Last week’s post about the 12.9-inch vs. 9.7-inch form factor got me thinking about the what would make the iPad more comfortable for long term work. I came back to the idea of a mouse and how it enables me to use more complex sets of on-screen controls, without all the overhead of remembering a ton of keyboard shortcuts. I do love my keyboard shortcuts, but they’re not a do-all replacement for controlling apps.
It struck me the other day that one (seemingly) simple change to the iPad, especially the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, could be the addition of a pointer. Mouse or trackpad support would be fine.
I don’t expect Apple or any developers to change their UI for this, because most of them actually still keep a lot of tap targets and menus on-screen. There are certain apps like Paper and Procreate that rely a lot on multi-touch gestures, but those are apps that I would not expect to use with a mouse anyway. They really are better with touch to begin with.
However, I’m excited by the prospect using my Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse with the iPad Pro. It actually makes a lot of sense to me. It would be great for browsing at the desk, or editing long articles. Then there’s Split View, which could benefit greatly from the flexibility of a pointing device. One second I could be on the right side of the screen highlighting text on a webpage, and then the next second I would click in Evernote (open on the left side of the screen) and just paste the text with a keyboard shortcut. A really fast operation that’s common on the desktop, but which would be enabled by the addition of a pointer on the iPad.
I don’t just want this for convenience though. As I’ve stated before, I do think there is a fundamental flaw with long-term work on the iPad. If you stay in front of the screen for 2-3 hours, it can be tiring to keep tapping on controls along the top of the screen. A pointer could save me from having to move my arm up and down the screen.
Not every app would embrace a software update like this, but that’s all right. The iPad Pro is almost always marketed with the Smart Keyboard, and the majority of apps that I own have not added keyboard shortcuts or made themselves more keyboard-friendly. I think pointer support on iOS would be received similarly, and once again — could take advantage of accessories that people probably already own. There are times when I find it refreshing to return to my Mac for a few days, just because its features and apps are far more accessible when sitting at a desk. Everything is within easy reach with a combination of keyboard shortcuts and a sensitive trackpad.
I think the chances of adding mouse or trackpad support to iOS are slim, but based on how Apple wants professionals to see the iPad Pro, I think it would make a lot of sense.