đź”— Cursors on iPads

I loved this delightfully written article by Craig Mod: Who Would Have Thought an iPad Cursor Could Be So Much Fun?

This is where the iPad’s support for the trackpad comes in—a middle ground between laser and potato, and a reinvention of Engelbart’s pointiness. Apple has taken the desktop cursor’s familiar thin arrow and replaced it with a translucent circle. This circle has the ability to change form not only with context but with the “physicality” of the object beneath it.

Move the pointer above a button and the circle morphs into the button itself, “snapping” into it, enveloping it like an amoeba, causing it to glow in a pleasing way. What this means is that the usual precision of a trackpad isn’t required to get exact hits on navigational elements. If you own an Apple TV, you’re already familiar with this vibe—it’s how the cursor on the TV “jumps” from icon to icon with a kind of sticky momentum. Similarly, on the iPad home screen, you can “lazily” slam the cursor around and have it lock onto applications with an eerie telepathy not experienced on a desktop OS.

I have used an iPad Pro as my primary machine for nearly a year now. I usually only go to my MacBook Pro when I need to work in Xcode, or do serious work in Jira. That’s the life of a software manager.

I actually have enjoyed using the Smart Keyboard Folio available with last year’s model of iPad Pro. But when I saw the new Magic Keyboard announced last week, I was ecstatic. Alas, like everyone else, I have to wait until May to really try it out.

But I installed iOS 13.4 yesterday and immediately connected a Bluetooth trackpad to try out the new support. I remember last summer when mouse support was announced as an accessibility feature. At the time, I dismissed it as something that I wouldn’t really need or use. When I saw the new demo video, my interest was piqued, and I gave it a try.

All of my doubt was swept away in an instant. In a way that I never expected, the cursor feels right at home. It appears when I touch the trackpad, and disappears when I type or touch the screen. Hovering over buttons or apps is intuitive and delightful. I never wonder where the cursor went or what is happening. As Craig Mod said,

And yet somehow, the overall effect of using a trackpad with an iPad is more convincing than direct manipulation, less exhausting, and simply more fun.

I look forward to using the newest Magic Keyboard in a few months. Until then, I will happily use my iPad with a trackpad sitting next to it.