many Office applications like Excel and Word, many video and photo editing apps, to myriad other functions on Mac, Windows, PC, iPad, and ChromeBook OS too, so perhaps future iPad keyboards will be graced with an ESC key (and maybe even future MacBook Pro models again too), or perhaps we’ll all be adapting to an ESC-less Apple world. Regardless, remembering the key combinations above to type the escape key on an iPad keyboard can be helpful.

This obviously focuses on iPad and the iPad keyboards without dedicated escape keys, but since some MacBook Pro Touch Bar models also don’t have ESC keys some Mac users may also have the same general question about using Escape on a Touch Bar, or, an alternative that is available specifically for Mac users is remapping Caps Lock to be the Escape key on a Mac, an option that is not available for iOS or iPad.

Do you know of another way to type the ESC or Escape key on an iPad or iPad keyboard? Do you have a particular ESC key trick for iPad that works best for your workflow? Share it with us in the comments below!


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. Dennis L says:

    Super helpful, thank you.

  2. Chris says:

    When turning on blue light comes on then about 5 secs it goes out? Unable to connect

  3. mekano says:

    It worked. Thank you

  4. Filkhabr says:

    Thank you for this write up. It is helpful!

  5. nadiri says:

    Thank you for this write up. It is helpful!

  6. Dave says:

    Command->Period/Full Stop for Slack on iPad

  7. Elsaid says:

    Thank you for this, they work well

  8. Free says:

    Try pressing Cmd-H to exit from the quick search (Cmd-Space).

  9. Cornelius says:

    It just… erm… overcomplicates! Have fun explaining this one to your tech-illiterate relatives and friends.
    At least these devices are bargai-… Erm… Yeah.

    Thanks for the tip, OSXDaily.

    • Gary says:

      I agree, this is very complicated. A simple escape key would make it simple. Isn’t iPad supposed to be simple?

      But, “What’s a Computer?” and iPad is “Better Than A Computer.” Right??

  10. C. Sherman says:

    For Powerpoint, use the pinch gesture to Escape.

    • TRexbone says:

      An iPad pinch gesture leaves the Excel app, pinch gesture leaves all apps on iPad. I think some here are confusing terms which is understandable, but pinch gesture does not send Escape signal. Escape signal is with Escape key. If no Escape key, no Escape signal. In some terminal Control [ accomplishes the Escape signal however.

      In Excel, pressing Escape leaves a cell or cancels an action, it is a critical function.

  11. Smoke says:

    That is NOT iPad keyboard, it’s an accessory Bluetooth keyboard. iPad keyboard is the one built-in on iPad itself… from there, you cannot see a “Control” button

    • Paul says:

      The Apple Smart Keyboard is an official iPad keyboard. Additionally, you can connect just about any Bluetooth keyboard to an iPad if you want to do so, and there are many keyboard cases for iPad too. Those are external keyboards however, and as you mention the virtual on-screen (built-in) keyboard on iPad is different and does not show the control/command/option/esc keys or a variety of others, for now anyway.

      Because there are so many different keyboard options for iPad, we try to cover pressing and using Escape on a variety of them. As mentioned in the article there are some apps on iPad that will have an on-screen dedicated esc key, usually those are terminal apps and ssh type of apps since that is a frequent use case scenario. If you know of others, please share with us!

    • Louie says:

      No the Smart Keyboard is NOT an accessory bluetooth keyboard. It is a dedicated keyboard for iPads and does NOT use bluetooth connectivity but rather a special connector (the smart connector) only found on the specific iPad models that are compatible with it. So it is just as correct to refer to the Smart Keyboard as the iPad keyboard as it is to refer to the onscreen keyboard as the iPad keyboard.

      • LoneStarNot says:

        Only the virtual keyboard is built-in; everything else is an optional add-on. So, “the” iPad keyboard is a misuse. Long-press on several keys offers MANY rarely-used options. Though I don’t know why ESC isn’t available, it seems clearly intentional.

        It seems like belligerent muscle-flexing.

  12. hiccup says:

    Thank you for this, they work

  13. doug says:

    I can’t remember the last time I needed to press an Esc key ? What do people use Esc for in modern day software ?

    • M.L. Argento says:

      For starters, Esc is used on every operating system with a keyboard and has been used for decades that is why the key exists. This is like asking what do people use Control or Alt or Enter key for :)

      Off top of my head many Esc key uses:

      — VIM / vi, the most widely used text editor for command line by programmers, developers, IT admins, network admins, DevOps, many pro setups

      — Most Microsoft apps including Microsoft Office like Word, Excel, Outlook, EVEN ON IPAD use Esc to Cancel. Microsoft Office is most commonly used office software in world work environment, by executives, admins, managers, all office staff. This one is funny to me because Apple shows the Escape key as Cancel on a picture on their Smart Keyboard advertising page…. see here yourself or open Microsoft apps on your own iPad and hold Command…. shows how to Cancel with Esc…. but how do you press Escape to Cancel if there is no Escape key on iPad?? Irony, attention to detail missing…. failure to include essential key on hardware…. using it on marketing anyway??? OOPS!

      — VNC screen sharing to Linux, Windows, Mac, this is common work procedure for technical staff

      — Cancel / abort / stop / no etc in dialogs for most operating systems include Windows, Linux, Mac, see above many of us use these operating systems frequently by remote connection

      — Control Esc is how you access Start menu in Windows! Again if you screen share, essential!! iPad has no cursor/mouse remember, another missed opportunity if this iPad is to replace a computer

      — virtual machines to switch cursor and keyboard input back back to host

      — Luna display on iPad to use Mac as iPad app, OOPS! Remember Esc is how to force quit on Mac!

      Now we must remember Apple advertises the iPad as computer replacement, but no indeed it is not a replacement if you do not have computer keys used by so many people. Take away your spacebar, enter key, control, command key, how do you use this keyboard now? Same thing for us.

      If I were to think for another few minutes I could imagine dozens of more uses. I use all major computers (PC, Mac, all OS) for my jobs, and iPad, iPhone, Android, and I use Esc key so many times in the day that it is like using spacebar!

      This is easy fixable issue, put the key back on the keyboard. Apple simply must put Escape key on iPad keyboard and Mac keyboard. At some point this problem alone will drive many of us to only support iPad and Mac hesitantly and with frustration rather than use iPad and Mac as primary computer. This is the entire pro market!

      • JK says:

        -vi most widely used? Not sure about most widely..but it is used by many.

        You should check out 2019 stackoverflow stats released, vim is on bottom.

      • ELB says:

        Excel and Google sheets need ESC all the time. If you accidentally edit a cell, esc removes focus from the cell without committing the changes. Or if you need to focus within the cell to e.g. copy a formula, ESC lets you leave without needing to put your hand on the mouse. It’s truly miserable trying to use spreadsheets on the iPad without having ESC.

        ESC also typically cancels out of pop up windows and modal overlays. So if you select something and get an unwanted dialog box or it doesn’t have the option you want, ESC is typically faster than having to reach for the mouse.

    • LoneStarNot says:

      Generalizing what Argento,JK,ELB wrote,
      ESC is traditionally used to ESCAPE the limitations…
      … of what developers approved before release
      … of what is common enough for a FIXED place & usage
      … of the preset use/modality of the interface
      … of messages — in order to send meta-messages.

  14. Joe says:

    Typing the escape key is easy. You type: “T”, “H”, “E”, Spacebar, “E”, “S”, “C”, “A”, “P”, “E”, Spacebar, “K”, “E”, and finally “Y”. Now utilizing the ESC key function is another story.

  15. Richard says:

    So, in the words of Arthur Dent, this is it, we’re all going to die! (No escape)
    The article totally failed to supply the one thing I was looking for which the title kinda promised :- how to type escape with an on-screen keyboard!
    Thanks a bunch!

  16. Louie says:

    Any ideas on how to do the escape key on a 1st gen Smart Keyboard? None of the options above work and the picture shown at the beginning is of the 2nd gen smart keyboard. Do note that I have a spanish smart keyboard, not the regular english one sold in the US, since I bought mine in Mexico, and it doesn’t have the [ key but rather an inverted tilde ` key nest to letter P and to type the open bracket I have to hit alt `. There’s no square key either since it’s Apple’s smart keyboard so that option is out too.

    • Argonauts says:

      For me I try all of the tips, and they work but some only work in some applications, others work in different, maybe it is up to developer to support Escape key when Escape key is not a real key. Why does Apple not make the situation easy by using a real escape key? That is my question.

      Does the Spanish keyboard not have an Open Bracket key? The picture I found of one on Apple website shows Open Bracket near the Return key shared with carrot and ` but it is for Mac, so perhaps it is the same on iPad. But perhaps on some foreign keyboards an additional switch is required like FN+CTRL+[ or SHIFT+CTRL+[ or similar. Have you try Command Period?

      Apple keyboard localization page

      Control Open Bracket sends an escape signal in many terminal, it is quite old, so funny to me Apple allows this on the iPad, but then again without an escape key there must be SOMETHING that sends Escape! Even the Apple Maps application on iPad offers the ESCAPE key as an option to cancel a search when keyboard attached, so, incongruent a bit for this company to remove this key.

      I echo all other comments here, I want the escape key on all my keyboard, whether iPad or Macintosh. Apple, give us this option. For now, I use MacBook Pro from 2015 as and Apple Magic Keyboard, two wonderful hardware. I have iPad as well, it is for consumption since I can not produce a thing on it except a scribble, hehe.

      • Louie says:

        Like I said before, the spanish smart keyboard for iPad Pro doesn’t have a dedicated open bracket key like the english one. Instead, the open bracket is typed by hitting alt/option + the accent tilde key (on the right next to letter P, same spot where the english keyboard does have the open bracket key). I also tried with additional switches such as ctrl, shift or alt/option (there is no Fn key on iPad smart keyboards) with no luck.

      • Louie says:

        I forgot to mention, I did try command + period, also with no luck.

        • ESC PLZ says:

          That is frustrating on multiple levels. For one, in the Apple Maps application the keyboard shortcut “ESC” is specifically mentioned as a way to cancel searches. OK, but there is no escape key, so to the folks at Apple (not that they read this site, or our comments, or any of this, or our complaints) how on earth are we supposed to press ESC to cancel an Apple Maps search when there is no Escape key? Furthermore, many iPad Microsoft apps use ESC as well, also on iPad.

          So this ESC key is only accessible to us if we connect a Mac keyboard? And this is on iPad Pro? What is Pro about no ESC?

          From using iPad for ssh, VIM, to Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Apple Maps…. ESC is necessary but missing! This is crazy! Same with MacBook Pro, give us the ESC key back!!!

        • M.L. Argento says:

          Control [ is the international Unicode standard for Escape character on all keyboard. Of course most keyboard have Escape key, so we simply press that key for many decade of computing.

          This has you wonder, is Apple abandoning international unicode standard? That would be not good! Many professionals must abandon Apple if Apple was to abandon unicode standard! Please I hope they do not do this!

          Maybe someone start a petition, give us Escape key on every Apple device!

          I wonder for international keyboard, you can see them here with Open Bracket and where it is located, sometimes in many different places, and Escape key too but now we are redundant as we hope and wish for this

  17. Steve says:

    I have a Logitech but these suggestions didn’t work .

    • Michael says:

      Hello Steve, please report to us what Escape key solution has worked for you on iPad and iOS and iPad version.

      Command Period

      Control [

      Function Square

      Escape if the keyboard has Escape

      What other solutions are there for iPad escape pressing? This is a high importance issue.

      I need to use Escape on iPad too and am considering keyboards. I am also thinking of bluetooth Mac computer keyboard on iPad from Logitech, but also cases with a bundled keyboard.

  18. Roystreet says:

    Thank you for this write up. It is helpful!

  19. Coup-ertino says:

    How to use a key that does not exist anymore but should because it has been on every computer keyboard since the beginning of keyboarding, but Apple removed for no good reason and to nobodies benefit!

    Excuse me but I sort of have to laugh that Apple is making extraordinarily highly priced hardware that doesn’t even have an essential key on a keyboard that is used by practically every working person and professional regardless of their profession.

    If Apple ever reads anything from fan sites, let alone pays attention to anything at all, please add the esc key back to every keyboard, and don’t take it away again. You might as well remove the vowels, or the spacebar, or the return key…

    • Uncle Fuzzy says:

      Amen Coup-ertino. As my first computer was an Apple II, the next an original 128K Mac and now have a iMac 5K, a 2010 MiniMac and a 13″ MacBookPro (2011) I think Apple has lost its way and become just another Microsoft. They ought to go back and look at their 1984 advertisement. They’re the ones in grey now like their present day GUI.

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