For those of us who didn’t grow up with smartphones, typing on a touch keyboard can feel awfully slow. But there are tricks you can use to speed up typing on a touch keyboard, just like a physical one.
These tips apply to any smartphone with a touch keyboard, from iPhones and Android phones to Windows phones and BlackBerries. They all work in a fairly similar way.
Two Thumbs or One Index Finger
First thing’s first: Find a good way to position your fingers for typing, one that works for you. This may mean holding your phone in both hands and using your thumbs to type, gaining speed through the use of two fingers at one time. However, many people prefer holding their smartphone in one hand and using the index finger on the other hand to poke at each letter. The larger your phone, the more the index-finger method makes sense.
Which is better? There’s no one right answer — it depends on each person. Typing with two thumbs gives you two fingers that can reach individual keys on the touch keyboard faster, but many people are more comfortable with the index finger method and find it leads to less mistakes. Give both a try to see which works best for you.
Consider the orientation of your phone here, too. In landscape mode, using two fingers may work best to cover the wide keyboard. In portrait mode, using a single index finger may work best — it’s a smaller surface area, so you won’t have to move your index finger very far.
Autocorrect & Word Predictions
Your smartphone’s touch keyboard doesn’t just include built-in spellcheck. It can automatically correct mistakes you make as you type.
Embrace the autocorrect! This isn’t just about catching spelling mistakes, but about smoothing over the inevitable typos as you start typing faster. If you’re typing out a word and you miss a letter or two, but the smartphone can automatically correct it to the word you meant to type automatically, that’s a victory. Try leaving the autocorrect feature on and typing more quickly, trying to type as fast as you can. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. But just keep on typing and you might be surprised as you phone automatically corrects you. (Depending on your smartphone and its touch keyboard, “autocorrect” may be an option you might have to enable in its settings first.)
Your keyboard may even provide predictions as you type. You can tap a predicted word above the keyboard to automatically complete it. This works on both iPhones and Android phones.
When you’re done typing something, you can go back and tap a misspelled or mistakenly autocorrected word. The default keyboard on iPhones and Android phones will allow you to quickly select other possible autocorrections after tapping such a word. This is the easiest way to fix mistakes — not with the backspace key while typing, but by quickly fixing the wrong words afterward.
You may also want to try a third-party keyboard if the integrated autocorrect doesn’t seem to be good enough for you. For example, SwiftKey is known for its great autocorrection features.
This may seem like cheating, but it’s a good trick to bear in mind. Rather than typing everything out on your keyboard, you can use your smartphone’s built-in “voice typing” feature. The words you say will be converted to text, just as if you typed them. Speech recognition isn’t perfect, and you’ll want to enunciate as clearly as possible.
Both the default iPhone keyboard and Android keyboard include a microphone icon. Tap the microphone on the keyboard and speak what you want to type, and the keyboard will convert it to text and fill it in for you. Some applications may have their own integrated microphone buttons for performing voice searches and other actions, too.
Swipe-to-Type and Third Party Keyboards
Swipe-to-type keyboards originated on Android with Swype, but this feature has now spread to iPhones thanks to iOS 8’s support for third-party keyboards. When using this method of typing, you place your finger on the keyboard, draw it over the letters of the word you want to type, and then release. For example, if you wanted to type “dog,” you’d place your finger on the letter “d,” move it to the letter “o,” move it to the letter “g,” and then lift it. Repeat this process and you’re swiping-to-type entire sentences and messages.
This is possible on Android with the default Google Keyboard, the original Swype keyboard, SwiftKey with the “SwiftKey Flow” feature, and probably other keyboards. The standard iPhone keyboard doesn’t have this built in, but you can now install a keyboard like Swype or SwiftKey from the App Store and use it to get this feature on an iPhone.
Give this method of typing a try and see if it feels faster for you. Some people — often Android users who started using it years ago — swear by it for faster typing. Other people — often iPhone users who have had years to get used to tap-typing — think it’s slow and unnecessary. Like many things, it seems to come down to which method you’re used to and have had the most practice with.
This is all possible thanks to third-party keyboards that can try crazy things to help you type faster. Some experiments seem to work for some people, and many don’t. You may want to try out other third-party keyboards to see if they have any tricks that work for you.
Text Expansion Shortcuts
Text expansion shortcuts can also speed up typing, especially typing of the short messages, common phrases, and other repetitive things you type. But this solution can be used to speed up typing your email address in apps and your physical address on online web pages, too.
Set up your own shortcuts and your phone will automatically replace a few short characters you type with a longer sequence of text. This trick can be used on PCs, but it may be most useful on smartphones you can’t type as quickly on.
Touch keyboards on tablets work similarly, but there are more things to take into account. Many people seem to like typing on an iPad or similar 10″-size touch tablet keyboard with all ten fingers, just as they would on a typical physical keyboard. Some people also like connecting a physical keyboard to their larger tablets and typing on that.
You actually could connect a larger Bluetooth keyboard to an iPhone or Android phone and type in the traditional way. This obviously won’t be very practical unless you only use your smartphone when you’re sitting at a desk.