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New iOS 8 Keyboard Features: Streamlined Typing, Keyboard Swapping, Smileys for Everything

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The digital keyboard in iOS devices has always been pretty functional for most purposes. But you want more, right? Lisa Spangenberg, co-author of The iPad 2 Project Book, shares the new keyboard features in iOS 8. Need a Klingon keyboard? No problem.
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One of the innovative aspects of iOS in its initial release was the way the onscreen digital keyboard and multi-touch combined to make a large number of characters available within limited screen space. Since that first iOS release in June 2007, Apple has improved the onscreen keyboard enormously. In iOS 8, Apple also added a special keyboard for Emoji (smileys), a new typing feature called the QuickType bar (see Figure 1), and support for third-party onscreen keyboards from the App Store.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The QuickType bar is above the keys on the onscreen keyboard.

I’ve previously written about using the built-in keyboards more effectively for entering letters, numbers, and punctuation. Here’s a quick overview of iOS 8 onscreen keyboard basics you should know before we delve into the new features:

  • Tap in a text entry field or text area to position your cursor, and the onscreen keyboard will appear.
  • Tap the keyboard key to hide the onscreen keyboard.
  • Tap a key to enter a character.
  • Tap and hold on a key to see any other characters available from that key. Without lifting your finger from the screen, slide to an alternate character and then lift your finger to insert that character.
  • Tap the microphone key to turn dictation on or off.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in landscape mode offer several additional keys (see Figure 2); for example, cut, copy, paste, bold, and undo are available on the left side, and cursor arrows and punctuation keys are on the right.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus offer special keys in landscape mode.

Saving Keystrokes with the QuickType Bar

The predictive typing feature in iOS 8 (see the section “New Keyboard Settings in iOS 8”) attempts to predict what word you’re typing. The QuickType bar above the keyboard displays possible word completions, based on context and your previous keyboard usage. Possible words appear and change in the QuickType bar as you type. Tap a word on the QuickType bar to insert it at the cursor.

In the example in Figure 1, the word I was typing was recipe. As Figure 3 shows, the QuickType bar correctly guessed that word, as well as suggesting other possibilities. Tapping a word in the bar automatically completes the word and inserts a space after it, so you can keep typing. Tapping recipe in the QuickType bar completes the word I intended to type. This feature saves time as well as wear-and-tear on your device (and your fingers).

Figure 3

Figure 3 The QuickType bar displays possible completion options.

If the QuickType bar isn’t showing, swipe up on the small lozenge-like “handle” above the Y key on the top row of the keyboard (see Figure 4). To hide the QuickType bar, swipe the “handle” down.

Figure 4

Figure 4 The small lozenge-shaped “handle” for showing or hiding the QuickType bar appears just above the Y key.

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