This will date me, but in college I owned (and loved) the Handspring Visor, a Palm OS-based Personal Digital Assistant. Since it didn’t have a physical keyboard, I bought a Targus foldable keyboard. I used that combo fairly religiously in classes throughout my last few years in college. I’d alternate day-by-day thinking I was either the coolest guy in the room or the nerdiest. Looking back, I now know which description better fit me.
When Apple announced the iPhone, many bemoaned the lack of a physical keyboard. Some even said that the on-screen keyboard would be the death of the iPhone. They compared it to Blackberry’s phones, the business behemoth of the time that included a tiny keyboard.
After using my Visor for so long, and wishing I could have upgraded to the Palm Treo, which did include a built-in, physical keyboard, I was fairly skeptical that the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard would be sufficient. Fortunately, the design gurus at Apple took into account the limitations of an on-screen keyboard and devised a few ingenious ways to get things done.
Here are five keyboard tips I’ve found to be quite helpful:
1. Split the Keyboard in Two
Whenever the keyboard is on your screen, place one thumb on the left side and one on the right. Swipe both thumbs toward the outer edge of the keyboard and voilà, your iOS keyboard has been split into two sections. This makes typing in landscape mode much easier on your digits.
Note: if this motion doesn’t work, check your settings. Go to Settings>General>Keyboard>Split Keyboard and enable the split keyboard.
2. Use Accents and Special Characters
Often find the need to use the word “voilà?” Look like a pro by including the accent mark.
To do so in iOS, simply do a long press on a letter to see variations. For instance, if you long press on “e,” you’ll see the options above.
[Pro tip: you can access the same types of special characters within OSX by also holding down a letter on your keyboard until its variants appear, i.e. æ, ä, å, ā. Hold down the letter, then type the number of the corresponding character you need.]
I also use this for punctuation. As a writer, I’m often quoting others. By performing a long press on the exclamation point or the question mark, you can access the single quotation mark or the double quotation mark, respectively, quite easily.
3. Drag Caps to Punctuate
By dragging your finger from the caps button to the comma or the period, you can quickly end sentences with an exclamation mark or a question mark.
4. Enable Emojis
The usefulness of this tip is debatable, but if you’d like to have an array of emoticons to choose from when compiling your witty text messages, enable the emoji keyboard language.
Go to Settings>General>Keyboard>Keyboards>Add New Keyboard>Emoji.
Now, when your keyboard’s on the screen, you should see a small world icon in the lower left side. Click that to enjoy using emojis. Sometimes a googly-eyed smiley face does say it all.
5. Create Keyword Shortcuts
Do you find yourself typing the same thing over and over? Help yourself out by creating a few keyword shortcuts. For instance, I use “zz” for my email address. Whenever I type zz on an iOS device, the text automatically expands into my email address. (Note: unfortunately, you have to set up all of your keyword shortcuts on each iOS device you own). I recommend creating shortcuts for your physical address, your email address, and the email addresses of those you often contact. Remember to use character strings that aren’t found in regular words or phrases. For instance, if you use the word “email” as a shortcut, any time you type the word “email,” it’ll be replaced by your email address.
To create new keyword shortcuts, head to Settings>General>Keyboard>Add New Shortcut. In the “Phrase” field, type in the long word or phrase you want your shortcut expanded into. In the “Shortcut” field, type in the shortcut you want to use. Make it memorable so you’ll be prone to use it.
Were any of these tips new to you? Or have you found any other keyboard tricks? Share ’em in the comments!