Recently, I had a problem with my iPad. It was the worst of all problems – intermittent. You know the kind; you’ve got this really irritating problem that plagues you everywhere except when you take it in for repairs and then it refuses to act up. In my case, my iPad had an intermittent problem with the home button – the physical button on the bottom of the machine. I never realized how much I used it until I couldn’t exit from programs. I ended up having to do the four finger gesture to bring up the applications currently open to move to a different app. It was driving me crazy so I called the support line where it actually started working properly for a bit while on the phone but then eventually acted up again.
Apple was really good about it and shipped me an empty box so that I could send the intermittent machine in for exchange for a new one, the one I’m currently using. In the meantime, I had started poking around on settings to see if I could find a setting to reset the home button. But, I couldn’t. However, what I found instead was something even better. I didn’t know this was even there but I’m glad that I found and played around with it.
Under Settings, there’s an option for Accessibility and then AssistiveTouch which is defined as “allows you to use iPad if you have difficulty touching the screen or if you require an adaptive accessory.”
The effect is visible the moment that you turn this setting on – a virtual home button appears on the screen. By default, it wants to be in the bottom right corner of the screen but you can drag it around. I’ve tried a number of locations and the top right seems to be the least intrusive of all the places.
Now comes the cool part (and, of course the important part if you need the accessibility feature). Just tap on the button and a menu flies to attention on the screen.
There are four options available from a tap on the screen. Tap home and it has the same effect as the physical home button. Quits an application, etc. At first blush, I wondered why this was going to be any better. After all, I had to tap the screen twice just to get the effect of the home button. But, after using it for just five minutes, I could see where this would be really useful. It’s always in the same location regardless of orientation and so easy to use. By itself, this was enough, but I poked around some more with the other options and I had one of those wow! moments.
Select Gestures and you’ve got a chance to easily use multiple finger combinations.
Select one and you see the finger tips on the screen. Then just tap the screen and drag and you can get the effect and also visual how it works. I’m thinking that it would also be a great visual to demonstrate the process to someone else.
If you need to cancel, just tap the virtual home button.
How many times have you fumbled for the side switch or need to change the orientation or adjust the volume or want to shake the iPad but don’t want to take a chance on dropping it? You’re covered now. Just select “Device”.
They’re all there.
The last option, I’m still looking for a purpose. It lets you record your own custom gestures and create a library of favourites. Maybe it’s a skill I need to work at. Could I be more productive with custom gestures? I’d be interested in suggestions.
As you can see, there’s room to grow in my learning.
The story ends with a replacement iPad that’s fully functional but, even at that, I’ve kept the above turned on. I like the functionality that it adds to my use of the iPad. I don’t see it being turned off any time soon. If you’re on your Christmas Break and looking for something new to learn/experience, why not try this and see what you think?