Hardware

iOS keyboard: Tips and tricks for using its coolest features

Learn how to get the most out of an iOS keyboard, including using its AutoCorrect, shortcuts, and trackpad mode features. You'll also get advice on attaching an external keyboard to an iPhone or iPad.

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Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

It's hard to believe it has been almost 10 years that the iPhone revolutionized the digital touch screen experience, and an on-screen keyboard was placed inside iOS as the main input method. As crazy as this sounded at the time (it was criticized by many people), it has become a staple of modern mobile devices.

Here's a look at how to use various features of the iOS keyboard—from predictions and shortcuts to something new in iOS 8+ called Trackpad Mode that makes it easier to edit text.

SEE: iOS 10 and the enterprise (Tech Pro Research)

AutoCorrect

Apple introduced a modern version of AutoCorrect to the masses with the original iPhone. It was substantially better than anything like it at the time it was introduced; and yet, for years, it was the butt of many jokes.

This feature has gotten better over the years, and it is enabled on all shipping iPhones with iOS 10. You've probably seen this feature in action when typing something that was misspelled—a small bubble will appear, allowing you to press the Space key to accept the suggested correction, or press the small "x" in the bubble to dismiss the suggestion and keep typing (Figure A).

Figure A

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Pressing the Space key will accept the auto-correction, but tapping the "x" or continuing to type will dismiss it.

Cory Bohon / TechRepublic


AutoCorrect can be enabled or disabled in Settings. To disable the feature, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to General | Keyboard.
  3. Disable the option for Auto-Correction.

Let's say you like using the feature and have it enabled, but you notice it's suggesting words that aren't words. Most likely what happened is the misspelled words were accepted into the dictionary by the user tapping on the close button to dismiss the suggestion (iOS will learn words used often and will add them to the dictionary regardless of spelling).

To fix this issue, perform these steps.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to General | Reset.
  3. Select the option for Reset Keyboard Dictionary.

Shortcuts

If you repeatedly type the same sentences over and over on your iPhone, you'll want to look at keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts let you type in a simple, easy to remember set of characters that you choose, and AutoCorrect will automatically replace those characters with your longer sentence, statement, or words.

Setting up your shortcuts is easy in Settings.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Select General | Keyboard | Text Replacement to view the keyboard shortcuts that have already been created (Figure B).
  3. Click the + button to add a new shortcut.

Figure B

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The keyboard shortcuts listed in this view can be removed or edited if they are no longer relevant.

Cory Bohon / TechRepublic


When you wish to use a shortcut, simply typing the shortcut using the keyboard will present an AutoCorrect option for the extended phrase. Press the Space key to accept the phrase and continue typing, or press the "x" inside of the AutoCorrect bubble to dismiss the shortcut without inserting.

Trackpad mode

Introduced in iOS 8 for the iPad, this feature came to the iPhone with 3D Touch in iOS 9. Using iOS, you've probably come across the loupe that appears whenever you press and hold on a typed text block inside of an app—this feature allows you to reposition the cursor for typing without obstructing the text that your finger is currently on top of. With trackpad mode, repositioning the cursor has gotten much easier.

On an iPhone that has 3D Touch, you can 3D Touch on one of the keyboard keys while typing—the key lettering will fade away, and allow you to roll your finger across the entire keyboard. While you are doing this, the cursor moves on the screen, similar to a trackpad on a Mac, letting you easily reposition the cursor. Simply release your finger when you're done repositioning.

On an iPad, it's a little different: Tap two fingers on two of the keys and continue to hold, and then move your fingers across the keyboard to reposition the cursor inside the text block you're editing. Release your fingers when you're done repositioning.

Attaching an external keyboard

If you do a lot of typing, you might wish to connect a keyboard to your iOS device to sustain long typing sessions. If this is the case, there are a few options for you to choose from.

For an iPhone, there's mainly one method: You can connect a Bluetooth keyboard from within Settings | Bluetooth, and use the keyboard inside any apps that supports typing with the on-screen keyboard.

For an iPad, you have three options for connecting a keyboard: (1) You can use a Bluetooth keyboard like the iPhone method above; (2) if you have the iPad Lightning to USB adapter, you can also plug in a USB keyboard; and (3) there are first- and third-party case manufacturers that make keyboard cases (hard wired or Bluetooth) for iPads.

Also see

About Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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