I’m still digesting all of the news from this year’s WWDC, but it was a fantastic year as far as I’m concerned. Reflecting on my wish list, I got a remarkable number of the things I was looking for.
Mouse and Keyboard Support
Though Apple have been relatively coy about it, it certainly looks like mouse support is here, albeit as an accessibility feature. It looks like some devices are supported over Bluetooth, and some only USB (trackpads?), but I’m excited to try this out. I have a few questions how about scrolling and text selection1 will work, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Keyboard support certainly seems to be improved across a number of system apps such as Safari and Files. I’m unsure as to whether the new multitasking features are controllable by the keyboard, but in a way mouse support makes this slightly less urgent. The main thing is that I can get around the OS without having to reach up and touch the screen.2
Speaking of input more generally, voice control is amazing. I’m definitely going to be using it for dictation, where I’ve long wished to be able to correct mistakes while speaking – but also I’m keen to see if I can get value from it more generally. I should also have had swipe typing on my wish list, but I was thinking mostly of my iPad when I put it together. I used to be a super-fast thumb typist, but I find it uncomfortable nowadays, and when I moved to Gboard for a while, I found swipe typing much better ergonomically3. But I wasn’t that keen on the potential privacy implications all of my text input going through a third-party keyboard, so I stopped using it. Now I can have both ergonomics and privacy. Swipe typing is also available on the iPad, which now has a detachable iPhone-sized floating keyboard you can move around the screen. This thought led me to realise what might be the most awesome new text input method: swipe typing with the Apple Pencil on the floating keyboard ⌨️✍🏻🤩. Can’t wait to give this a try.
Xcode for iPad
Sadly we didn’t get it this year, but it’s got to just be a matter of time. As I said during the keynote, the new SwiftUI framework makes this much more feasible for the future because it makes the link between code and UI both stronger and simpler. Swift Playgrounds doesn’t have Xcode’s interface builder – being very pointing device dependent it’s difficult to see how it would easily translate from the Mac. SwiftUI along with its previews feature, however, is something I can easily imagine on an iPad. I can’t wait until it’s supported in the Swift Playgrounds iPad app.
Odds and Ends
I’m happy to say that I got a lot of these. Improvements to Siri Shortcuts, including the Shortcuts app look amazing. With shortcuts now able to take input and pass output, the possibilities to add scripting in the middle of multi-step shortcuts have really expanded. I’ve no idea if the command-tab list has been made more logical, but with the overhaul to multitasking more generally I’m optimistic. The new Files app has come a long way, I can now have widgets on my home screen, and halleluja there are shared folders in iCloud Drive.
Apart from all of the above, there were still plenty of things I was surprised and delighted by. It’s worth having a look at this amazingly comprehensive list of new features that Apple put together. Several things that jumped out at me which didn’t get big headlines.
Add custom words
Whether you’re writing a biology report, filling out a legal document, or emailing about a favorite topic, you can add custom words to ensure that Voice Control recognizes the words you commonly use.
Ask Siri to tune in to your favorite radio station.
When you share a photo or document, receive a suggestion about who you might want to share it with and which app you may want to use, so you can share with just a tap.
Share your estimated time of arrival with family, friends, and coworkers. Your ETA even updates should a significant delay occur.
Search in Messages makes it easier to find what you’re looking for. Even before you type a character, you can see recent messages, people, photos, links, and locations you might be looking for. When you type in a search, Messages categorizes the results and highlights matching terms. You can also search within individual conversations for the message you’re looking for.
New checklist options
Quickly reorder checklist items using drag and drop, swipe to indent items, and move checked items to the bottom. If you’ve completed the checklist and want to use it again, you can click to uncheck all the items and start over.
Folders and notes management
Organize your notes by creating folders and nested subfolders and easily manage how they’re organized in your folder lists.
Share notes and entire folders as view only so you’re the only one who can make changes.
I haven’t quite decided if and when I’m going to jump on the beta train. I think I will definitely wait until at least public beta 1 if not 2, but I’m really excited to try out all of these new features.
It now really feels to me like the iPad has crossed some kind of threshold of maturity. When people asked me in the past whether they should buy an iPad instead of a laptop, I would generally explain that it was a fantastic device that could do pretty much everything, but that there were a few sharp edges here and there. Either you had to be a bit nerdy to find a good workaround, or you just hit a brick wall. These brick walls were things like working with two Word documents, getting a PowerPoint off a memory stick, or using a web app which assumed a desktop browser. All of these obstacles are now gone, and I would have no reservations recommending the iPad as a truly excellent personal computer.