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To summarize this thread (HN is still the best place to get IOS tips and tricks):

Three ways to move the cursor, from most reliable to least:

1. Hold down space bar and you'll enter a mode where moving your finger moves the cursor.

2. Drag it from its current location to a new location. This gets finicky, especially if you move your finger out of the text area; the cursor will move to the end of the text, but the highlighted bar that represents where you want to place the cursor will move around on the last line of the text. If there are non-text elements (images, etc.) in the block, then this will be unpredictable in where the cursor ends up. Also your finger blocks the text and there's no more magnifying glass.

3. Single tap in the text to place the cursor -- but if you tap on a misspelled word, it will go into "suggest replacements" mode. Double tap selects a word, and triple tap selects a paragraph.

To select all, you have to have a free cursor (nothing selected) and tap on the cursor itself. To avoid accidentally double-tapping (and thus selecting a word instead of bringing up the context menu) you have to make sure that you wait a beat before tapping again.

To paste (most to least reliable):

1. Do a three finger unpinch gesture, and it will paste at the cursor.

2. Enter the select all menu above and tap on the cursor (same caveats) and one of the options will be paste. But very often the second tap will either activate a double-tap (and thus select a word) or move the cursor a little bit, making a precise paste difficult.

Was this announced anywhere in any fashion? Or did they just change things and assume it was all "discoverable"? (Triple WTF's at the "three finger un-pinch".)

It was in the WWDC keynote speech. The rest of the world else can "discover" it the next time a bug crawls on their screen.

Herein lies the problem: it doesn't matter how much 'better' or 'smoother' or 'consistent' the change is - or is not, in this case. It's a gross oversight to never inform end users of the change in any way.

How many iPhone users attentively watch WWDC or read each update's (often incomplete) release notes? 1%? 3%? 5% tops? Why roll out a feature when 95% of your users will need to discover it through trial and error? A relatively juvenile UX mistake for such a mature company, but seems to be their MO these days...

I'm guessing a large proportion of the feedback to the design and development teams comes from the people who obsess over everything Apple. It would explain why the engineers never thought to inform the larger population -- everyone giving feedback already knew it was there.

> How many iPhone users attentively watch WWDC or read each update's (often incomplete) release notes? 1%? 3%? 5% tops? Why roll out a feature when 95% of your users will need to discover it through trial and error?

I totally agree, but just want to point out that it may be 5% of developers who follow these. Of the general use base in total? I'd assume it's rather about 1/100 of one percent, or one in ten thousand people.

Dang! One in ten thousand?! That's crazy, thanks for the perspective. They should be easy to spot though - just look for the one dude zipping around using iOS 13.3's new hoverboard function ;)

It's not like I have any numbers, but we have to remember that everyone uses a smartphone these days and a large portion wouldn't be able to even say if they're using iOS or Android.

OTOH, we also have the problem where many a new feature launches a parade in its own honor, with notifcations and badges and and modal popups when the user is trying to do something else. Google/Android is much worse about this than iOS, though.

Yes indeed, if only they would "inform end users of the change".

Unfortunately that would require that end users a) read such information (given the truism that "users don't read"), I would ouputr this at a vanishingly small likelihood, and b) summoned such information to mind when using their device.

The only people who would read this sort of information are techies it closer techies. It's certainly not my aged mother.

The real solution is to stick with some time proven UI techniques. As the author says, like scroll bars.

Instead, we have form over functionality writ large.

While we're on the topic, those screen-masking "tutorials" you randomly get when apps push out an updated UI are annoying. I always skip past them. When I open an app, it's for a reason, and I want to start using it.

Then they try to cram the entire UI into that “tutorial”; as if you’re going to hold that all in your head after reading it once while trying to do something else. Then there’s no clear way to get back to it (if it’s even possible). And often if you accidentally click through one part you can’t even go back to that part.

Video games do this a lot, too. I’d play more games but it’s always a one-hour commitment to get started between opening videos and tutorials.

Some games manage to teach you most of what you need without an overt tutorial. See eg Hollow Knight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWiDS8SUvds&t=55s or the classic first level of Super Mario Bros.

When they work new skill discovery into the natural evolution of gameplay it's genius.

In Hollow Knight, letting the player figure out how to 'pogo jump' is an interesting example. They don't hold your hand, but you need to learn eventually to progress.

And the one that kicks in after an iOS update? That installed overnight on your phone? That appears first thing in the morning, right when you're actually trying to check your mail, calendar, catch up on overnight notifications, in between getting ready for work and kicking kids out of the house... that tutorial is getting dismissed and will never be revisited.

Yeah, an overview of how things are laid out is great to have but let me go there after I've already looked around a bit, and don't make it an obstacle.

I'm one of the ones who watched the keynote, knew about the feature - and I still couldn't do it. Specifically the three finger "unpinch." However, this thread prompted me to retry, during which I realized it was a lot easier if I used two hands. We'll see if I can manage to use it regularly.

It's also in the Tips app, which prompts via notifications to learn about new features in iOS after an upgrade. You can ignore it, or you can let it walk you through the changes to your device.

yeah, but who has time? Tips will spend 5 mins walking you through how to change the preferred colour scheme for the Weather app, when what I want to do right now is answer the phone.

Then, 2 months later, I want to change the colour scheme in the Weather app. Can I remember how? Or even remember where I saw to do that? Or even find the right tip? Obviously not...

The grandparent asked if this was supposed to be discoverable and the answer is no, Apple does not expect you to discover it. If you want to learn about it, it’s in the Tips app (that they prompt you to use). Not wanting to use the Tips app seems like a personal issue.

How about they just don’t mess with functionality that has been working that way since literally the first version of iOS?

If it is a personal issue, it's because it's a bad solution to the problem. It doesn't provide the information I need when I need it, and provides irrelevant information most of the time.

I'm the customer. If your customer has a personal issue with your product, that's your problem, not theirs.

I'm not holding the phone wrong!

Wow, yeah. I've been an iOS user since version 3, and consider myself a power user. But the parent comment explains a lot why I couldn't select words like before. WTF is Apple doing these days?!

The tips app is one attempt at feature discovery like this.

The problem is that modern UI's can do so much that some has to be hidden so the common use cases can be easier, but users never go into the tips app or online help books to find out what was hidden. Pushing notifications spams users who don't want to look there, so we instead have our current situation /shrug ️

Source: used to work on the iOS tips app and help.apple.com/$productname help books at apple.

>The problem is that modern UI's can do so much that some has to be hidden so the common use cases can be easier

Bollocks. The "modern UI" can't do anything that much more that Windows 95 wasn't doing already. Too bad the touchscreen became standard long after anyone cared about good UX, and so the UI paradigms are still struggling with this new kind of hardware.

There is no reason ever to hide the scrollbar, which is not only a control, but also an indicator.

The UI designers don't hide it for the sake of good UX, it's for the sake of being "brave" - leading to articles like this.

I was just thinking about this the other day. OS X, in its earlier days, as a marvel of usability. Every last thing was seemingly crafted with utmost attention to ergonomics (e.g. the omnipresent menu bar is on the edge of the screen so it's easier to hit with the cursor), consistency, and intuitive discoverability. Again, the menu bar is a good example of this: it's always there, actions are laid out in a way that you can browse them to look for functions, and each item has the associated keyboard shortcut shown. The old HIG document was pretty well thought out.

iOS, on the other hand, is a byzantine mess of nondiscoverable gestures, meaningless hieroglyphic buttons that you have to blindly press to see what they're supposed to do, and general UI antipatterns. This isn't the only post on HN today about modern UIs, prompted by phonisms, regressing functionality. There's one about scrollbars too, which is another area that Apple has lead the charge on messing up.

I mean, I'm personally strongly against showing scrollbars almost everywhere on mobile because any kind of visual noise makes the UI harder for me to parse, the scroll position is not relevant to me usually, and there is not enough screen real estate to make it an actual usable control. I understand this is a personal preference, but I assure you I am not alone and these ideas _were_ tested and debated because there aren't obvious solutions here. You have a much much bigger pointer closer to your face than on Windows 95 (which I remember as a usability nightmare personally to me as a child, I don't know if people have rose colored glasses or it is a generational thing). On desktop I don't have any good arguments, but at least it is an option to re-enable there.

This is the first and only time I've heard someone argue against scrollbars.

Even the very thin and translucent ones that just function as an indicator?

I find the ones that are translucent and appear on touch to be very useful. This is mainly seen in the MacOS world I think, I know for sure I see it in VSCode.

Was it ever announced? How are new users supposed to figure anything out?

My C=64 came with a thick reference manual, with circuit schematics in the back. Every computer I've bought since then has had a smaller manual. I think my smartphone came with a small pamphlet with a couple screenshots.

It seems you're supposed to learn how to use electronics these days by having people say "oh, don't you know?"

I mean, ideally electronics are designed so that it’s impossible not to understand them if you’ve been raised in a more or less progressive civilization.

It’s just that often they are not, and both good and bad design comes without a decent manual.

It feels like we zoomed on straight past the highest point on that curve and we're regressing. As the other post mentioned, computers used to come with big thick manuals to tell you everything you needed to know, but over time, as software UIs improved, these got thinner and thinner. Until there was no physical manual to get any thinner - then the UIs started getting worse.

It feels to me like it happened around the time of the first iPad. That was such a usable device (and OS X was just about at its peak of perfection at the time) - I remember just opening the box, turning it on, and everything being intuitive. I’m 99% certain scroll bars were still present then, for example.

I don’t think we ever really made the transition from paper manuals to online help very well. Some apps need additional help, and some even make it available, but I rarely see people-in-need actually making use of it. Heck, they rarely even consider googling for help (the issue in the article can be worked around, at least, with a google search). At least with a physical manual, you knew how much help was available/necessary for a given app - that’s just not the case with 'software help' or help online.

Speaking of discoverability, as I was playing around with this I just discovered that there's another way to paste besides these two: if you just tap with three fingers, it brings up an undo menu that also has a paste option (different from the select menu).

"three finger un-pinch" is a shortcut for advanced users. It's not the standard, discoverable way to paste.

> 1. Do a three finger unpinch gesture, and it will paste at the cursor.

Crazy! Apparently there's a whole set of commands accessible this way, most notably three finger swipe left = undo!!! This is a significant improvement. They could've told me while I was painstakingly shake - confirm undo - shake - confirm undo - shake - confirm undo ...... ing!

I'm gonna be publicly ridiculed for this one and I'm good with that.

I've been trying to get the show desktop gesture on my mac right for years. You know, the one that "windows-D" was doing so loyaly for ages.

My habit is to arbitrarily swipe as many fingers as I can find available from center of trackpad outwards. It used to take me ~10 trials to get it right.

And now, enlightened by this random thread, I suddenly figured out I actually need to swipe 3 fingers upwards and one downwards simultaneously. This is the greatest Epiphany HN had given me since https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13651148

I had no idea what you meant with "swipe 3 fingers upwards and one downward", but the image and description at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204895 made it much more clear.

OTOH, more than one mouse button would be "confusing".

I have a 90% success rate with my totally different approach-

put four fingers in the center of the trackpad- not touching each other, but very close. then naturally spread them apart.

F11 does it

I know but though I have pretty big hands I can't do fn + F11 with one hand, so it's a no-go.

> Crazy! Apparently there's a whole set of commands accessible this way, most notably three finger swipe left = undo!!! This is a significant improvement.

How is that an improvement? I get that the shaking gesture is horrible, but this one is not better: a three finger swipe is unusual, impossible to discover, hard to do. I don’t get why swiping left, usually associated with going to the right (= forward in Western cultures), is here used to undo (= going backward).

yeah, I absolutely loath these gestures with a passion. Impossible to get right when you need them, and impossible to avoid doing by accident when you don't

All the non-discoverability of vim, without the power!

Don't forget that three finger swipe right does... "redo"!

People have the patience of learning the new tricks ONCE when they get a new phone. After that nothing major like this should change. I am sure this change would have created more than a few hundred WTF moments while someone was driving/cooking/whatever and texting (yes, I know it is bad, but everyone does it) and I wouldn't be surprised there are a few accidents.

> Double tap selects a word, and triple tap selects a paragraph.

FYI: Triple-tap is for sentences. Quadruple-tap is for paragraphs.

Text selection is the one area that the lack of 3D Touch affects me the most, and I am truly upset about it.

With last year's phone/iOS, you could 3D Touch anywhere on the keyboard and enter a cursor-move mode. This was replaced with the spacebar thing, which is fine.

But then while moving your cursor around in the old version, you could 3D Touch again to select a word, again for a sentence, and again for the paragraph. I could select text so easily! This made deleting sections or copy/pasting bits of edited text sooooo much easier.

Now it's significantly worse. I can move the cursor fine, but then to select text I have to use my fingers to tap on the text directly and it's much more difficult to be precise. (Why? Because I can't see through my fingers, surprisingly. You can see through a cursor just fine.)

Sigh. I'm really disappointed in this change specifically.

It’s not as good as the 3D Touch version, but you can tap a second finger on the keyboard while moving the cursor to enter select mode

As an android user who left iOS some years ago, this sounds absolutely awful.

Same here. I thought IOS was cool in 2007 when most people first got it, but then the constant forced-upgrades and forced-updates of the phone where it would randomly reboot the phone while sitting idle on your desk and where you would randomly lose functionality -- this was happening in 2007 -- made me really want to switch to something different. I always felt like Steve Jobs was in my pocket and I couldnt control the phone, it was controlling me.

So you went to a platform that on 99% of devices barely offers any OS updates?

It seems like the OS updates are part of the problem. In particular, updates are still delivered as a bundle of 'good stuff' whether its security patches, bug fixes, feature updates, or fundamental UI reimaginings. I know most 'normal' users don’t want to concern themselves with these details, but most 'normal' users just want to use their device to get something done, not have to relearn how to use it every six months. Even if that means it’s 'better'.

Classic car comparison: imagine every time you took your car in for a service, the mechanics not only fix any problems, fine-tune the workings, and give it a clean, but they also 'improve' the controls. Your automatic becomes a manual, you gain acceleration but lose top speed, and your indicators switch with your wipers. It would be an absolute nightmare, up with which no one would put!

i use devices that do frequent device updates, but the point is they dont force them on you and reboot your phone without human intervention...

1. Do a three finger unpinch gesture, and it will paste at the cursor.

I sneered at the pinch/unpinch copy/paste gestures when I first read about them. But Apple's implementation, at least on the iPad, is stellar. I'm still not used to it, but when I remember to use it, it works flawlessly every time.

And there's even a little feedback bubble that pops up at the top of the screen letting you know you did something. That kind of feedback in invaluable, and desperately lacking in this era where programmers look down on feedback animation as superfluous.

"Three finger unpinch" sounds like that move from Kill Bill 2.

I hate selecting text on my work iPhone. Android does this far better and you don’t need to learn tricks like pressing down spacebar.

How does Android do it better? I don’t remember there being any way other than the fiddly little handles, which you can also use on iOS

There's a handle on the cursor, it has a pretty big area where you can grab it. Once you've grabbed it you get a magnified view of where the cursor is as you're dragging. I think it also scales down your dragging motion to make placing the cursor in the right spot less fiddly too, but I haven't got any real evidence of that other than feel.

Excellent summary! More in depth for those interested:


FWIW, I recall being shown some of these new gestures (cut and paste, undo) in post-update iOS 13 splash screen of some kind.

By contrast, when I hardware swapped from XS to 11, nothing prepared me for the loss of formerly oh-so-intuitive 3D Touch. I’d read about it, didn’t realize how second nature it had become. I often saw others struggle with or unaware of 3D Touch, so my guess is Apple metrics showed it wasn’t as widely used as they’d hoped. The other positive is consistency, as I occasionally attempted 3D Touch on iPad or old phones and felt stymied.

With older iPhones with 3D touch, there used to be a fourth way:

4. Deep press anywhere on the keyboard to switch to cursor moving mode.

On my iPhone X, I used this all the time. With the iPhone 11, there is no substitute: you cannot long press on anything but the space bar to move the cursor. Also, a deep press was quicker to activate, a long press takes a fraction of a second longer. It's a bit annoying.

The three finger unpinch on a phone is miserable

> 1. Hold down space bar and you'll enter a mode where moving your finger moves the cursor.

Specifically, either long-touch the space bar or force-touch any letter. Just don't force-touch the left side of the screen, which will invoke the app switcher.

You can hold down any key not just the space bar. Just press down anywhere (besides caps/options/emoji etc)

Changed in iOS 13.

Ahh, yep, thx

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