iPadOS and the Magic Keyboard: Multitasking is still very limited

I’m just starting to write using Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad. I like the feel and writing seems to be a joy so far. But I’m still running into issues with iPadOS 14, that have already been there in iPadOS 13 and earlier. First and foremost, at least for me, is the bad experience when trying to use multitasking – even now, having a mouse cursor that could potentially be useed to support you.

It’s really bad when trying to navigate multiple text fields between apps. Trying to get the right app – and thus the right input field – to get focus sometimes seems impossible. The only thing that always works is closing the app you don’t to have focus. I had hoped this ordeal would be improved at least a bit after being able to use a mouse cursor.

Here’s one example. You’re using an app that requires you to enter a login, password and a 2FA code. Let’s say you get the first two login credentials from iCloud Keychain while the 2FA code is in some other app like 1Password or Authy. You get through the login procedure, but need said 2FA code. So you load 1Password in slide-over or split-screen to just copy that code. 1Password gets the focus and you just tap the code to copy it.

After that you position your mouse cursor over on the input field on the other app to paste it. You tap your trackpad to activate the cursor there, thinking the app got active, you hit cmd+v because your hands are already on the keyboard and nothing happens. Why? Because the other app never got the focus. The only hint that something’s wrong is the little pill shaped indicator at the top of the app window. At least Apple added this not too long ago. Before you had absolutely no idea what was going on and had no indication of what app was really active – aside from starting to type and hoping for the best.

However, just having that indicator isn’t enough. It’s still a horrible experience because, as I’ve just described, multitasking just doesn’t work as one might expect. One alternative way to successfully insert your 2FA code is tapping the field on the screen, waiting for a bit for a pop-up window to come up and then select Paste. You can also – as mentioned before – swipe away 1Password, basically exiting multitasking to force focus on the app where you want to paste your code. The thing is, all of these ways should work.

It’s not just copy and paste either. Sometimes you just want to use two apps side-by-side, for whatever reason. Well, good luck if the active app it isn’t the one you want to write something in.

We will soon arrive at iPadOS 14/iOS 14. We have nice hardware including an official, very expensive keyboard and trackpad combination – like this Magic Keyboard in front of me right now. Yet, the software is unable to do some seemingly very basic things that haven’t been issues on other platforms for ages. Trying to use a keyboard and trackpad to make an app the active app shouldn’t require some magic spell (that I’m currently unaware of). At the very least “tapping into an app” should take care of that, but it isn’t.

This lack of fully functional multitasking is still driving me back to my Mac every day. I love the simplicity of writing on my iPad. Especially because I don’t get distracted by other apps as easily. But unfortunately for me personally I can’t just write in a silo and be done with it. These words have to get pasted to sometimes multiple places before they actually end up at their final resting place.

This means it doesn’t only apply while having to login to websites or apps, but potentially any workflow that requires copy and paste between apps. Simple things like this make you feel like nobody at Apple, who’s actively developing iPadOS, is actually using iPadOS’ full feature set. I’d like to use my iPad more but these things are just annoying and should’ve been fixed a long time ago.