First Impressions of iOS 7 for Keyboard Power Users

tl;dr: It’s not quite baked yet.

I stayed clear of recent iOS betas for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I needed a stable machine for my summer antics. But now that I’m back at the office and my laptop is getting a new disk drive, I decided to take the plunge and upgraded my iPad 3.

After the usual number of failed attempts and a veritable deluge of app updates, I started kicking the tires and found a few interesting things.

Keyboard and Multitasking

For starters, there were some (rather timid, but quite effective) enhancements in terms of external keyboard support. I havenklzzwxh:0001t tried every possible keyboard combination everywhere, but to my utter surprise (and considerable relief for my hindbrain) Safari now supports a few standard keyboard combinations:

  • Cmd+L to move the focus to the location bar
  • Cmd+T to open a new tab
  • Cmd+W to close a tab
  • Cmd+R to refresh the current tab

These are awesome, but quickly neutralized by the realization that searching for text in a web page is now done in a rather roundabout way: hit Cmd+L or tap on the address bar and type – matches in the current page will appear at the very bottom of the list, and are nearly impossible to notice at first glance. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

In a classic show of denial, Cmd+Tab still doesn’t let you switch between apps, and there seems to be zero keyboard support for any kind of multitasking action – so we’re still stuck with using gestures, or the Accessibility tricks I wrote about earlier (which still work even though they’re somewhat kludgy).

Multitasking on the iPad is, in general, quite worse. Whereas I could previously slide the previous apps list very quickly to an app I’d used, say, eight “slots” ago, now I can only go “back” three apps at a time, and with slower scrolling to boot1.

Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the Spotlight key on my Logitech keyboard also stopped working. It takes me back to the home screen without toggling the search field, so I am now without any truly quick way to launch apps solely from the keyboard.

Finally, something happened to klzzwxh:0006 support in general – I’ve had three separate instances where my keyboard did not work at all, all solved by toggling [Bluetooth][bt] off and on again, in the classic spirit of [The IT Crowd][itc].

Altogether, these are some pretty serious drawbacks considering how I use the [iPad][ipa] for work, so despite all the other enhancements (and a relatively complete set of fancy new app updates to explore[^2]), I’m not very happy about the changes right now.

Yes, there are improvements (app switching is snappier than ever and I can finally have sensible app groups – even if I can only view nine apps at a time), but usability hasn’t improved that much for me. In fact, it’s rather the opposite.

Too Much Control, Perchance

More worryingly, though, there’s also a potential security issue with Control Center which seems to have been around since the earliest betas:

It defaults to being available in the lock screen even if you have a passcode enabled, which means you can steal a locked [iOS][ios] device, turn on Airplane Mode and poof! No more Find My iPhone[^3].

This might conceivably be exploitable to allow thieves to reflash a device in DFU mode before you brick it (although I suspect DFU mode won’t work the same way anymore), so do yourself a favor and disable it on the lock screen.

  1. Sure, I can swipe up on two apps at a time and remove them from the previous apps list, but having more options to cull your app list isn’t really an improvement in task switching. ↩︎

  2. Before you ask, [Evernote][ev] broke their UI again. It’s “nicer”, but I would be hard pressed to consider most of the changes as more productive. But hey, at least it has less noise. ↩︎

  3. As a side note, there also (still) isn’t a decent way to display owner information on the lock screen, so the first thing I did was tweak a home screen wallpaper to include that. ↩︎