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The HTG Guide to Using a Physical Keyboard With Your iPad or iPhone

use-physical-keyboard-with-ipad-or-iphone

iPads come with touch keyboards, but there’s nothing stopping you from connecting a good old fashioned physical keyboard and typing on that. Apple even shipped a keyboard dock for the original iPad.

iPads and iPhones don’t support mice, so you can’t couple your Bluetooth keyboard with a Bluetooth mouse. Get a stylus for more precise input if your finger isn’t cutting it.

What You’ll Need

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You’ll need a Bluetooth wireless keyboard for this. Many manufacturers sell Bluetooth keyboards designed specifically for iPads — often as part of “cases” that attempt to turn the iPad into a sort of ersatz laptop — but any Bluetooth keyboard will do. (Unlike on Android, you can’t use a standard USB keyboard via a USB OTG cable.)

Type2Phone and 1Keyboard for Mac can both effectively turn your Mac into a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad or iPhone, so you can use these software programs along with a Mac instead. They’ll pair just like a standard Bluetooth keyboard.

Pairing a Bluetooth Keyboard

The pairing process is the same as it is for other Bluetooth peripherals. Open the Settings app on your iPad or iPhone and select the Bluetooth category. Enable Bluetooth if it’s disabled.

Power on your Bluetooth keyboard and make it discoverable. There’s often a dedicated button on the keyboard for this — it may be labeled “pairing mode” or something similar.

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Your keyboard will appear in the list of nearby Bluetooth devices on your iPad or iPhone. Tap it in the list to connect. You’ll need to type a sequence of characters on the keyboard to ensure you have the keyboard in front of you.

(We used the Type2Phone software for this, so that’s why it says we’re pairing with a MacBook Air. You can’t just pair your iPad or iPhone to your Mac and use its keyboard as a Bluetooth keyboard without special software.)

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Your keyboard and iPad or iPhone will remember they’re paired. The next time you want to use your keyboard, just power it on. You won’t have to go through the pairing process again.

Basic Typing

Tap a text field with your finger to focus it and start typing. As there’s no mouse support, you’ll have to navigate the interface with your finger like you normally would. The Tab key won’t reliably move between text fields.

The touch keyboard won’t appear while the Bluetooth keyboard is paired, so a physical keyboard gives you more screen real estate while working. As soon as you power off your Bluetooth keyboard and tap in another text field, the touch keyboard will come right back.

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Keyboard Shortcuts

iOS 7 includes a variety of keyboard shortcuts. App developers can add support for their own app-specific keyboard shortcuts, so your favorite app may have its own shortcuts.

System Functions

The F keys at the top of your keyboard provide quick access to some system functions.

F1 – Dim the screen

F2 – Brighten the screen

F7 – Previous song

F8 – Play/pause

F9 – Next song

F10 – Mute volume

F11 – Volume down

F12 – Volume up

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Text Editing

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Text-editing keyboard shortcuts work just like they do on a Mac. Many of these are common text-editing shortcuts that work on almost every platform.

The Command symbol is ⌘, so you may see that printed on your keyboard. If you have a Windows keyboard, this should be the Windows key instead.

Command + C – Copy

Command + X – Cut

Command + V – Paste

Command + Z  – Undo

Command + Shift + Z – Redo

Command + Up arrow – Home (go to beginning of document)

Command + Down arrow – End (go to end of document)

Command + Left arrow – Go to beginning of line

Command + Right arrow – Go to end of line

Holding Shift and pressing the arrow keys to select text or holding Alt and pressing the arrow keys to move between words also work. These shortcuts can be combined to quickly select words, lines, or paragraphs.

Safari

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Safari has a handful of the keyboard shortcuts most web browsers have in common.

Command + L – Focus the location bar so you can start typing a search or web address

Command + T – Open a new tab

Command + W – Close the current tab

Command + R – Refresh

Command + . – Stop (stops loading the current page)

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Mail

The Mail app has a few keyboard shortcuts that can speed up your email processing.

Command + N – Create a new email message

Command + Shift + D – Send the current email

Backspace – Delete the current message

Up arrow or Down arrow – Move between suggested email addresses when filling out the To, CC, and BCC fields.


Your keyboard can’t normally be used to navigate the operating system and switch between apps. If you’d like to do this, you’ll need to enable the VoiceOver accessibility feature from Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver. You’ll be able to use the arrow keys to navigate interface elements. You can also use Command + Tab and Command + Shift + Tab to switch between apps.

This feature is an accessibility feature and it shows. You probably won’t want to leave VoiceOver enabled unless you actually want to use a keyboard for accessibility purposes. This isn’t ideal for navigating your iPad’s interface more quickly.

Image Credit: Matthew Pearce on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/13/14