Thoughts on position based gestures for voice-over to improve the number of things it can do

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iOS & iPadOS

I recently attempted to do a five finger gesture to enable Braille screen input, but I found it clunky and unwieldy, I think four fingers is probably the most that you can do for a voice-over gesture before it stops feeling natural.
but what I was impressed with is the fourth finger tap near the top of the screen to jump voice-over focus to the top of a list, and near the bottom of the screen to jump to the bottom, I think that’s quite interesting and could be a potential way of expanding voice-overs set of gestures without having to add another finger.
To be fair, there are many current gestures which can be performed which don’t have anything assigned to them, but I was just thinking that a position-based system could also be useful to toggle various settings without having to load up the settings menu each time,
For example, a three finger tap near the bottom of the screen could turn brightness up or down, or performing a two finger tap on the right edge could copy the URL to clipboard in Safari, really I think the possibilities are endless.
But then, I’m not sure about the practicalities of doing so on an iPhone, would it still work?
Does anyone have any thoughts?

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Comments

Submitted by Patrick Smyth on Saturday, February 20, 2021

This could all be done, but Apple doesn't really have a culture of automation. Some things I'd like to do the way you describe:

- Gesture to where you were before a jump, like if you go to the top it would first save your place and you could go back. Emacs does this and I use it 400 times per day. (Only a a slight exaggeration.)
- Gesture once to repeat the next gesture ten times, twice to repeat 100 times. I often have to scroll to the bottom of a long page or book and am swiping like crazy. Basically there is no reason for this, though Apple would never implement it as they are allergic to giving anything resembling the magic power of automation to their users.
- Create a gesture that is a gesture macro, i.e. save a set of gestures as a gesture. This would really blow Apple's mind.

Apple is held back by a visual mindset, they really focus on things like dragging stuff around, little animations that make people in the Apple store happy for five minutes, and stuff like that. They're a UI-first company, and have been since Jobs saw the Alto, took the GUI stuff, and threw away all the parts that gave users any agency. It should be that actions are defined as process separate from the user interface, which allows for automation, alternate interfaces like Siri or Voiceover, communication between applications, and so on. Instead they start with the visual UI and anything new in automation or interface has to be created from scratch and is almost by definition garbage. This is why Apple's implementation of automation will always stink (sorry, shortcuts is just really bad, though I'm glad it exists, sort of), Siri is pretty crummy (you can't tell Siri to, for example, click the first button on the page, Siri really has no clue what's on your screen, she's living in an alternate world), and why Apple also kind of stinks at customizations like dark mode. I bet it also makes it hard to test Apple software, which is why there are so many state-based bugs. I'm kind of surprised they got Voiceover to work as well as it does, but when you think about it, VO is really based on visual state, and doesn't let you do much that isn't looking at stuff visually on the screen. That works out OK, but it could all be better.

tl;dr Apple is run by designers who don't even really know what programming is, and that's why a lot of Apple stuff is weirdly bad, mainly for power users but also for everybody. But I'm still glad Voiceover is a thing.

Submitted by Ipadman on Saturday, February 20, 2021

Those are all fair points you made, however I don’t think it would be too difficult for Apple to implement a few more position based gestures for simple tasks, for example opening the find bar in Safari could be done with a single gesture rather than the clumsy way it’s done now by going into the share sheet and then swiping until you find it.
And of course on the keyboard, you can just press control and F.
other things I’d like to see is a gesture to switch between the desktop and mobile versions of websites, a gesture to print, a voice-over gesture to load the voice-over accessibility settings I know it can be done through Siri but I don’t always have access to the Internet, and a gesture to raise and lower screen brightness, although to be fair that can be done through notifications I believe

Submitted by Ekaj on Sunday, February 21, 2021

These are interesting thoughts, and I think Apple could and should at least give them some consideration. Just yesterday I had some time to kill which has been a rarity these days. So I thought I'd take a look at the shortcuts app on my phone, which I hadn't paid that much attention to. I was able to do a few things with this app, and I'm wondering if it could be used for re-mapping commands or something. There's also the various things that can be done with the rotor and Voice Control, although I admittedly haven't explored these settings much. The possibilities here seem endless, which is one of the things I like about the iPhone. It's all very intriguing. I for one don't have much if any difficulty at this point with the various gestures, but I realize some people do including a sister of mine.

I've recently been testing voice control, and I can't help but disagree with this take. I, for example, can get VoiceOver to perform multiple gestures with a single trigger frays. I can get it to tap buttons for me on the screen without much effort at all. I can get it to copy text from the textfield I'm currently navigating. I can get it to lock my screen. execute my shortcut to remove a paywall on a current page. Its ridiculously powerful.

Submitted by WellF on Sunday, February 21, 2021

Drawing shapes on the screen as a gesture isn't a bad idea also, like the gestures of talkback where you draw an L to do some stuff. Custom gestures for specific apps is something I really hope for.

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