Craig Federighi talks about cursors on iPadOS 13.4, citing inspiration on Apple TV

iPadOS 13.5.5 may bring new keyboard shortcuts to control brightness and volume

We’ve talked a lot here about the main novelty of iPadOS 13.4, the feature that made iPads take another step towards the world of complete computing: the cursor support introduced in the latest version of the system. We even have a complete video talking about it.

Because today, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, participated in a long and fruitful conversation with Matthew Panzarino, from TechCrunch, about the “reinvention of the cursor” brought by iPadOS 13.4. The report / interview contains several interesting details about the process of developing support in Cupertino, citing the challenges of bringing an interaction by cursors to the iPad that did not seem artificial or forced.

Cursor on iPadOS 13.4 (image: TechCrunch)

One of the inspirations in the process, guess what, came from an unsuspected element: the Apple TV.

There was a process to understand exactly how so many elements would work together. We knew we wanted a cursor that was very touch-centric, that didn’t convey an unnecessary level of accuracy. We knew it would have to be a focus experience similar to Apple TV, [produto do qual] we could take advantage of it in a pleasant way. We knew that when dealing with text, we wanted to offer a greater sense of feedback.

According to Federighi, the cursor experience on the iPad is an amalgamation of everything Apple has designed in this direction throughout its history:

Part of what I love about what happened with iPadOS is the fact that we drink from so many sources. The experience takes elements of our work at tvOS, our years of working on the Mac and the origins of the iPhone X and the first iPad, creating something new that you feel is really natural on the iPad.

The explanation makes sense: the very existence of the cursor references the advent of the graphical interface, brought to the world by Apple (in an original way or not, but this is another history) with the Macintosh from 1984. But the iPad cursor is not an ordinary mouse pointer: it interacts with the elements, changing shape and even assuming the identity of things (when approaching an icon or a button, it “turns” that icon / button, for example) – something that is much closer to the experience of using tvOS.

Cursor on iPadOS 13.4 (image: TechCrunch)

The idea, according to Federighi, was to narrow the difference between touch interaction and mouse / trackpad interaction – combining, at the same time, the naturalness of the first and the precision of the second:

When we started thinking about the cursor, we concluded that it needed to reflect the natural and simple experience of using your finger when high precision was not needed – accessing an icon on the home screen, for example. But he would also need to switch quickly (and naturally) to highly accurate tasks, such as editing text. Then we come up with a circle that elegantly transforms to accomplish the task at hand. For example, it changes to become the focus around a button, or to overlay an icon, or it becomes something more precise when it makes sense – like the “I” cursor for text selection.

Cursor on iPadOS 13.4 (image: TechCrunch)

Extra information, brought by Panzarino on Twitter, shows that cursor support on the iPad is being well received by major developers. According to him, Microsoft Office for iPadOS will receive support for pointer devices in the autumn of the northern hemisphere:

Oh, and rejoice, Word aficionados: Office will gain support for the iPad cursor, something that should be released in the fall.

Ultimately, Craig believes that the goal has been achieved: the use of a mouse or trackpad on the iPad will be completely natural for users who have always interacted with their tablets with their finger – and, in addition, it will still bring an experience that macOS users they will soon realize that it is absolutely familiar:

We try to design the cursor so that it maintains the touch experience first, without fundamentally changing the interface. This way, consumers who have never used a trackpad with their iPads will not have to learn something new; at the same time, the experience is conducive to those who switch between touch and trackpad. […] Many trackpad gestures on the iPad are analogous to those on the Mac, so you don’t have to think about it or relearn anything. Still, they [os gestos] respond in a different way, more immediate on the iPad, making everything look more connected and easier.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? The full report can be seen here.

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