The iPad Has a Focus Problem ➝

Luke Kanies, writing on Medium:

Unlike touch, keyboards are inherently targeted. While touch is powerful specifically because of your ability to directly manipulate the software you’re using, keyboards must first be pointed at a place that needs text. They need focus. And here’s where the iPad falls down.

It has no concept of focus. Or rather, it obviously does, but its designers are in denial about it. Keyboard focus is littered throughout the platform, from the presence of a cursor when inputting text, to the software keyboard auto-hiding when no text field is in use. When you’re producing text, this generally works pretty well.

But the keyboard is used for far more than typing. Whether it’s command-tabbing between applications or using shortcuts within them, the keyboard is a critical control device. And it just does not work right on the iPad.

There are two major issues here — there’s no indication of which app has keyboard focus when in Split View and there’s no way to switch that focus without touching the screen.

I don’t have a great solution for visually displaying focus. Whatever they use as an indicator, it would have to change or shift each time you alternate interactions between apps. And that would almost certainly become distracting in most situations.

But I think there’s a simple solution to the problem of switching focus from the keyboard. Apple could just reuse the ⌘+` shortcut, which is used on the Mac to switch between windows of the front-most application. Long-time Mac users wouldn’t have to retrain their muscle memory and, unlike John Gruber’s suggestion, Apple wouldn’t have to change the way ⌘+tab works and risk irritating current iPad users.