No more shaking that iPad as iOS 13 and iPadOS bring out new ways to make quick text selections, including three-fingered productivity gestures for cut/copy/paste and undo/redo.

Text editing and navigation have been modernized in iOS 13 and iPadOS, by a large margin.

iOS and text selections

Dynamic web layouts and HTML advances have made selecting text difficult. iOS hasn’t really innovated in terms of multitouch text selections for years now, exacerbating the problem.

But with the changes to cursor navigation, scrolling, selecting and manipulating text in iOS 13 and iPadOS, you can finally select chunks of text, paste selections into other apps and more without the bubble menu getting in the way. Aside from navigation and making selections, there are also new productivity-boosting gestures for cut/copy/paste and undo/redo.

The iOS 13 update for the iPhone and iPod touch devices, as well as the new iPadOS software for iPad tablets, released for developers testing following the June 3 keynote talk at WWDC.

The updates will release commercially this fall.

iOS 13 & iPadOS: text selections made easy

The improvements in both iOS 13 and iPadOS make everyday operations like scrolling long documents, moving the cursor, selecting chunks of text and manipulating text selections faster and way more accurate than ever before.

Fast cursor navigation and scrolling

Rather than tap and hold to show the loupe, which then lets you move the cursor where you like, you can just pick the cursor and drag it to where you want without anything getting in the way. The new gesture takes a little bit of getting used to but once it does, you’ll never look back. As you move the cursor, it will automatically snap to lines and between words.

As you can see for yourself, moving the cursor in iOS 13 ands iPadOS is very natural.

Pick up the cursor and drag it to where you want, it’s that easy.

When you need to scroll through tons of content, like a really tall page in Safari or a complex document in Pages or a long chat in Messages, you no longer have to resort to rapid swiping. In iOS 13 and iPadOS, you can simply drag the scroll bar and scrub it like a boss.

In iOS 13 and iPadOS, you can finally drag the scroll bar.

In case you forgot, the iOS scroll bar appears when you start scrolling so you may need to scroll a little by swiping in order to show the scroll bar.

Easy text selections

Aside from navigation improvements, selections have been vastly improved with the ability to select passages of text with just a swipe. In other words, iOS 13 and iPadOS let you quickly select a custom block of text just by dragging your finger over it.

You can also use the following shortcuts to make quick selections:

  • Select a word: double-tap on it.
  • Select a sentence: tap on the text with three fingers.
  • Select a paragraph: tap on the text with four fingers.
  • Bubble menu: bring up the shortcuts menu by tapping once with three fingers.
  • Select multiple contiguous items: tap with two fingers, then drag to quickly select emails, files and folders.

iOS’s algorithm analyzes what you’re tapping to make selecting Data Detectors even easier.

Drag your finger over the text to make an arbitrary selection.

A double-tap quickly selects an address, phone number, email address or other string that appears as a Data Detector-powered hyperlink. A single tap on such a link executes default action, like before. For example, tapping an address opens the underlying location in Maps, but double-tapping the link selects the address so you can copy the underlying text.

New cut/copy/paste gestures

You can use the new time-saving gestures for cut, copy and paste operations.

  • Cut: pinch up with three fingers two times in a row to cut.
  • Copy: pinch up with three fingers to copy.
  • Paste: pinch down with three fingers to paste.

These new cut, copy and paste gestures work across all system and third-party apps.

Apple hasn’t innovated copy/paste for a long time so this is a welcome addition.

Select a whole paragraph with four taps.

Pictured below: the new copy gesture.

Copy selection with a three-finger pinch (do it twice to cut instead).

Here’s the new copy gesture in action.

And this is the new three-fingered paste in iOS 13 and iPadOS.

Drop the text down with three fingers to paste.

Check out a video below of what pasting looks like in iOS 13.

You can undo most anything in iOS 13 and iPadOS without using the shake to undo gesture, a remnant from the iPod days that makes me look particularly silly when invoking it on my iPad.

New undo/redo gestures

Boost your productivity with these gestures for undo and redo.

  • Undo: swipe to the left with three fingers to undo.
  • Redo: swipe to the right with three fingers to redo.

You can also use a three-finger doublet tap to undo.

Undo/redo with a simple three‑finger swipe to the left/right.

Here’s a video showing iOS 13’s redo in action.

The copy/paste and undo/redo features from prior iOS editions were so convoluted that developers of pro apps like Procreate have implemented their own gestures for those functions. This is bad from a user experience standpoint because third-party gestures only work in their intended apps. That being said, it’s definitely great that Apple has updated cut/copy/paste and undo/redo for the modern age.

iOS 13 & iPadOS: text editing changelog

Here are all the new text-selection features in iOS 13 and iPadOS.

  • Scroll bar scrubbing: Instantly navigate long documents, web pages and conversations by dragging the scroll bar.
  • Cursor navigation: Moving the cursor is faster and more precise now—just pick it up and drag it to where you want. It will automatically snap to lines and between words.
  • Text selection: Select text just by tapping and swiping. For quick sentence and paragraph selection, triple or quadruple‑tap.
  • Intelligent selection: Double‑tap to quickly select addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and more.
  • Cut, copy and paste gestures: New gestures make cut, copy and paste a snap. Pinch up with three fingers to quickly copy, pinch up with three fingers two times to cut and pinch down with three fingers to paste.
  • Undo and redo gestures: Undo with a simple three-finger swipe to the left or redo by swiping three fingers to the right.
  • Multi-select: Quickly select email messages, files and folders by tapping with two fingers and dragging.

These new gesture, including cut/copy/paste and undo/redo, also work on iPhones.

iOS 13 & iPad OS compatibility and availability

iOS 13 is compatible with the following Apple smartphone models:

  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPod touch (7th generation)

For more, read Apple’s iOS 13 press release or visit apple.com/ios/ios-13-preview.

And now, watch our video overview of the new iPad-only updates embedded below.

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iPadOS is compatible with these iPads:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad (5th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Air 2

For more, read Apple’s iPadOS press release or visit apple.com/ipados/ipados-preview.

Your take

How do you like the new text selection, copy/paste and undo/redo gestures?

I think they’re great. I do some light work on my iPad, but now I’ll be doing lots more because the new quick-selection methods and the copy/paste/undo/redo gestures are great time savers.

How do you like these improvements? What’s your favorite new gesture in iOS 13, and why?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.