iPadOS 13 in Action: Text Selection

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One of Apple’s subtle, yet extremely useful additions in iPadOS 13 and iOS 13 is their new text selection and editing features. If, like me, you work with text often on an iPad or iPhone, then you will like appreciate how these new capabilities and gestures will speed up your workflow. Let’s get to the details.

In the past, text selection was a bit of a problem if you weren’t making use of an external Bluetooth or Smart Connector Keyboard and keyboard shortcuts. Positioning the cursor was a pain, especially on the iPhone. You could use a two fingers across the iPad’s on-screen keyboard or 3D Touch on the iPhone’s keyboard to make this a little easier, but that still required extra steps. Then you had to select to bring up a secondary cursor and then drag that around the screen to select your text. It just wasn’t efficient at all. This is also why having a good physical keyboard to use with my iPad Pro has always been a priority.

How does it work?

All of this has changed with iPadOS 13 and iOS 13. I’ve created a 5 minute screen capture video that demonstrates each of the new selection features and gestures in action:

If you don’t care for watching the video:

Cursor Placement: Just tap on the screen to place the cursor. Then tap it and you can freely drag it where you please.

Text Selection: You can double-tap on a word to select it. To select a sentence, triple-tap a word in the sentence. To select a paragraph, quadruple-tap a word in the paragraph.

Copy: Three-finger pinch inward after text is selected, as if you were grabbing the text.

Cut: Perform the same gesture twice for a Cut.

Paste: Perform the same gesture in reverse. With your three fingers together, move them outward as if you are dropping the text.

Undo: Drag three fingers to the left.

Redo: Drag three fingers to the right.

Streamlined and Simplified

While you can still use all of the old methods for working with text, Apple has certainly streamlined things for those who want more power and efficiency. First off, being able to directly drag the cursor around the screen is sooooo much faster and easier than before.

The ability to simply double-tap a word or triple or quadruple tap within a sentence or paragraph to select them isn’t necessarily intuitive, but it is a lot faster than the old method. Apple will need to educate users on how to take advantage of these features and I will be interested to see how they choose to do that.

The same goes for the new gestures for cut, copy, paste, undo and redo. They actually are more intuitive, but they aren’t things you will necessarily stumble on yourself. Again, Apple will have to show users how this is done if people are going to use them.

There is one thing I need to clarify at this point. These features only apply to text selection in a document that you are editing. They will work in Notes, Pages, Word, WordPress and pretty much any other document editor. They will also work in editing fields on the web and in other apps, as well. However, they do NOT work in static documents that you are viewing, such as PDFs or web content. You will still need to tap and hold to generate a cursor and then move the secondary cursor to select your text. However, since both cursors appear as soon as you select a word, it is still a little faster and easier than before.


These new text selection features and gestures may be geared exclusively toward power users. As such, Apple may not make a big effort to show them off outside of videos on their site and the free classes that they offer at Apple Stores. Even if that is the case, they are still a worthwhile addition for those of us who are using our iPhones and iPads everyday for production and productivity, rather than just content consumption.

While I’m not going to part with my Brydge Keyboard because of these new features, I like the fact that I can now use my iPad Pro without it more efficiently when I need to. These features will be an even bigger help to me on my iPhone, with its smaller screen size. Whatever Apple’s reasons for adding these new text features are, I’m just glad to see them paying more attention to the little details in iOS and iPadOS now.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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