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Typing on a mobile phone can be an exercise in frustration. Tapping the keys with the index finger on your right or left hand can be slow and cumbersome. Using both of your thumbs can be quicker. But the standard layouts on most virtual keyboards don’t lend themselves well to thumb typing. If you prefer to type with your thumbs, then you may want to try a third-party keyboard for iOS and Android called Typewise.

Instead of displaying the regular rectangular layout, Typewise employs a circular, or hexagonal, layout of keys. You can more quickly access most keys on the keyboard and switch between lowercase and uppercase, letters and numbers, and alphanumeric characters and special characters.

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Download and install the Typewise keyboard for your iPhone (or iPad) from Apple’s App Store or for your Android device from Google Play. The basic version of Typewise is free. A pro version selling for $24.99 with the first month free kicks in a range of advanced features, including personalized word predictions, themes, tablet mode, and a quick way to undo auto corrections. I recommend trying the free flavor first to see if you like the keyboard; you can then consider the paid option afterwards.

After the installation, you’ll need to enable Typewise. Open the app and follow the directions. On an iPhone, go to Settings and then General. Select the setting for Keyboard and then select the option for Keyboards. At the Keyboards screen, tap the entry to Add New Keyboard (Figure A).

Figure A

Tap the option for Typewise. Tap the Edit link and drag Typewise up to the first spot on the list. Tap Done and then return to the app Keyboard (Figure B).

Figure B

On an Android phone, go to Settings and look for the setting for Languages and input. Drill down to the option to Manage keyboards. Turn on the switch for Typewise keyboard (Figure C).

Figure C

On an iPhone, open an app that requires typing, such as Notes, Mail, or Messages. Tap in a text area to display the keyboard. Press down on the Globe icon and then change the keyboard to Typewise (Figure C).

Figure D

On an Android phone, open a text-based app. Tap the keyboard icon in the lower right of the keyboard and select Typewise keyboard. You can then take the Typewise tutorial if you wish (Figure E).

Figure E

The default Typewise keyboard then appears with its hexagonal design. Start typing. Tapping the actual letters should be straightforward enough as Typewise incorporates the standard QWERTY layout though in a hexagonal fashion. But as you type with Typewise, you’ll need to learn how to access punctuation symbols, uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The tutorial will help. But here are some tips as you type.

Swipe your finger right on the keyboard or tap one of the two blank keys to create a space. Swipe your finger to the right twice or tap the blank key twice to end a sentence. Swipe your finger left to create a backspace. Flick up on a lowercase letter to type it in uppercase. Press down on one of the blank keys and then move your finger around the keyboard to move your cursor anywhere. Tap the 123 key to display a keyboard with numbers and special characters.

If you’d rather go back to a conventional keyboard layout, tap the keyboard icon in the upper left just above the keyboard. Tap that icon again to return to the hexagonal keyboard (Figure F).

Figure F

Open the Typewise app and you can take the tutorial, play a game to improve your typing skills, and tweak the settings.

Typewise requires time to get used to the hexagonal layout and the special swipes and flicks you need to trigger to access special keys and characters. But if you often find yourself trying to type with your thumbs and not quite succeeding, Typewise is worth taking for a spin.