iPadOS 15 and the removal of an ineffable friction

A few iPadOS 15 thoughts:

  1. I’m okay with “search/location bar at the bottom.” Still instinctively reaching for the top, but then feeling relieved when I remember I have a shorter walk to the bottom.

  2. I like Quick Notes (esp. the way it captures context if you invoke it from an app, e.g. including a link to the page you were visiting in Safari when you invoked a new note). Glad it’s coming to the desktop in Monterey.

  3. As I was sitting here fiddling around with the new stuff in iPadOS 15, my brain made a little shift from “is this moving toward equality with my desktop and laptop experience?” to “do I like working this way as much or more than a desktop OS?”

The thing that triggered that line of thinking was the window/screen management dots that arrived with iPadOS 15. I simply was not doing well with multitasking in iOS prior to now.

I don’t know what Apple’s UX team wanted me to be learning from previous interfaces, and I never learned it. It felt sort of like Lev Grossman’s Magicians: To do multitasking correctly I needed to master some combination of Circumstances and hand position I was never going to internalize as a grammar. So having a little thing to tap is better, and I appreciate the brief moment where it holds off on telling me what to do next to get a split screen. When it finally gives up and manifests that hint, there’s a part of me that’s appreciative of the nudge and wonders when I will quit seeing it because I’ve internalized the two-step process to split the screen, and there’s a part of me that winces a little because it’s become a staccato two step instead of the elegant but inscrutable combination of Circumstances and flowing gesture I was never going to learn.

I think I might like it more if it involved less of a reach, but the keyboard shortcuts to invoke its three functions are pretty easy to memorize. I have a sense of some ineffable friction being resolved – the spite and spite-induced bad design of a begrudging multitasking UI finally being released, allowing the interface to melt away a little further and the apps I’m using to come forward. They had to make the means of controlling the UI more obvious and out front to get there, but I appreciate a little less purity in service of usability.

Anyhow, happy to keep using this thing, and looking forward to the day the camera is finally put on one of the long sides. They know it belongs there. We all do.

Mike Hall @pdxmph