How to create simple keyboard macros in iOS that include modifier keys in their triggers

I have Mac macros that let me move my cursor around (or select text) with only the keyboard, not the mouse. Examples:

  1. when option-command-j is down, the left arrow keystroke is typed;
  2. when option-command-l is down, the right arrow keystroke is typed.

These macros reproduce something that the very earliest Microsoft Word from 20-25 years ago offered. Maybe it still does but I no longer use Word, However, these keystrokes are now second-nature to me and I can’t write without them.

I now have an iPad with a physical keyboard and need to re-create these macros. If Keyboard Maestro existed for iOS I would just buy it, but it doesn’t. Nor does there seem to be a competitor.

iOS keyboard replacements doesn’t recognize modifier keys (command, option, control) as part of its available triggers. Same for the Shortcuts app.

Does anyone out there have a solution for this? Thanks.

There is a ~2.3% chance that in exactly 23 hours Apple may introduce macOS for iPads. That's all I can think of. KM does not run on iPadOS.

Hmm, I have another idea. There are external keyboards that are programmable & wireless. You could buy one of those. I'm fairly sure you could program exactly what you are asking for.

MacOS for iPads? That seems very odd but interesting. What is the source of your information?

I know that KM doesn’t run on iOS. That’s why I posted.

I just bought a Magic Keyboard for my iPad, so I don’t really want to buy another keyboard. But out of curiosity, what keyboards are you thinking of?

My source is Apple. Apple's own published patents recently showed this photo:

There are two types of programmable keyboards: those that let you reprogram any key on the keyboard (“fully-programmable”) and those that add extra keys to the keyboard for programming macros. It sounds like you want the former. However the latter is something you should consider.

It's also worth noting that some programmable keyboards may require that the "programming part" be done on a real computer that has MacOS/Windows, but then you can move the keyboard to another device, like an iPad.

Here's a mini-keyboard (on Amazon) that claims to be a smart keyboard and connects to iPadOS.

VAYDEER One-Handed Mechanical Keyboard with 9 Fully Programmable Keys, Support NKRO,Hotkeys,One-Click Start,Floating Window and Macro Multifunctional Keypad Compatible with iOS,Windows

Here's another mini-keyboard, programmable, for iOS:

Cuifati Mechanical Keyboard with 9 Fully Programmable Keys, Floating Window and Macro Multifunctional Keypad Compatible with iOS,Windows

I couldn't find any FULL size programmable keyboards that work with iPadOS, but there are probably many.

Thanks for all this information. All very interesting. However, since I just bought a brand new iPad and keyboard, what I’d really prefer is a software solution like Keyboard Maestro that runs on iPad.

Never say never (i.e. Apple introduces macOS for iPads later today), but I doubt you will be able find such a thing. On iOS, apps must run inside their own container, and cannot control other apps (i.e. sending keystrokes, moving windows, etc.) as they can on macOS.

You also can't have a background process that monitors for keystrokes, etc.

That's why KM isn't on iOS, and why there aren't any similar products on iOS. The closest you'll get, barring macOS on iPad, is whatever you can make Shortcuts do.


Thanks. I did not understand those technical limitations of iOS. That's discouraging.

But I'm not sure that means the thing I want to do is impossible with Shortcuts — i.e., move the cursor and select characters and words while keeping my right-hand fingers on the home row and my left-hand fingers on modifier keys.

We have keyboard replacements on the iPad; they just don't store modifier keys (shift, control option, command). We even have a way of making the modifier keys on a hardware keyboard swap their functions. Can you think of any way to do what I want to do with the Shortcuts app? Or possibly with something in the Accessibility panel?

Ten years in the future, I'm concerned (but not entirely unhappy) that people will migrate all their computing requirements from macOS to iPadOS or iOS or VisionOS. The Mac might disappear, and if so, software like Keyboard Maestro might no longer be possible. These new OS's have much more restrictive sandboxes for code.

I agree. We’ll have some kind of laptop configuration, but also touch screen, so yes the iPad etc. is the new Mac.

Call me crazy, but there’s got to be some way to do sandboxing while also allowing people to delete and modify text from the keyboard rather than taking a hand off the keyboard to to move a mouse or touch the screen while they’re typing.


Starting with Sequoia, you will be able to run your real iOS device (apparently not iPadOS) as an app on your Mac. I strongly suspect that KM actions will be capable of sending keys to this app and doing "Find Image" actions on the app. There will probably be some limitations, however. For example, the Press Button action probably won't "see" any of the buttons in the iOS window, but maybe Apple will surprise us there.

This is quite exciting. Within limits, we will be able to write KM apps that work on your iOS device and its apps. I predict that someone on these forums will be eager to create a small set of macros that we will be able to use for iOS, like "Bring up Control Center", "Edit Home Screen", "Launch App", etc. And since "Type to Siri" is coming to iOS, I already know exactly how to do these things.

I don't see any reason why Apple couldn't make this work on iPadOS devices too. But not yet.

This means, in a way, that with Sequoia KM will finally be able to read iOS screens and send command/keys to iOS devices. I think it may be possible for iOS to send an event to KM on a Mac by writing a file to an iCloud folder, which would allow KM on macOS to "trigger" on a signal from your iPhone.

While I hate to say it, your best bet is probably to embrace the Apple way and retrain your fingers. Use the arrow keys (with ⇧ to select, and ⌥ to jump to the next word boundary). And the majority of shortcuts in the "Document shortcuts" section of this kb article work with Apple apps and many others, even on the iPad.

For sure that would be the easiest. Thanks.