Un­cover iOS’ hid­den speed-typ­ing

The pro­duc­tiv­ity-boost­ing tricks con­cealed un­der your key­board

Mac|Life - - CONTENTS - Christo­pher Phin

You might think that to get any se­ri­ous typ­ing done on an iPhone or iPad you need to use an ex­ter­nal key­board. While it’s true that you can do that — over Blue­tooth, us­ing a Smart Key­board, or us­ing Ap­ple’s Light­ning to USB adapter — if you learn the tips and tricks Ap­ple has baked into the on-screen key­board, ev­ery­thing from a tweet to the next great novel is well within your fin­ger­tips.

You can set up sev­eral key­boards in iOS, for ex­am­ple for typ­ing in dif­fer­ent lan­guages; adding other key­boards in Set­tings > Gen­eral > Key­board > Key­boards doesn’t just change the lay­out of the keys to match con­ven­tions in that coun­try (AZERTY rather than QWERTY in France, for ex­am­ple), or even the in­put method en­tirely, but it changes the au­to­cor­rect dic­tio­nary, too. (Here’s a re­ally hid­den fea­ture: you can over­ride the key­board lay­out change — to re­tain the ben­e­fits of the au­to­cor­rect change with­out the con­fu­sion of let­ters mov­ing around — by tap­ping the name of the key­board you’ve added in this list.)

Image A: To switch be­tween the key­boards you add (in the or­der you set them in Set­tings > Gen­eral > Key­board > Key­boards), tap the globe icon at the bot­tom left of the key­board. If you only have one main key­board in­stalled, this will in­stead be a smiley face, as it tog­gles to the emoji key­board.

Emoji and spe­cial char­ac­ters

So long as you have the Pre­dic­tive bar turned on, though, it can act like emoji search, and you don’t even have to switch to that key­board; type “fries,” say, and the last op­tion in the pre­dic­tive bar is the fries emoji. Tap it to replace the word with the emoji. (Even this is lo­cal­ized; if you type “chips” in the UK English key­board, you get the same emoji.)

You might be used to tap­ping “123” to switch to the lay­out with num­bers, but if

you only need to type a sin­gle char­ac­ter from this key­board, drag your fin­ger from the “123” to the de­sired num­ber key — the key­board will tem­po­rar­ily switch lay­out in be­tween — then re­lease to get back to the usual key­board.

If you’re on any iPad ex­cept the 12.9– inch, you also see se­condary char­ac­ters on the keys (when us­ing op­ti­mized apps); just flick down on the key to type them.

Image B: Hold a fin­ger on a key to see al­ter­nate char­ac­ters, and voilà – you can type “voilà!” You can also hold the $ sign, to get other cur­rency sym­bols, or on the pe­riod when en­ter­ing a web ad­dress in Safari to see other do­mains, such as .org.

Move the in­ser­tion point

The tra­di­tional way to move the in­ser­tion point, or caret, around on iOS is to hold a fin­ger on the text you were writ­ing, and then use the mag­ni­fy­ing glass pop-up to get it into the right place. That’s a lit­tle awk­ward and prone to er­ror around the edges of the screen, and there is a bet­ter way on iPad, and iPhones with 3D Touch (avail­able on iPhone 6s or later).

On an iPad, you can slide two fin­gers around the key­board to move the caret. Once you’ve moved it, lift your two fin­gers, set them down again, wait a beat, then move; you’ll then be select­ing text. On an iPhone with 3D Touch, press on the key­board with one fin­ger to switch to this mode, then slide your fin­ger around.

On iPhones with 3D Touch, you have ex­tra options for text se­lec­tion, though they take some trial and er­ror to learn. Once you’ve pressed firmly on the screen to move the caret, you can re­po­si­tion the caret over a word and then press even harder to se­lect just that word. That bit’s easy enough, but with prac­tise you can also dou­ble-press to se­lect the whole sen­tence at once, or triple-press to se­lect the whole para­graph.

Image C: You can com­bine the twofin­ger and 3D Touch short­cuts with drag­ging. Let’s say you have a three­sen­tence para­graph and want to copy only the first two sen­tences; press firmly to start mov­ing the caret, po­si­tion it any­where over the first sen­tence, dou­blepress to se­lect that sen­tence, then drag to

the second, which will be se­lected in its en­tirety — though the para­graph’s fi­nal sen­tence will be left out.

In ei­ther sce­nario, you can grab the lit­tle han­dles that ap­pear at each end of your se­lected text to fine–tune what you’re pick­ing up, if nec­es­sary, and you can also tap ei­ther of th­ese han­dles to bring up the options bar, with cut, copy, paste, and other options, if they aren’t al­ready vis­i­ble.

Ca pitals and spe­cial char­ac­ters

Let’s go back to some­thing eas­ier: switch­ing to cap­i­tal let­ters. This can be as sim­ple as tap­ping Shift to switch only the very next char­ac­ter you type to up­per­case, or dou­ble-tap­ping it to turn on Caps Lock. Note that you can use the same slide tech­nique we men­tioned for the “123” key­board switch; slide from the Shift key to a let­ter and it will be cap­i­tal­ized with­out the need to dis­miss the caps key­board af­ter­wards. iOS will try to be help­ful in cap­i­tal­iz­ing new sen­tences, but if you don’t like this, you can turn off Auto‑Cap­i­tal­iza­tion in Set­tings > Gen­eral > Key­board. Here there’s also a tog­gle for the pe­riod short­cut, which en­ables you to dou­ble-tap the space bar to get a pe­riod, a space, and the next let­ter cap­i­tal­ized.

We men­tioned hold­ing a fin­ger on some keys to get ac­cented forms and al­ter­na­tive char­ac­ters. On some iPads run­ning iOS 11, keys may dis­play a second char­ac­ter. Rather than us­ing Shift or hold­ing on the key, flick up­wards from the key to type the second char­ac­ter more quickly. (Set­tings > Gen­eral > Key­boards > En­able Key Flicks must be switched on.) In iOS’ Ac­ces­si­bil­ity set­tings are help­ful options to al­ter the sen­si­tiv­ity of the key­board and 3D Touch.

Keyb oard size and po­si­tion

There are a cou­ple of things you can do to change the size and po­si­tion of the key­board.

Image D: On an iPad, ei­ther drag the left and right of the key­board apart with your fin­gers, or hold a fin­ger on the key­board icon (bot­tom right) and tap Split in the menu that ap­pears; this sep­a­rates the key­board at the sides of the screen so it’s eas­ier to type with your thumbs when hold­ing your iPad. Ad­just the key­board’s ver­ti­cal po­si­tion by drag­ging the icon at its bot­tom right. Drag all the way to the bot­tom to re­turn to a sin­gle, large key­board.

Image E: On an iPhone run­ning iOS 11, ex­cept for the 5s and SE, you can make the key­board eas­ier to use one-handed by hold­ing on the emoji/globe icon (bot­tom left) and choos­ing to shunt the key­board over to the left or right side of the screen. The keys be­come nar­rower, like on pre-iPhone 6 de­vices, but are eas­ier to reach with your thumb.

Don’t feel this has to be a per­ma­nent de­ci­sion; it makes sense to tog­gle it when you’re try­ing to type while walk­ing, say, even mov­ing from right to left as you swap hands, but then switch­ing back to the full-width key­board once you get where you’re go­ing. To do this, tap the large ar­row next to the key­board.

Speed up your typ­ing

iOS pro­vides some very help­ful ways to speed up what you type. Text re­place­ment is a great one, with three com­mon ap­pli­ca­tions. First, to replace clus­ters of char­ac­ters with short phrases (such as typ­ing “omw” be­ing re­placed with “On my way!”), and even “cor­rect­ing” weird iOS au­to­cor­rec­tions. Second, to “type” char­ac­ters that would oth­er­wise re­quire la­bo­ri­ous search­ing/copy­ing/ past­ing — to have “cprt” be­come ©, say.

The third ma­jor use is to type phrases or longer pas­sages of text that you write of­ten. For ex­am­ple, you might type “re­ply7” and have iOS replace that with para­graphs of text that are your stan­dard re­sponse to a ques­tion you’re fre­quently asked by email. Or, if you of­ten search Ap­ple Sup­port ar­ti­cles in Safari, set up a short­cut to replace “#spt” with “site:sup­port.ap­ple.com” so that you only get Google search results from that part of Ap­ple’s site. Set up text re­place­ments in Set­tings > Gen­eral > Key­board > Text Re­place­ment on iOS, or in Ap­ple Menu > Sys­tem Prefs Key­board > Text on a Mac. Which­ever de­vice you do this on, your text re­place­ments will sync to other de­vices signed in to the same iCloud ac­count.

Say your words

Image F: Don’t for­get about dic­ta­tion, which you’ll find at the bot­tom of Set­tings > Gen­eral > Key­boards. It works for English even when your de­vice is off­line, and though you might feel weird do­ing it in a shared of­fice or class­room, it’s highly ac­cu­rate — and usu­ally much faster than typ­ing. You can even dic­tate punc­tu­a­tion and is­sue “com­mands,” such as “pe­riod” and “new line.”

Split­ting the key­board makes typ­ing eas­ier when hold­ing your iPad, at least on smaller mod­els.

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