Fingers, keyboard and stylus: best uses for the iPad

Yann Houry
7 min readOct 26, 2020

The iPad is a hybrid machine. It has a multiplicity of input systems. It adapts to the context you’re using it: you may use your finger(s), you may add a Bluetooth keyboard or you may choose to use a stylus.

There is great flexibility which serves different purposes: browse a web page or a book, take note, grade an assessment, scribble or draw something, edit a long text document…


Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! iPads can be used with fingers!

But this is far more complicated than it seems. Let’s review very quickly the possibilities:

  1. You can use one finger (say to open up an app or a link).
  2. You can touch and hold an icon. For instance, in Safari, you can long-press the + button to see all tabs that have been recently closed.
  3. You may use two, three of four fingers for different purposes. In this guide, you will learn the basic gestures to interact with iPad (swipe, scroll, zoom).

Also, read some of the articles down below and you’ll find a lot of ways to improve your productivity by learning the new gestures introduced in iOS/iPad OS 13 and how to multitask swiftly.


This is, in my view, a very important accessory. As I write a lot of text, I definitely need a true keyboard. Moreover, when using a physical keyboard, you get rid of the virtual one which occupies half of the screen.

By the way, are you a keyboard heavy-user? Then you must be aware that by pressing certain key combinations, you can do things that normally need a mouse, a trackpad or any extra gesture. By using keyboard shortcuts, not only will you work faster, you will work smarter and better.

As a matter of fact, it is sometimes a waste of time and it can be boring to select the text, raise your hand, find the right menu, press whatever you want, return to your keyboard and so on. What if you could keep both hands on your keyboard and start doing actions without having to lift your aching arm and fingers?

You may know some of these very famous combinations:

  • Copy : ⌘ + C
  • Paste : ⌘ + V
  • Undo : ⌘ + Z
  • Select all : ⌘ + A

But there’s more. This one is truly magical: find any word or any sentence on a document of 15 thousand words in a sec: ⌘ + F

As a reminder, these symbols stand for:

  • Command (or Cmd) ⌘
  • Shift ⇧
  • Option (or Alt) ⌥
  • Control (or Ctrl) ⌃
  • Caps Lock ⇪

But there is so much more. Let’s find out using Google Docs:

  • Insert a comment: ⌥ + ⌘ + M
  • Underline: ⌘ + U
  • Strike: ⌘ + ⇧ + X
  • See version history: ⌘ + ⌥ + ⇧ + H

Or just typing text in any word processor:

  • Jump from the beginning to the end of a line (and vice versa): ⌘ + ➝
  • Go to the beginning or to the end of a word: ⌥ + ➝
  • Select text letter by letter: ⇧ + ➝
  • Select word by word: ⇧ + ⌥ + ➝
  • Select the whole line of text: ⌘ + ⇧ + ➝ or select from the beginning of the text: ⌘ + ⇧ + ↑ or toward the end: ⌘ + ⇧ + ↓

Finally, if you do like keyboard, you can use full keyboard access (Accessibility > Keyboards > Full keyboard access). Indeed, you can control your iPad with the keyboard without having to lift a single finger. Say for instance you are using an app and you want to go to your home screen: press ⌘ + H. Say you want to summon Control centre, then press ⇥ + C.

Anyway, you can buy convenient and not too many expensive keyboards like this one for instance. It’s a Bluetooth keyboard from Logitech. It cost £51.99. It’s light and handy.

Or you can buy a true Keyboard like this one. It’s bigger so less transportable but you will have all the function keys.

But you may want to buy a keyboard which has also a case to protect your iPad. However, first, you have to be sure which model of iPad you have. To do that, go to Settings > General > About. You will find the Model Name.

The fifth and sixth-generation iPads are 9.7-inch tablets. But seventh and eight are 10.2 inches. If you plan to buy a separate keyboard, it doesn’t matter but if you want one with a cover, you have to be careful before buying one.

So if you have a 10.2 inches iPad, this one is great and cost £77.49. For the fifth and sixth-gen, this is the one. Surprisingly, it is a little bit more expensive.

The new Zagg Pro keyboard seems to be a very nice one. It works with the 7th and 8th generation iPad (the one with a 10.2 inches size). It has a case that magnetically attaches to the keyboard and a backlit keyboard. Read this to learn more about it.

But I strongly recommend a keyboard with a trackpad. Since iPad OS 13.2, you can use either a mouse or trackpad, which is very convenient when crunching data in a spreadsheet.

This model is expensive but for that price you will get a cover, a keyboard and a trackpad.

If you want to learn more about trackpad gestures for iPad, please read this guide.


As a teacher, the stylus became very important specifically when it comes to grading the work of a student. In Google Classroom, any document (even a Google Docs) can be annotated as if it was a PDF. Nothing closer to the paper.

The 6th iPad generation is compatible with the first Apple Pencil generation. This is a pretty expensive model you can buy for £86.52 on Amazon. Be aware that the iPad you have been provided with is not compatible with the second generation of the Apple Pencil if it doesn’t have the adjective “Pro”.

Hopefully, you can buy much cheaper pencils fully compatible with all kind of iPads. This one, for instance, is good: MPIO Stylus Pen with Palm Rejection.

If you want to, you can search on Amazon for the perfect pencil without spending too much money. I hadn’t had the chance to try this one but the Adonit Note Plus seems great. It has all the features you may want: Palm Rejection, Pressure Sensitivity & Shortcut Buttons. The Logitech model seems great as well. It costs £59.95. It shares a lot of features with its counterpart from Apple (since it uses Apple Pencil technology). But, again, I didn’t try these stylus.


The iPad is a powerful device provided you are using different accessories like a finger (already have one), a stylus or a keyboard (you got to buy them).

If you find a stylus or a keyboard not too expensive and which serves you well, please let me know.

By the way, be aware that you can also write by using your voice. When filling your report cards, it can save a lot of time. Just press the mic and the recording will automatically be converted into text.



Yann Houry

Teacher and Director of Academic Research & Innovation @ Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill