Typing in the messages app on an iPhone's keyboard.
Aleksey Khilko/Shutterstock.com

Apple added quite a few new text-editing gestures to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 13. These make it faster to select text, copy and paste, and move the text-entry cursor around. Apple’s keyboard now supports swipe-to-type, too.

Tap to Select Words, Sentences, and Paragraphs

Select a Paragraph in iOS 13 with Quadruple Tap

You can now more quickly select words, sentences, and paragraphs with a few taps. These shortcuts should work anywhere you can edit text in iOS 13, but they seemed a bit flaky in apps like Evernote for us. Maybe app developers just need to release a few updates.

While editing text:

  • Double-tap a word to select that word.
  • Triple-tap a word to select the sentence in which that word appears.
  • Quadruple-tap a word to select the whole paragraph in which that word appears.

Drag to Adjust the Text Selection

Manipulate Text Selection in iOS 13

Once you’ve selected a word or a sentence, you can make that selection larger or smaller by swiping left or right near the edge of the selection area.

This is how text selection has always worked on iOS. But, with the arrival of iOS 13, Apple has improved it so that you don’t need to be as precise when selecting text. It’s much more forgiving, and you don’t have to tap as precisely.

Pinch to Copy, Cut, and Paste

You can also now copy, cut, and paste with a gesture. Previously you would need to highlight text then make your selection from the hovering menu. In iOS 13, first select your text and then:

  • Pinch with three fingers to copy it
  • Repeat the copy gesture twice to cut it (pinch with three fingers, twice)
  • Reverse the copy gesture to paste (place three fingers on the screen and spread them apart)

Swipe and Tap to Undo and Redo

If you’ve made a mistake, you can undo it easier than ever with a handful of new gestures:

  • Double-tap with three fingers to undo
  • Swipe left with three fingers to undo
  • Swipe right with three fingers to redo

These gestures make a lot more sense than shaking your phone to undo typing.

Drag to Move The Cursor

Move Cursor in iOS 13

Moving the cursor works the way it always did. But, just like dragging to select text, it’s easier and more forgiving than ever. You can now tap and hold the cursor until it gets bigger, and then move it around the screen and drop it wherever you like.

Press the Keyboard to Move the Cursor

iOS 13 Cursor Control

If you have an iPhone with 3D Touch, you can still press hard on the keyboard and move your finger to move the cursor.

But you don’t need 3D Touch to move the cursor from the keyboard. Just long-press the space bar on the keyboard and then move your finger around to move the cursor.

On an iPad, you can also touch the keyboard with two fingers and move your fingers around to move the cursor.

Double Tap For Intelligent Selection

Double Tap to Select Email in iOS 13

You can now quickly select phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses thanks to “intelligent selection.” Just double-tap near the information.

This only works when you’re editing text—in other words, it works with phone numbers in an email message you’re writing, but not with phone numbers on a web page.

Tap and Hold to Display the Formatting Bar

Display the Formatting Bar in iOS 13

iOS 13 includes a new hovering formatting bar that provides access to cut, copy, and paste as well as undo and redo options. You can use these icons instead of the gestures above.

To reveal the formatting bar while editing text, select some text, and then tap and hold the screen with three fingers. You will see the formatting bar appear at the top of the screen.

Scroll Faster Than Ever With the Scroll Bar

Scroll Faster in iOS 13 by Grabbing the Scroll Bar

Scrolling in iOS feels natural, but what if you have a particularly long email, document, or web page to navigate? You can now scroll at lightning speed if you grab the scroll bar and move it up or down the page (try it).

This works just like scrolling would on an old Windows computer, and it only took 13 versions of iOS for Apple to see the light.

Slide Your Finger Over the Keyboard to Type

Toggle Slide to Type under iOS Settings

Why type when you can slide? Apple’s native keyboard in iOS supports slide-to-type, where you move your fingers from one key to another without lifting your digit from the screen. This technique uses predictive methods to work out what you’re saying and can result in a much faster and more accurate typing experience.

In other words, to type the word “the” with this feature, touch the “t” on the keyboard, move your finger to the “h” without lifting it, move your finger to the “e” without lifting it, and then lift your finger. Your iPhone will type “the,” and you can start typing the next word, lifting your finger only between each word.

You don’t need to do anything to enable the setting as it’s already on by default. If you want to disable it for some reason, you can do so under Settings > General > Keyboard and toggling “Slide to Type.”

If you previously installed a third-party keyboard like Google’s Gboard or Microsoft’s SwiftKey just to use swipe to type, you can now switch back to Apple’s keyboard, if you like.

Tap and Swipe Down Select Multiple Items from a List

This gesture appears in Apple’s official iOS 13 promotional material, and there are videos online demonstrating it, but we can’t get it to work on the iPhone X running iOS 13.0 we used for testing. We have no idea why, but your mileage may vary.

The feature is supposed to allow you to select items in Mail and Files (for now) by tapping and holding with two fingers then swiping downwards to select multiple messages or files.

Other apps may add support for this gesture in the future.

Bonus: New iPad-Specific Gestures in iPadOS 13

All of the above gestures will work on both the iPhone and iPad, but some gestures in iOS 13 (or iPadOS 13, to be precise) are just for iPads.

  • It’s now possible to turn notifications into slide over apps. When you receive a notification, you can tap and drag it to the side of the screen to open that application on top of whatever you’re working on.
  • You can now open new full-screen instances of apps by dragging components to the top of the screen. Try it on a Safari tab, a conversation in Messages, or a note in the Notes app.
  • Apps open in Slide Over view now display an iPhone X-like bar at the bottom of the screen. Swipe up and hold to “multitask” with other Slide Over apps, just like you would on an iPhone.
  • You can now shrink the iPad keyboard down and drag it to wherever you want it. You can do this by pinching the keyboard with two fingers, then dragging it into position.

RELATED: iPadOS Will Almost Make Your iPad a Real Computer

These gestures are extremely useful—if you know about them. The iPhone and iPad are getting more powerful, but there are more gestures and swipes to remember than when the first iPhones and iPads were released.

RELATED: The Best New Features in iOS 13, Available Now

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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