Wednesday, November 21, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Amazement at iOS Cursor Movement Shortcut Says a Lot About Discoverability

Dan Moren:

It is a handy tip, for sure, but not one that I, or probably most people who read this site, would consider particularly obscure. But there’s a confluence of reasons why this is making waves at this particular moment, and I thought it might be interesting to break down why as well as what it might mean for Apple and iOS.


So, complicating the discoverability of this feature is that Apple has three separate mechanics for the same cursor movement feature on 3D Touch iPhones, non-3D Touch iPhones, and iPads. That is a little bit bananas, and has led to confusion and more than a few inane arguments on social media.

But at the root of this issue is that this feature is not necessarily well known, not because it hasn’t been written about or discussed, but because it’s not discoverable—which is to say, if you were not aware that such a feature existed, how would you ever know to go looking for it in the first place?

Even less discoverable is the shortcut to extend the selection. Without 3D Touch, you tap the keyboard with another finger while holding down the first finger that initiated cursor mode, then swipe with the first finger. I’ve read about this many times and still forget how it works. I always think I’m supposed to swipe both fingers on the screen, perhaps because I remember the older two-finger iPad shortcut.

Previously: Six iPad Gestures You Should Know.


On my SE, holding the space bar to invoke the trackpad cursor is unreliable. I really like the shortcut but I’m never sure when it’s going to work. Not sure if this happens with other SEs, other iPhone models, or is a problem with mine.😕

@Nigel FWIW, it’s reliable on my SE.

The lack of discoverability was precisely what irked me when I learned about this. It's a major improvement in the UI, but other than being told, I had no good way to find out it was there short of re-reading the manual carefully at every release. Without discoverability, user interface improvements might as well not be there.

I’d argue that disocverability is less of a preblem with this feature, because it’s a shortcut. It’s a handy one, for sure, but you can still perform the same task, albeit possibly slower, by tapping/dragging in the text to reposition the insertion point the old-fashioned way. And that way is (relatively) discoverable, since it fits well with the touch paradigm across the OS.

@Alex I agree about the shortcut aspect, but in what way do you think it fits in with the iOS touch paradigm? Is there another iOS context where you long-press and stay in a mode until you release the touch? It there another one where you long-press and then tap a second finger?

@Michael Sorry, I meant that the standard, tap in the text field method fits fairly well with other standard iOS interactions, which makes sense since it was designed into the UI from the very beginning.

@Alex Aha, I see what you mean. I think I just misread.

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