Keyboard Brightness Control on iPadOS

Felipe Esposito, 9to5Mac:

9to5Mac has found references in iPadOS 13.5.5 beta code that points to new keyboard shortcuts that replace some of the function keys.

We’ve found evidence in code that suggests the existence of new keyboard shortcuts to change the brightness of the iPad screen or even the backlight of the keyboard.

Shortly after updating to iPadOS 13.5.5 Beta, I noticed the brightness keys on the function row of the standalone Magic Keyboard I currently use with my iPad Pro no longer function, so perhaps this lends credence to 9to5Mac’s findings.

Some functionalities get nuked only to make a return later during beta periods, so I’m I hoping this Magic Keyboard change is temporary as Apple implements the shortcuts to adjust the screen, and possibly keyboard brightness for the Magic Keyboard for iPad. The media keys on the standalone Magic Keyboard are operating as usual, though.

Why No Function Keys?

Matt Birchler, BirchTree:

Well, because there simply isn’t room…with this design, at least. See, even with what’s there now, my fingers get dangerously close to hitting the keyboard when it’s leaned back as far as it will go. Another row would technically be accessible, but it would be somewhere between uncomfortable and unreachable.

Matt has a good point regarding possible hindrances an extra row of keys on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro would present. I don’t think they will be unreachable, just inconvenient and uncomfortable given the limited space between the base of the iPad and the keyboard depending on which one of the near-infinite angles of the iPad you have it on.

My initial thought was to make the Function keys half the size of the standard keys, perhaps, the same size as the inverted-T arrow keys. That still wouldn’t take away the issue at hand let alone other unseen possible technical challenges that may lie underneath. Lowering the keyboard set wouldn’t do any good for what is already a ‘tiny’ trackpad, either. Compromises had to be made.

Whatever the case, the Magic Keyboard is here, and it is what is it is. Like many ‘first’ Apple products, iterations will happen over time. That full no-compromise keyboard layout will find its way onto the iPad Pro, someday.

Reservations about the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro

Looking at the product shots the moment after Apple announced the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, I instantaneously had reservations that needed addressing before I splash out for one.

Firstly, and more importantly, my use case: The question was not will it fit in my current workflow but rather, how much will I use this new iPad accessory. The Magic Keyboard for iPad with its cantilever design somehow had me envisaging desktop as the more practical use case, which doesn’t bode well with my current configuration needs that require a certain level of elevation.

As I mentioned in my iPad Pro desk setup entry:

Using the iPad with the Smart Keyboard attached in a desktop environment peering down on the screen for prolonged periods started to cause a little bit of pain at the back of my neck and shoulders (I’m 6’4”). I decided to nip things in the bud and reconfigure my setup into a more ergonomic structure to avoid pain in the long run.

My use of the Smart Keyboard Folio reduced significantly in favour of an iPad stand with an external keyboard and trackpad. I currently have the iPad stand sitting on the iPad Pro box to elevate it even higher while I continue to shop around for a decent desk monitor riser. The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, although slightly taller in profile when compared to the iPad Pro in a Smart Keyboard Folio, still won’t meet the height adjustments my current setup affords me. This shortcoming rules out the use of it on my desk on a prolonged basis, which begs the question whether there is any immediate need upgrading to the Magic Keyboard for iPad given I currently spend 95% of my iPad use on a desk, which is my preferred environment.

Secondly, the cantilever design with the iPad overhang close to the keyboard: How will it affect typing when reaching out for the top row keys? Was this an oversight or did Apple expect that everyone will be able to manoeuvre their fingers in and out of that gap like the nimble hummingbird in the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro Ad1, without consistently hitting the bottom of the iPad? Of course, this will be subject to the size of one’s fingers and how you type. It is why I’m hoping it won’t be an issue for me, and if it is, I hope I will be able to adapt over time.

Thirdly, the lack of Function keys on the Magic Keyboard for iPad; I have grown attached to and depend on using the brightness, volume and media keys on the external Magic Keyboard — designed for Mac but compatible with the iPad Pro. There’s always some form of media playing in the background when I’m at my desk. Being able to easily alter the state of these functions without having to reach for the iPad adds to the convenience of my setup. And it is a convenience I do not wish to lose. I do not want to be in a situation where I have to do this!

Granted, none of the above reservations is a deal-breaker for me, and I’ll even admit to developing a certain level of admiration for it even before getting my hands on one — Apple products in these modern times tend to have this effect. Right now though, as of writing this, I don’t need the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, but I want it, and I’m sure I’ll be picking it up at some point down the line. Glad to see people that need it now and got their hands on one enjoying the delights it presents.


  1. My favourite Apple product Ad. Ever!

LumaFusion Video Editing Tutorials

Doing work on the iPad is a hotly debated topic, subjective and objective, depending on what your work is, of course. When it comes to video and audio media productions, some YouTubers, filmmakers, and podcasters, for example, are performing all work involved with their creative media processes using just the iPad, from start to finish, with professionally-looking results.

Chris Wilmshurst, a videographer, has put together a few LumaFuison tutorials (with more to come) aiming to help you learn and utilise some of the primary and more advanced features in LumaFusion. The tutorials are very well put together, easy to follow along and digest. Videographers and filmmakers will benefit from these tutorials.

LumaFusion by LumaTouch is one of the more popular and preferred pro video editing and effects app available on iOS that provides a robust set of features that in many respects rivals some of the more common counterparts found on traditional PC’s.

The 11-inch iPad Pro

Josh Ginter, The Sweet Setup:

Apple’s 11-inch iPad Pro is, quite simply, a joy to pick up and hold. It’s wonderfully light and the edges are rounded off and soft, making for a great couch and lounge chair device. This, and the narrower aspect ratio, combine to make the 11-inch iPad Pro the ultimate device for watching movies, reading books, and browsing the web — all the tasks Mr. Jobs proudly pounded into our shimmering eyeballs back in 2010.

Somehow, I think this 11-inch iPad Pro is the exact device he envisioned all along.

My dedicated use for the iPad Pro has always been for desktop use, primarily, hence why I have forever gone for the 12.9-inch model since the iPad Pro debuted in 2015. I have, however, over the years, pottered around with the idea of switching to the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro which offers more ergonomic flexibility for tasks — like Josh described — that doesn’t involve the constant use of an external keyboard so that I can utilise the iPad more in those environments. But somehow, using the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in a traditional desk setup environment instils a discipline of concentration and energy in me.

Using the iPad this way deviates from the intended inception of the iPad as a touch-first device, I know! It is why I still keep a folio case around for moments I want to battle the lackadaisical feeling of lounging with the bigger, heftier iPad — which also helps maintain the familiarity of the software keyboard and use of touch to interact with the iPad.

Using the folio case to prop up the iPad makes it easier to deal with the cumbersome size and reduces the awkward nature of wielding the 12.9-inch iPad. Still, it sure doesn’t come close to the comfortability the 11-inch iPad Pro offers when casually using the iPad.

The 2020 iPad Pro

Mike Rockwell, Initial Charge:

But I can say with certainty that the iPad Pro is an excellent computer. It’s the most powerful I’ve ever owned and runs the most exciting operating system on the planet alongside my favorite applications.

I’m still using my 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro and won’t be upgrading to the 2020 model, but this sums up my exact sentiments towards the iPad Pro, even at near two years old.

On the Rumoured iPad Full Cursor Support

The recent spate of rumours about upcoming Apple hardware and software features published by 9to5Mac have sparked and brought back a few conversations, especially regarding the iPad. One such rumour is the addition of a trackpad to the Smart Keyboard and rich system-wide mouse cursor support on the iPad.

Like clockwork, and as expected, echoes of the iPad losing its identity by extensively enhancing support to the Smart Keyboard and now full mouse cursor input can be heard all over Apple communities.

Jason Snell, Macworld:

The iPad will never stop being the iPad. That means it will never stop being a device that’s built from the ground up on touch interfaces, and that excels when you hold it in your hands. But it also means that it’s flexible enough to go beyond that base configuration, if and when you need it to. Bring it on.

The iPad is currently the more flexible device offering the best of both worlds. The Mac unable to provide the same flexibility (at this point), seems to have given reason for many die-hard Mac users who, for years, wished for the Mac to offer touch input to have a severe dislike towards the iPad gaining all these capabilities. It has always been a matter of when and not if Apple will ever provide full mouse cursor support on the iPad.

As I’m trying hard to contain my excitement from this rumour, I will, in the meantime, join Jason and shout it out loud — BRING. IT. ON!

My iPad Pro Desk Setup - What's a Computer?

iPad Pro desk setup

The last time I owned and used a traditional desktop computer daily in my home setup was sometime after 2010 when the first-gen iPad was released. With the iPad, I had a device in my setup that can handle all the basic tasks I used on a traditional computer.

Over the years, the iPad slowly started to perform more of my daily computing tasks with the growth of workarounds to bypass the limitations of the OS. However, shoehorning my way around the iPad started to become a chore. I didn’t have the nerdy energy in me at the time to keep up with it, which threatened the existence and joy of using the iPad as a primary computer in a desktop environment. Eventually, my dependence on the iPad dropped significantly. I longed for a powerful and capable OS that enabled me to do more. An iPad-specific OS that helps enhance my productivity and be more efficient in handling a multitude of apps at the same time on the same screen.

iPadOS reigniting my love for the iPad and enticing me to buy the 2018 iPad Pro seven months into its life-cycle was just one part of the story. It also made me go out and buy an office desk and chair to return to the desktop environment I previously had at home.


Accessorising - What’s on the desk?

I was lucky to acquire an iPad that came with the second-gen Apple Pencil. I also got the Smart Keyboard Folio along with a simple magnetic case cover for times I feel like using the software keyboard. The all-in-one case and keyboard combo provided great ergonomic comfort in terms of portability. The ease of connecting the case to the iPad with the smart connector design, eradicating the need for Bluetooth connection made the Smart Keyboard a very compelling accessory to have, especially when on the go. I was instantly a fan. It took a little a bit of adjustment typing on the Smart Keyboard because I primarily used the software keyboard on iPads. I eventually got acquainted, and it was a breeze.

iPad Pro

Using the iPad with the Smart Keyboard attached in a desktop environment peering down on the screen for prolonged periods started to cause a little bit of pain at the back of my neck and shoulders (I’m 6’4”). I decided to nip things in the bud and reconfigure my setup into a more ergonomic structure to avoid pain in the long run. 

I’ve always admired a lot of the iPad desktop setups I see shared online regularly. None more so than Andy Nicolaides’ configurations, which have always been simple and gives off an effectiveness vibe that caters to his use case. I decided to follow the same approach. I started looking into the many options to improve my setup. I considered going down the route of connecting the iPad to a 4K monitor with keyboard and mouse but decided to keep things even simpler with just the iPad as the monitor. I got a universal tablet stand to help raise the iPad to eye-line sight (My neck thanks me for this), a Magic Keyboard and the Logitech MX Master 3 mouse to complete the input peripherals. 

Without further ado, here’s a photo of my iPad Pro Desktop setup: 

iPad Pro desk setup
Current iPad Pro Desk Setup

The setup is not yet complete as I’m currently looking into a base to elevate the iPad stand to an even better eye-line level according to best practices. Until the next iPad Pro gets announced and released, I intend to stick with this setup whenever I am at the desk. Might you wonder the fate of the Smart Keyboard Folio? I like it a lot, so I’m keeping it for when I need to use the iPad away from the desk; indoors or outdoors.

More angled shots in delightful black and white mono as I was reconfiguring the desk setup. 

Sharing an iMac-like iPad set up with the use of peripherals, i.e. keyboard and mouse, I can almost feel the glowering faces from the ‘why not just get a mac?’ brigade.

My answer to the question: I prefer iPadOS.

Keyboards and mouse are not exclusive to Macs only. Regardless of the fact the iPad was birthed as a touch-input device, it is no less deserving of utilising existing compatible peripherals as an input tool than any traditional computer before it. 

I’m happy in the iPad camp right now and hope to continue to be going into the future. I’m hoping in another ten, twenty years from now I can look back in fond memory the iPads journey as a primary computing device, just like those that witnessed the birth and growth of the Mac to what it is today.

The iPads Ten Year Evolution

iPad Pro Desk Setup
My Current iPad Pro Desk Setup

The iPads evolution in terms of hardware has delighted the masses with Apple’s obsession of thinner and lighter spearheading that development. Throughout its different size classes over the years, the iPad never failed to provide portability comforts, giving merit towards its hardware design.

When it comes to software, many consumers hoping to journey into the Post-PC generation expecting to see the same level of PC desktop software capabilities on the iPad down the road started to echo strong, unified sentiments regarding the stagnant nature of the iPad software. The call for a dedicated OS for the iPad grew stronger, and Apple finally made it happened.

The introduction of iPadOS, with its iPad specific features, signals the beginnings of the iPad software providing broader capabilities that will help continue to steer it away from the portrayal of a consumption-only device during the launch keynote presentation. Although during the subsequent keynote introducing iPad 2 and the launch of GarageBand on iOS, the demos revealed what the iPad is capable of when it comes to content creation, positioning the iPad as a multi-functional device going forward. To this day, the iPad does a brilliant job on both fronts, with some notable restrictions, especially when it comes to specific developmental tools.

The age-old uncertainty of whether the iPad can completely replace your PC and whether you can do work on the iPad remains. There is a simple answer to both questions: it depends on your computing requirements. To still utterly condemn the iPad as incapable of doing work is ludicrous and often a statement made by disputatious observers. It has come to a stage where the question isn’t any longer ‘how does the iPad stack up to the competition?’. But instead now, an internal battle amongst long-term Apple die-hards camping on either side of the fence of whether the iPad is good enough to replace their Macs - with a few dismissing the iPad because it doesn’t do things the Mac way.

I recently wrote and expressed some sentiments I had towards the iPad and the role it plays in my computing life. Being an early adopter - from the first iPad released in 2010 - I have witnessed the iPads slow evolution towards its expected potential, be it what Apple intended it to be or what consumers hoped for it to be. I’ve had my moments of hot and cold towards the iPad simply because I was bored with the iPad running the same software as the iPhone, making the iPad feel like an overblown iPhone. iPadOS changed all that. I have now used the iPad more consistently on an everyday basis than I have ever done.

I never needed powerful software applications for consumption or creative purposes when I used a traditional PC, making my switch to the iPad as my primary computing device a non-problematic transition. The iPad continues to do everything I need it to do, making me a very pleased user who continues to be confident and reassured with the direction the iPad software is heading.


Much has been written about the iPad turning 10. Below, in no particular order, are some of my favourite reads:

Inputmag: The iPad’s original software designer and program lead look back on the device’s first 10 years.

Imran: When we resurrected the iPad, we knew that it was always designed as a computer and it was literally the perfect playground for multitouch. The phone was the first delivery mechanism but we always knew that we wanted a desktop class face to run applications for multitouch.


BirchTree: My 10 Year Review of the iPad

The thing that still bothers people is the idea of the iPad replacing the Mac for all people and I just don’t know if that’s going to happen. The Mac debuted in 1984 and evolved into what we have in front of us today. The iPad is 26 years younger, and it was conceived and grew up in a completely different era, and as such, has much different priorities and design philosophies. Of course it doesn’t work just like the Mac!


Lee Peterson: Looking back at the original iPad

It’s been interesting to see how far we’ve come in 10 years with the iPad hardware, it still feels like the future and has become my platform of choice. I get so much flexibility from using one day to day, be it using the keyboard or pencil or just using it sat on the sofa. It’s given me so much opportunity to be more creative and I couldn’t imagine what I’d be using now if it never came along.


The Dent: Ten Years of iPad: Simply Complex

More often than not, when I’ve seen people complaining about things the iPad can’t do it’s untrue. They often can do these things, you just have to do it in a different way than you may have in the past. This doesn’t make the device bad, or unintuitive, necessarily, it just means that some effort needs to be put in to understand how these things are achieved.


MacStories: The iPad at 10: A New Product Category Defined by Apps

The message was that the iPad could become whatever users wanted it to be through its apps. Jony Ive reinforced that in the event’s closing video, declaring that the iPad was defined by its single slab of multitouch glass and lack of an input device or prescribed orientation. Nobody rotates their iPad as much as was demonstrated onstage, but Apple was sending an unmistakable message that the iPad was designed to disappear beneath users’ fingertips the same way an iPhone does, but deliver the computing power to drive a big display.


Steven Sinofsky: The 10th Anniversary of the iPad: A Perspective from the Windows Team.

iPadOS Reignites My Love for iPad

 Apple 12.9” iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 Beta.
Apple 12.9” iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 Beta.

In January 2010, Steve Jobs revealed to the world the iPad, the device Apple believed to be the answer to fill the gap between the smartphone and a laptop. Having converted to using an iPhone two years earlier in 2008, I was definitely in that camp; the need for real screen estate portable touch device that allows me to perform the majority of basic tasks I used a laptop and desktop computer for at the time, such as; web browsing, email, reading and media consumption etc. Nothing trivial.

Iteration after iteration, I continued to enjoy using the iPad, but my dependence on the iPad to perform the tasks mentioned above started to reduce significantly. This shift can be attributed mainly to the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus with a considerably bigger screen - for the simple reason the iPhone was the device always at hand, and both ran the same OS. I started to develop an undying need for an iPad with a completely independent identity, something that differentiates it from the iPhone in terms of software to help you do more without the need of employing extreme life hack solutions using third-party software.

The iPad needed an injection of life beyond hardware changes; it needed an OS that makes it stand on its own with iPad exclusive features that bring it closer to a more powerful utility and productive tool. The lack of such accommodating built-in features saw me continue to rely on the iPad for one purpose; taking advantage of the bigger screen, which gave me little reason to purchase the 2018 iPad Pro despite its radical design doing away with the home button and incorporating Face ID, which did little to entice me. These are features I already use on the iPhone X. My focus was not on hardware - because I never have any qualms about Apple knocking it out of the park with hardware design - but rather an iPad with close to a desktop-class software that nullifies my desire for a MacBook or any other desktop computer for that matter.


iPadOS

Although the iPad was built on the technical foundations of iOS from its inception, iPadOS signals the beginning of the iPad with its own identity even though at its core its still iOS - iPad exclusive features currently the differentiating factor.

When Apple announced iPadOS during the 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference, what I saw revealed on stage by Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, woke the slumbering love I’ve had for the iPad software. It reignited the desire to use an iPad as a primary desktop computing device independently. I wasted little time in seeking out the 2018 iPad Pro following the WWDC iPadOS announcements and got my hands on a 12.9” model with the Apple Pencil, and of course, what’s a desktop computer without a keyboard, I went for the Smart Keyboard Folio. The accessorising continued with a new desk and chair and mouse to complete the setup.

I installed iPadOS 13 Beta and started sifting through iPadOS getting to grips with the plethora of new iPad exclusive features, a great sense of joy encompasses me. I now have an iPad with more tools at my disposal on the home screen; from pinned widgets to an increased number of icons on the screen that maintain their layout regardless of orientation. Improved multitasking with slide overs, multi-window capabilities, split view and app exposé, the ability to import and export files with connected thumb drives, SD cards, external disk drives and last but not the least, a desktop-class browser in Safari with its own set of improvements including a file download manager.

There’s a lot more additional new improvements in iPadOS which I will be writing about as the Beta matures and features get set in stone, including enhancements to apps such as Reminders, Notes, Photos, Maps etc.

Apple’s adoption of powerful features to make the iPad more of a computing powerhouse might be slow, but running iPadOS Beta, I am confident and reassured with the direction the iPad software is heading which makes me happy to be utilising the iPad far more than I’ve probably done in the past. Ecstatic to be back on the iPad lifestyle as a primary computer and eager to witness the iPad’s journey into a computing powerhouse.