iPad UI twiddlin – it’s about the thumbs & gestures

I haven’t spent quite as much of today with the iPad in my hands, but I’ve been thinking and mulling over elements about it all day.

It’s the Mail application, you see. It bugs me. Well, it bugs me in portrait mode especially, but in general the gestures and constants that I’d sort of hope to see aren’t really nailed down well as yet. Here’s some of that detail –

In portrait mode on the iPad, everything you do with Mail.app is controlled by these relatively tiny buttons at the very top of the iPad, and not near the edges. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine holding the iPad from the top of it while using it, so the “delete” button in particular (which I use a lot with email) is kind of a pain in the ass to get to. On the iPhone, it’s centered at the bottom of the page, which makes it really handy to press & swipe down on the iphone, like you’re pulling off a sheet of paper or something, and it’s a great gesture to just nuke the email and move on. Nothing like that exists on the iPad right now – although I wish it did.

The other common need is something to quickly move to another message. On the iPad in portrait mode, it’s another tiny button, again at the top. I sort of hoped that a swipe gesture (either 2 or 3 finger swipe) would move me to the next message. Since I’m a native english speaker, the idea that a swipe-left gesture would move me to the “next” message would be ideal – but regardless of wether it went up or down the stack of messages sorted by received time doesn’t matter – so long as I could flip through them fairly quickly. That’s exactly the metaphor used in iBook, by the way. I want that same gesture metaphor in Mail.

In landscape mode it’s a little better, but you still can’t quickly jump up or down the queue of messages. A swipe gesture, ideally something that you could do with your thumb would be ideal. In iBook, you can just tap the right side of the page to move it forward too – that’d work, especially as the right-thumb tap in my case. Simple, quick, and I can process the information without having to tap around the screen all that much.

And yeah – for anyone from Apple or other developers, I’ve submitted the feature request: radr://7826844

I made this same feature request to Brent on NetNewsWire for the iPad. He’s got a great “next unread” icon in the upper right of the RSS reader, including a nice indication of if it’s the last unread article in a feed. And it’s in the upper right corner of the screen. I’d love it in the lower right (or lower left) – where my thumbs can tap at it quickly.


In general, the gestures aren’t common place as yet – although I expect them to become more common in the near future. What you use for 1 vs 2 vs 3 finger gestures is a damn good question – something to be sorted out as yet. Three-finger swipe left and right seem to be coming down as “undo” and “redo” respectively. 3 finger tap – bring up some overall control panel. But I’m basing this off a limited number of applications, and some of those drawing applications on the iPad. I haven’t even checked out what Keynote, Pages, or Numbers uses in this respect as yet…

Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at https://rhonabwy.com/.

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