Monday, February 10, 2020

iOS 13 Cursor Placement and Text Selection

Federico Viticci:

The new operating systems remove one of iOS’ marquee and historical features – the magnification loupe – in the name of a revised text selection mechanism that lets you directly pick up the cursor and select text with gestures. While it is still possible to press on the keyboard with 3D Touch (or hold the space bar) to move the cursor, you can now simply pick up the blinking cursor and move it onscreen to drop it in a new position. When picked up, the cursor will enlarge slightly; in iOS 13.1, it’ll also subtly snap to the beginning and end of lines.

When you’re moving the cursor this way, iOS 13 will not show you a magnification loupe. The removal of that useful visual detail could be ascribed to the new text selection behavior in iOS 13: now, instead of double-tapping to enter text selection, you can tap, hold, and swipe to start highlighting text.

I like this new text selection gesture (even though it took me a while to get used to it), but I don’t buy the theory that removing the magnification loupe was necessary to avoid conflicts between old and new gestures. iOS could and should still display a magnification loupe when performing text selections: in the months I’ve been using iOS 13, I’ve found myself unable to tell with precision whether I was selecting the right portion of text because my finger was covering it and there was no magnification loupe on the side to double-check the text I was selecting.

Benjamin Mayo:

In the WWDC 2019 presentation, Craig Federighi praised the new UI for text selection, saying “there’s no need to double tap and no magnifying glass getting in your way”. I remember doing a double-take when he said it because that’s not really true at all. The magnifying glass was a convenience, rather than annoyance.

Mike Rockwell:

The text selection system in iOS 13 is absolute garbage. I can never tell if I have my selection point at the right place because my finger is always in the way.

The new design has been widely criticized, but I like it. It feels much faster, and I don’t miss the loupe because I can just slide my finger down after picking up the insertion point so that it doesn’t cover the part I’m looking at.

Rebekka Honeit:

Tap and hold the cursor until the cursor symbol appears bigger. Then drag the cursor to its new position and let it go.


Selecting a word, sentence, or paragraph has become a lot easier.


There are also new gestures for copy and paste.


To undo, swipe to left with three fingers.

To redo, swipe to right with three fingers.


3 Comments RSS · Twitter

>…instead of double-tapping to enter text selection, you can tap, hold, and swipe to start highlighting text.

What? Doesn't seem like it to me. At least not in Messages, where I just played around with this. As far as I can tell, the only way to get into text-selection mode is to first double-tap on a word, and then drag selection anchors around.

To add further frustration: how do I cancel the selection and put the insertion point in the middle of that same word? As far as I can tell, I have to first tap somewhere _outside_ of the selection, and then move the cursor back in.

This is with iOS 13.3.1 on an iPhone 11 Pro. Boy do I miss the 3D Touch on my old iPhone X.

I really like that you can now drag the cursor without the tap-and-hold wait. It makes things much faster.

That said, overall the new text selection feels like a half-baked change. Pre-iOS 13 it was predictable. Not so much anymore. That Mike Rockwell post and the @meekgeek twitter thread sum up a lot of the issues very well. The loupe was useful. Highlighting of multi-line text scrolls way too aggressively.


* closes the keyboard if you drag the cursor downwards in the input field. You have to tap-and-wait, then drag downwards. Catches me out every. single. time.

* The keyboard is terrible at distinguishing swipe-typing from traditional tap-typing. I constantly end up with gibberish because the keyboard misinterprets my taps as swipes. I disabled swipe for a while, but it's really handy for one-handed use, so I switched it back on. Now am on the verge of disabling it again. Another "needs more time in the oven" feature.

* @Ben I run into that "how do I cancel the selection" issue from time to time as well. There should be a better solution than "tap outside the selection" because sometimes that's not possible. And when it is, sometimes you have to scroll and lose your place, then scroll back to where you were.

@Ben Tap, hold, and swipe to select doesn’t work for me in Messages, either, but it works in OmniFocus and other apps. If you want to position the insertion point instead of selecting, you can just tap where you want it to go. But, yes, if you’re already in selection mode it takes and extra step to switch to just the insertion point.

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