6 Tips to Improve Typing on the iPad

Mar 31, 2012 - 20 Comments

Typing tips for iPad

I love the iPad but I really hate typing on it. Though touch screens are magnificent for some tasks, frankly typing just isn’t one of them. Maybe it’s my hands and fingers fault or maybe I’m just a grouchy old school tactile typer, but I struggle to get in any kind of real workflow that involves typing more than a sentence or two on touch screens. I’m probably not the only one to feel this way, so here are six helpful tips to improve the typing and writing experience on the iPad:

  1. Keep Keyboard Clicks Enabled – Though the sound effects can be incredibly annoying, they’re also one of the only forms of feedback you can get from typing on a touch screen. Keeping this enabled helps to type more accurately, that’s probably why Apple enables it by default. If you disabled these, here’s how to turn it back on in Settings:
    • Tap on “General” and tap “Sounds”
    • Switch “Keyboard Clicks” to ON
  2. Trust in Auto-Correct – Autocorrect can be a source of frustration, but it’s actually very smart, and learning to trust it a bit can really speed up typing on the iPad. While you’re typing and you see a disaster of letters that isn’t even close to what you intended to write, just keep typing, chances are good that it’ll autocorrect to the proper word. Make sure autocorrect is enabled:
    • Open Settings and tap on “General” then tap “Keyboard”
    • Swipe “Auto-Correction” to ON
  3. Use Dictation – This is a big one, though it’s limited to iPad 3 and iPhone 4S users. Dictation works very well. The downside to Dictation is that you’ll need internet access to be able to use it, because each phrase is analyzed by some service somewhere off in Apple’s cloud. Strangely, some iPads came with Dictation disabled, if that’s the case for you here is how to turn it on:
    • Tap on “Settings” and “General”
    • Tap “Keyboard” and make sure “Dictation” is switched to ON
  4. Use the Split Keyboard – Splitting the keyboard is by far the most useful typing tip for when holding the iPad in your hands. It’s also very forgiving, because there are 6 hidden keys that let you type the letters directly across from each other if you accidentally tap in that direction. We have recommended this tip on several occasions for good reason, it’s that useful.
    • With the keyboard visible, tap and hold the keyboard icon in the lower right corner, raise it up to split the keyboard and move it to a comfortable position
  5. Use a Bluetooth Keyboard – If you’re planning on typing anything of length on an iPad, do yourself a favor and just connect an external Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad. It’s very easy to do, turn on Bluetooth and find the keyboard:
    • Open Settings and tap “General” then “Bluetooth”
    • Select the keyboard to pair
  6. Use a Mac Keyboard – Don’t have a Bluetooth keyboard to spare? No problem, you can use a Mac keyboard to type on the iPad itself with the help of an app called Type2Phone. Type2Phone costs $4.99 on the Mac App Store (App Store link), which is about $45 less than the cost of a new Bluetooth keyboard, not a bad deal when you consider that. The other fantastic feature of Type2Phone? You can copy and paste from a Mac directly to the iPad.

Bonus tip: If you have the iPad camera connection kit and a powered USB hub, you can actually use a USB keyboard too. A perfectly acceptable solution for those without Bluetooth keyboards.

What do you think? Do you like typing on the iPads touch keyboard? Do you have any tips or tricks to make the experience better? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, Tips & Tricks

20 Comments

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  1. Steven says:

    You’re not alone, I can’t stand typing on the iPhone or iPad or anything else without physical feedback. It feels like a giant step backwards having to constantly look at your fingers placement as if you were learning to type again in the second grade. Android has that swipe-to-type feature that is really helpful but beyond text messages it’s hardly practical.

    Here’s to hoping something revolutionary comes along to solve this, rubbing fingers on glass isn’t it.

  2. MM says:

    Kids type perfectly on touch screens. It’s a generational thing.

  3. Fradrok says:

    I actually replaced my iPhone 3 with a BlackBerry when it was time for an upgrade just to have clickable keys. However, this was before I got an iPad. The autocorrect is fantastic and can’t wait to return to a new iPhone when the upgrade time comes up.

    I use email / text / iMessage and so many other things now that I’ve gotten the hang of the touchscreen.

    Split screen (litterally pull it apart if it’s solid) can be helpful if I’m typing a long email. Otherwise, one-handed typing is becoming more and more … um … better with experience.

    I do have a keyboard I can use … but I rarely use it.

  4. David says:

    Really? You can’t type on an iPhone either then? Just practice it gets better with use.

  5. Edwald says:

    You think typing is annoying? Try using a foreign language, where every non-US character has to have a “poke-wait.for.popup-swipe”, “poke-wait.for.popup-swipe” ..

    Even though the swipe mechanism now learns to select the most used variant letters, it is still a massive pain, and makes the device unusable for anything but an SMS-lenght message.

    A much better solution than the poke-wait-swipe would be to have the national keyboard layouts reflected in the keyboard layout on the screen, although that would still be annoying to use, for lack of tactile response, etc., as outlined above.

    The lack of keyboards and difficulty of entry is to me the single largest drawback, and the only reason myself and my wife still need to have a laptop in the house -in her case a Windows machine (shudder)

    • Finn says:

      Edwald,
      Once you choose a foreign language keyboard you do not always have to poke.wait.popup.swipe … the most important character will appear just by swiping up where the character is hidden … for example: on a German keyboard swipe up on “a” and you get “ä” … makes typing rather fast ;-)

  6. Automatic Android says:

    Sorry, I have to disagree with you Paul. I prefer typing on the iPad to typing on anything else, and I am way, way faster. I typed up a chapter of my PhD on my iPad, and the only thing I keep missing is the space bar. I aim too low, andasaresulttendtogetwordscrashingintoeachother. Perhaps I’m uncoordinated, but on ordinary keyboards, I tend to hit the side of the key next to the one I’m aiming for, and make MORE mistake than I do on the iPad. I would say keep at it Paul, learn to use the iPad keyboard. It’s great!

  7. Ted says:

    Item 5 — connecting to the IMac’s keyboard. Going through the steps, my iPad recognizes the IMac’s keyboard. Unfortunately, the keyboard doesn’t recognize the iPad. My keyboard on the Mac is defined as “Apple’s keyboard,” not the Wireless keyboard. Apple’s helpline says (1) one cannot connect two machines (e.g. IMac and iPad) at the same time. (2) What the System Preferences “Keyboard” entry says isn’t important and irrelevant here. Anybody have a thought?

  8. John Mc says:

    I don’t agree with 1 & 4. I find that the key click throws me off because even on an iPad 3 the sound of the click is a fraction behind the key operation, and I unconsciously slow down to compensate for this.

    The split screen I just can’t get on with at all. Why would anyone choose to hold it and type with thumbs? If I’m going to type anything at speed then I’m way faster when the iPad is either sitting on my lap or properly angled at a desk, using the full iPad keyboard.

    My only tip is to do the opposite of what you would normally do when touch typing on a regular keyboard – don’t look at what you’re typing, look at the keyboard, at what your fingers are doing. It will help your accuracy and stop you from getting distracted by autocorrect.

    With practice I can match the speed I would normally achieve on a regular keyboard. Proof reading each paragraph afterwards though is mandatory.

  9. Terry says:

    Use Dragon Naaturally Speaking App on iPad. Works great and minor corrections take minimal time.

  10. Todd Bradley says:

    I hate typing on this damned thing. Even using the Split keyboard the keya are too far from the edges to thumb type. And the glass touch sensor is useLess for touch typing and every slight misfire causes the keyboard to disappear. I could do better on day 1 with my iPhone than week 3 of my iPad.

  11. fjpoblam says:

    I’ve gotten used to typing on the iPad keyboard. I find its suggestions annoying at times, but I still use them. What I find most annoying is entering userids and pseudonyms on sites that suggest uppercase as the first letter! Dang! And what I haven’t gotten used to yet is making my fingertips small enough to accomodate the keyboard on my iPhone. Dang! Finally, there are all manner of special characters hidden that one may use by holding down a “key” for a moment. In my pea brain, I still haven’t managed to memorize all these yet. Dang!

  12. Limo says:

    Split keyboard is awesome really! I’ve been struggling with the stupid cross keys for a long time. It design doesn’t help in typing at all!

  13. Bronzit says:

    #3 Dictation option not shown as available on our 2 iPhone 64Gb Verizon models, w/iOS 5.1. Perhaps this is b/c we have Siri???

  14. Xelous says:

    Has anyone else noticed that half of the tips, and the bonus tip, for “typing on the iPad” actually all pretty much revolve around the idea not actually typing on the iPad?

  15. […] on the iPad and iPhone 4S converts your words into text, it can make typing in iOS easier but it’s also easy to accidentally activate with an inadvertent touch. If you don’t use […]

  16. Elizabeth says:

    I use either a separate keyboard or a MediaDevil stylus as I have arthritis and find I hit the wrong keys on the touch screen.

  17. Fixitman says:

    Yes, you need to plug in an actual keyboard, or rely on dictation. For my generation, touching what you have to look at is NOT an option. You touch the screen and you leave fingerprints, etc. all over it, making it unusable later, without wiping it off, which will probably crash these things. You can’t even remove fingerprints from a REGULAR screen without window cleaner, which you’re not supposed to do. I DO NOT WANT any device I have to touch the screen on in order to use it.
    I was taught, DO NOT TOUCH THE PICTURE (or screen.) Also, when learning typing, you were taught DO NOT LOOK AT your fingers, but at the screen.
    These devices are counter-intuitive, and they make no sense whatsoever to me.
    I see no use for them, and a 200 dollar netbook makes much more sense if you are going to do a lot of typing.

  18. Garry says:

    I disagree on the Auto correct which I call auto corrupt. For me its a trainwreck waiting to happen in subtly transforming words I type into other words I did not type changing my messages into the most asinine replies. Nothing like the rage of finding out that three days ago I tried to send “I am now sending you my resume” but having auto corrupt change now to not!! This actually happened and after resisting the urge to do something loud and destructive I turned it off and never looked back.

    Auto corrupt generated so many unwanted changes trying to catch every error became as burdensome as to become impractical. Like trying to use a broom to sweep out every grain of sand from a shag rug washed up on the beach.

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