How to use iOS and iPadOS 13's new software keyboard features

Learn how to use new features in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, including swipe to type, one-handed typing mode, and Memojis or Animojis with third-party apps.

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Image: Apple, Inc.

The software keyboard on iOS was a breakthrough technology when the iPhone was first released in 2007 and was a much lauded feature by Apple and one that many competitors never thought would take off. Fast forward to 2019, and I don't know how we'd live without the software keyboard.

In iOS 13, Apple has made many improvements to the keyboard in an attempt to bring the keyboard in-line with other mobile operating systems and keyboards, as well as improve the one-handed typing mode on the iPad. Apple also included a fun feature: The ability to add Memojis to most applications through the keyboard. I'll show you how to use these features to your advantage.

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How to swipe to type in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

One of the features that's been present in other mobile operating systems for years and is a feature of many custom keyboards on the App Store is the ability to swipe to type. Apple has built the swipe feature into iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 for both the iPhone and the iPad. This feature works better than most third-party keyboards that I've seen, and it preserves privacy--the third-party keyboards I have used require network access.

To use this feature, simply tap on the key you wish to start with to spell the word, then swipe to the remaining words in the word you wish to spell. By doing this, iOS will recognize what word you're intending to type and will add it to the text field you're typing into as soon as you lift your finger (Figure A).

Figure A 

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Swiping to type is easy--just tap on the first letter of the word and swipe to the remaining word letters to type.

Image: Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

When you lift your finger, the word will be added along with a space, and you're ready to swipe to type the next word. This makes typing one-handed on the iPhone really easy, but this feature probably won't be as useful on the iPad because most people have dedicated keyboards attached.

How to minimize the keyboard in iPadOS 13

It's nearly impossible to type one-handed on an iPad's large, half-screen keyboard. The keyboard is really geared towards touch typists wanting a full-size software keyboard experience.

In iPadOS 13, Apple has added the ability to minimize the software keyboard on an iPad to get an iPhone-style small keyboard that can be placed anywhere on the screen to type.

To use this new minimized keyboard, tap in a text field to bring up the iPad software keyboard, then pinch with two fingers inward on the keyboard--when you do this, you will be presented with a smaller keyboard that resembles the iPhone keyboard. By using the drag handle on the bottom of the keyboard, you can drag the keyboard anywhere on the screen (Figure B). 

Figure B

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The smaller keyboard can be used anywhere on the screen. Drag it to a corner for better left or right single-hand typing.

Image: Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

iPadOS 13 will remember your setting for the smaller keyboard. When enabled, it will present the smaller keyboard systemwide whenever the keyboard is made visible.

To get the larger keyboard back, pinch with two fingers out like you're zooming in on the keyboard. It will pin the default keyboard to the bottom of the screen.

How to use the Memoji or Animoji keyboard in iOS 13

Memojis (or self-like emojis) were introduced in iOS 12 for iPhones with Face ID, but Apple has expanded this feature to all devices in iOS 13. To learn how to create a Memoji, read Apple's support article on the topic.

To use a created Memoji or an Animoji as an emoji in a third-party app, follow these steps.  

  1. While typing in an app, tap the Emoji button in the bottom left of the keyboard. 
  2. Swipe left-to-right to show the Animoji options. 
  3. Pick an Animoji or Memoji to send it (Figure C).

Figure C

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Selecting an Animoji or Memoji will paste the image into the app you're using if it supports this new feature.

Image: Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

This will send an image of the Animoji or Memoji to the app if it supports the feature. Unlike in iMessage, you cannot send an animated Animoji or Memoji.

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