The Problem With Keyboard Shortcuts on iOS

The Problem With Keyboard Shortcuts on iOS

Spoiler Alert: Inconsistencies

As I usually do (and you should never do), I installed the iOS/iPadOS 13 Developer betas on some devices. I may or may not be using it on my main devices. But you should definitely not use them on your main devices.

A few weeks ago, I also received my shipment of the awesome Brydge Keyboard for my 12.9” iPad Pro. Did I mention it’s awesome?

As part of my yearly iOS update overview, I try for a few weeks to use native apps to see what has changes. Going back to Notes, Reminders, Mail, and Calendar for a bit is pretty painless, and lets me get a feel for the landscape.

In going back to Mail, with my fancy new Brydge Keyboard, I did the trick where you can hold down the key and see all the keyboard shortcuts for an app.

Here’s what I got from mail:

Mail Keyboard Shortcuts Option-Command-A to Archive? That’s weird.

Some shortcuts are pretty standard, but why use Option-⌘-A for Archive? Wouldn’t ⌘-Delete make more sense? (Spoiler - YES.)

Airmail has the best array of shortuts, but some are inexplicably duplicated. Need to Archive an email? Just hit Backspace. Or Enter. Or E for some reason. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Airmail Keyboard Shortcuts The Next-and-Archive Shortcut is the BEST

Then there’s the Microsoft Outlook app:

Outlook Keyboard Shortcuts This is just sad

I can’t even talk about this pitiful effort.

Spark has great keyboard support, but again, some of the options make no sense:

Spark Keyboard Shortcuts This is how you do it

Overall, though, Spark wins in this department. It properly uses the Backspace to Delete and ⌘-Backspace to Archive. It has great UI navigation using the arrow keys. Commands don’t duplicate. And you can Pin, Reply, Mark as Spam, Mark Read/Unread, and Forward all without touching the screen. That’s how you do keyboard shortcuts.

Each of these apps has strengths and weaknesses. Airmail is very customizable. Outlook works best with my work server. Spark is the niceset looking, in my opinion, and has the best keyboard shortcuts. Mail is built in and has the best system support.

Why can’t they all just get together and figure out which commands they want to use and standardize? Switching apps is not something a lot of people do, but those of us who do change apps occassionally would benefit from the muscle memory.