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iPadOS 13 in action: text selection

One of Apple's subtle but extremely useful additions in iPadOS 13 and iOS 13 is their new text selection and editing features. If you, like me, often work with text on an iPad or iPhone, you'll appreciate how these new features and gestures will speed up the workflow. Let's get to the details.

Previously, text selection was a bit of a problem if you didn't use an external Bluetooth or Smart Connector keyboard and keyboard shortcuts. It was painful to place the cursor, especially on the iPhone. You can use two fingers over the iPad onscreen keyboard or 3D Touch on the iPhone keyboard to make this a little easier, but it still required extra steps. Then you had to choose to bring up a secondary cursor and then drag it around the screen to select the text. It just wasn't effective. This is also why having a good physical keyboard to use with my iPad Pro has always been a priority.

How does it work?

All of this has changed with iPadOS 13 and iOS 13. I've created a 5 minute screen capture video demonstrating each of the new selection features and gestures in action:

If you don't mind watching the video:

Cursor location: Just tap the screen to place the cursor. Then press it and you can freely drag it wherever you want.

Text Options: You can double-click a word to select it. Tap a word in the sentence to select a sentence. To select a paragraph, quadruple a word in the paragraph.

Copy: Pinch three fingers in after text is selected, as if you are grasping the text.

Cut: Perform the same gesture twice for a cut.

Paste Perform the same motion in the reverse direction. Move them outwards with three fingers together, as if dropping the text.

Undo: Drag three fingers to the left.

Repeat about: Drag three fingers to the right.

Streamlined and Simplified

Although you can still use all the old methods of working with text, Apple certainly has streamlined things for those who want more power and efficiency. First, it's sooooo much faster and easier than before dragging your cursor around the screen.

The ability to just double-click on a word or triple or quadruple press in a sentence or paragraph to select them is not necessarily intuitive, but it is much faster than the old method. Apple will need to educate users on how to take advantage of these features, and I would be interested to see how they choose to do so.

The same applies to the new movements to cut, copy, paste, undo and redo. They are actually more intuitive, but these are not things you will necessarily stumble upon yourself. Again, Apple needs to show users how to do this if people are going to use them.

There's one thing I need to clarify at this point. These features apply only to text choices in a document you are editing. They will work in Notes, Pages, Word, WordPress and pretty much any other document editor. They will also work in editing fields on the web and in other apps. However, they do NOT work in static documents that you view, such as PDFs or web content. You still have to press and hold to generate a cursor and then move the secondary cursor to select the text. Since both markers appear as soon as you select a word, it's still a bit faster and easier than before.


These new text selection features and gestures can be aimed exclusively at power users. As such, Apple may not make a big effort to show them off videos on their site and the free classes they offer at Apple Stores. While that is the case, they are still a worthy addition to us who use iPhones and iPads every day for production and productivity, rather than just content consumption.

While I do not want to share with Brydge Keyboard because of these new features, I like the fact that I can now use my iPad Pro without it more efficiently when I need it. These features will be an even bigger help to me on my iPhone, with the smaller screen size. Whatever Apple's reasons for adding these new text features are, I'm just happy to see them emphasizing the small details of iOS and iPadOS now.

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