How to

Complete Tutorial on iPad Keyboard Navigation

iPad Keyboard Navigation
Written by Hassan Abbas

The iPadOS 13.4 software brings an amazing feature, full iPad keyboard navigation that makes it possible to control an iPad using a physical keyboard. You don’t need any screen touching. However, it’s another improvement os productivity in iPadOS that turns your Apple tablet into a full productivity powerhouse. Simply follow us to learn how to use iPad keyboard navigation. In this guide you’ll learn lots of exciting things:

System Requirements – iPad keyboard navigation

If you want to use Full Keyboard Access, you must have all of the above:

  • iPad running the iPadOS 13.4 updates or later
  • The external keyboard attached or connected to your iPad

However, move ahead for the full guide covering how to use iPad keyboard navigation.

Use iPad keyboard navigation

Full Keyboard Access is disabled by default so initially, you must enable the feature.

Once you enable it, you’ll then view a rectangular selection outline around the currently chosen onscreen element, just like a button or a list. However, this lets you which part of the interface will receive input from you. Well, there are tons of keyboard shortcuts you can use to move around the whole iPadOS user interface. Also, interact with lots of on-screen items.

However, you can also access iOS features like Control Center and Notification to perform device-specific actions. like restarting. Because of the number of keys included in iPad keyboard navigation, the feature can be quite complicated at first. But then you’ll be scrolling around iPadOS and using your apps, without touch, like a pro.

But don’t fret, we have you covered, so read our guide for the full explanation.

How To Turn On iPad Keyboard Navigation

Before you can begin using Full Keyboard Access in iPadOS 13.4, you must manually allow the feature due to it’s off by default:

Step 1:

Initially, open Settings on your iPad using iPadOS 13.4 or newer.

Step 2:

Select Accessibility from the main list.

Step 3:

Click Keyboards underneath the Physical and Motor heading.

Step 4:

Click Full Keyboard Access located under the heading Hardware Keyboards.

Step 5:

Move the switch next to Full Keyboard Access to the ON position to allow the feature.

That’s all, now you can use your external keyboard to navigate and control your iPad.

Built-in shortcuts for iPad keyboard navigation

If you want to make your life easy, Apple provides dozens of keyboard shortcuts to perform iOS actions. These are like moving to the Home screen or enabling the app switcher. Move down to all the keyboard shortcuts you can use using Full Keyboard Access:

Moving the selection rectangle

To scroll the selection rectangle from one onscreen element to another, simply use these shortcuts:

Move the selection rectangle to the:

  • Forward: Tab (⇥)
  • Backward: Shift (⇧) + Tab (⇥)
  • Up: Up Arrow (↑)
  • Down: Down Arrow (↓)
  • Left: Left Arrow (←)
  • Right: Right Arrow (→)
  • Beginning: Tab (⇥) + Left Arrow (←)
  • End: Tab (⇥) + Right Arrow (→)
  • Next item: Control (⌃) + Tab (⇥)
  • Previous item: Control (⌃) + Shift (⇧) + Tab (⇥)

Here are some examples.

When you are on the Home screen, simply use the arrow keys to move the icon grid. Also, indicate a required icon and hit the Space bar to launch its app. However, if you want to view a list of actions associated with the currently highlighted item, hit Tab + Z.

But in case of Home screen icons, hitting Tab + Z to uncover two choices: Edit Mode, which enables iOS’ jiggle mode so you can reorder your icons. But today, that display or hides your Today widgets from the Home screen.

These item-particular actions are built-in and cannot be customized.

Interactions

What about basic iOS interactions, like swiping to move back to the earlier section or clicking? Well, you can press the Space bar to “click” or “hit” an item or enable whatever is currently highlighted. However, hitting Tab + B simulates swiping from the left edge to the right, which in many apps is the same as clicking the Back option.

These are all the interaction shortcuts that Full Keyboard Access provides. Come let’s take a look:

  • Click/Hit, toggle buttons or enable the selection: Space (␣)
  • Move back: Tab (⇥) + B
  • Find the onscreen buttons: Tab (⇥) + F
  • Actions for the highlighted item: Tab (⇥) + Z

The Tab + F shortcut is very interesting.

Pressing the combination brought a small search field. From where you can input to find the available onscreen objects that can be chosen or interacted with. They can be anything from icons and buttons to different toggles, tabs, and whatnot.

For instance, if you have so many apps on the Home screen, simply Tab + F allows you instantly find an app you’d like to launch by inputting just a few letters. It’ll prompt Full Keyboard Access to highlight matches on the Home screen.

Another example: Hitting Tab + F in Safari and input “tab” in the search field indicates the New Tab and All Tabs buttons. It highlights with labels uncovering button titles, that is good when you’re in an app with so many dark designed buttons using no clue as to what they do.

After entering the tab overview screen, simply use the arrow keys and other navigation shortcuts to move a collection of tab thumbnails. Also, hit the Space bar to enable the selected tab.

iOS and device Features

Full Keyboard Access also includes shortcuts to access lots of iOS and device-specific features:

  • Home screen: Command (⌘) + H
  • App switcher: Tab (⇥) + A
  • Control Center: Tab (⇥) + C
  • Notification Center: Tab (⇥) + N
  • Siri: Tab (⇥) + S
  • Accessibility Shortcuts: Tab (⇥) + X
  • Dock: Option (⌥) + Command (⌘) + D
  • Lock the device: Tab (⇥) + L
  • Rotate the device: Tab (⇥) + R
  • Restart the device: Control (⌃) + Option (⌥) + Shift (⇧) + Command (⌘) + R

Simply use these combinations to do such  things:

  • Invoke your Control Center and Notification
  • Access the app switcher interface
  • Bring up Siri
  • Lock
  • Rotate or restart your device
  • Much more

Full Keyboard Actions features

However,  It includes some keyboard shortcuts to manage its special features that are not associated with standard iOS features. For example, you can collect Full Keyboard Access analytics at any time by hitting a fairly difficult keyboard shortcut.

Here’s a list of these shortcuts for you, here they are:

  • Analytics: Control (⌃) + Option (⌥) + Shift (⇧) + Command (⌘) + Period (.)
  • Pass-through mode: Control (⌃) + Option (⌥) + Command (⌘) + P
  • Keyboard shortcuts: Tab (⇥) + H

The pass-through mode is amazing and cool.

just press Control + Option + Command + P to have Full Keyboard Access temporarily pause listening for your keyboard input. So that you can associate with iOS like you normally would. For instance, inputting this mode while browsing websites in Safari allows you to move the webpage up and down by hitting the arrow keys without Full Keyboard Access getting in the way.

However, if you lost in all those shortcuts, don’t fret. Tab + H shows a list with all of the Full Keyboard Access keyboard shortcuts, including custom ones.

Keyboard gestures

Simply press Tab + G for a small overlay listing keyboard gestures. However, it can simulate their multi-touch counterparts, such as swiping and pinching. Simply hit Tab + G for Full Keyboard Access to initiate listening for keyboard gestures. However, to exit this mode, hit Tab + G again.

Here is the list of keyboard gestures that you can use with Full Keyboard Access:

  • Enable/disable keyboard gestures: Tab (⇥) + G
  • Single-finger tap or press: Space (␣)
  • Two-finger tap: Shift (⇧) + Space (␣)

Single-finger Swipe:

  • Up: Up Arrow (↑)
  • Down: Down Arrow (↓)
  • Left: Left Arrow (←)
  • Right: Right Arrow (→)

Two-finger swipe:

  •  Up: Shift (⇧) + Up Arrow (↑)
  • Down: Shift (⇧) + Down Arrow (↓)
  • Left: Shift (⇧) + Left Arrow (←)
  • Right: Shift (⇧) + Right Arrow (→)
  • Zoom in: Command (⌘) + Up Arrow (↑)
  • Zoom out: Command (⌘) + Down Arrow (↓)
  • Rotate left: Command (⌘) + Left Arrow (←)
  • Rotate right: Command (⌘) + Right Arrow (→)

Inputting keyboard gesture mode in Messages, scrolling the selection rectangle to the chat list and hitting Shift + Space to simulate a two-finger tap. However, it enables you to choose various chats at once without touching the screen. Not just this but also you can perform the same tips and tricks with or without Full Keyboard Access. However in other apps like Notes, Mail, and Files.

After viewing an image or video in Photos, you can simply zoom in and out by holding down the Command key and hitting the up or down arrow key. Also, in Photos’ edit mode, hit Command + left or right arrow to move the selection clockwise, 90 degrees at the same time.

Helping Keyboard Shortcut:

Don’t fret about getting lost in all those commands. Due to quite a handy cheat sheet of all the keyboard shortcuts for Full Keyboard Access available using a handy Tab + H combo.

These two keyboard shortcuts are available whenever you want to:

  • Show custom and built-in keyboard shortcuts for Full Keyboard Access: Tab (⇥) + H
  • Show keyboard shortcuts for the app you’re using: hold down the Command (⌘) key

Customizing iPad keyboard navigation shortcuts

Full Keyboard Access comes with a set of Apple-defined keyboard shortcuts that will get the job done for most users, but power users may want something different to fit their workflow.

Follow the steps below to learn how to change existing shortcuts for Full Keyboard Access, as well as add your own or clear any listed keyboard combination.

How to customize iPad keyboard navigation shortcuts

If you want to customize Full Keyboard Access, do the following:

Step 1:

Firstly, open Settings on your iPad using iPadOS 13.4 or newer.

Step 2:

Select Accessibility from the main list.

Step 3:

Click Keyboards located at the bottom of Physical and Motor heading.

Step 4:

Click Full Keyboard Access under the heading Hardware Keyboards.

Step 5:

Also, click Commands.

Step 6:

Select any command from the list to customize its keyboard shortcut.

Step 7:

Hit a combination of keys on the keyboard to enable the chosen command.

Step 8:

Click Done to save your latest keyboard shortcut or Cancel to forget it.

Obviously, not the Full Keyboard Access shortcuts are enabled while hitting custom key combinations to invoke the selected command. However, after setting the keyboard shortcut, simply input the two spaces instantly to pause recording. However, at that point, you can use Tab navigation shortcuts to choose a command from the menu to store or forget your customization.

How to remove iPad keyboard navigation shortcuts

Apple’s done a good job by explaining keyboard shortcuts for Full Keyboard Access. But certainly. we don’t need it. Thankfully, Apple allows you not only to remove your custom keyboard shortcuts for Full Keyboard Access but also built-in ones.

Simply follow the steps below to remove any Full Keyboard Access shortcut:

Step 1:

Initially, open Settings on your iPad using iPadOS 13.4 or newer.

Step 2:

Select Accessibility from the main list.

Step 3:

Also, click Keyboards bottom the Physical and Motor heading.

Step 4:

Click Full Keyboard Access located under the heading Hardware Keyboards.

Step 5:

Also, click Commands.

Step 6:

Select any command having a keyboard shortcut attached to it.

Step 7:

Click Clear from the popup menu.

That’s all, the required action’s keyboard shortcut will be deleted quickly.

How to specify keyboard shortcuts to run Siri Shortcuts

Full Keyboard Access also allows you to attach a system-wide keyboard combination to your favorite Siri Shortcut.

Simply follow the steps to learn how to make keyboard shortcuts for Siri Shortcuts.

Step 1:

Simply open Settings on your iPad using iPadOS 13.4 or newer.

Step 2:

Select Accessibility from the main list.

Step 3:

Click Keyboards under the Physical and Motor heading.

Step 4:

Click Full Keyboard Access under the heading Hardware Keyboards.

Step 5:

Also, click Commands.

Step 6:

Click your shortcut underneath the heading Shortcuts.

Step 7:

Tap a key combination on the keyboard.

Step 8:

Click Clear to store it or Cancel to abandon the changes.

You can also select Clear from the popup menu to wipe the keyboard shortcut and initiate it over.

Congrats on making a keyboard combo to run your most favorite Siri Shortcut. The best thing about Full Keyboard Access is that these keyboard shortcuts work wold-wide, enabling you to launch your favorite Siri Shortcuts using a few keystrokes from wherever you are.

Customizing the appearance of the selection rectangle

The selection rectangle for Full Keyboard Access has a nice glow effect to better delineate focused content and indicate which onscreen element is ready to receive input from you.

Simply follow the steps to adjust the size and color of the Full Keyboard Access selection rectangle.

Step 1:

Initially, open the Settings on your iPad using iPadOS 13.4 or later.

Step 2:

Select Accessibility from the main list.

Step 3:

Click Keyboards under the Physical and Motor heading.

Step 4:

Click Full Keyboard Access Under the heading Hardware Keyboards.

Step 5:

Also, adjust the choices listed under the heading Appearance.

You can also modify the following concentrate features to your liking:

  • Auto-Hide: It takes some time for the selection rectangle to vanish because of inactivity. However, the default value is 15 seconds. To always display the selection rectangle, disable the option Auto-Hide.
  • Increase Size: Allow this choice to make the selection rectangle’s thicker and simpler to spot. These options os off by default.
  • High Contrast: Allow this for a high-contrast, black outline for the selection rectangle to improve delineates focused content. By default, these options are a turn-off.
  • Color: Modify the transparent fill color for the selection rectangle: gray, white, blue, red, green, yellow or orange.

That’s all!

Conclusion:

Here’s all about “iPad Keyboard Navigation Tutorial”. Is this guide helpful? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below!

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About the author

Hassan Abbas

Tech enthusiast with too many items on his wish-list and not nearly enough money! Specializing in all things tech, with a slight Apple bent he has been writing for various blogs for the best part of (too many) years

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