How to Use the Onscreen Keyboard on Your iPhone

Using the onscreen keyboard on an iPhone is pretty self-explanatory, but a few tricks are easy to miss.

By Stacey Butler - Senior Staff Writer
8 Min Read

iPhones and iPads are great productivity machines, brimming with apps for getting work done on the go. You might be using intelligent email apps and smart task management apps, but have you considered learning how to use the onscreen keyboard on your iPhone or iPad?

There are small tricks for the onscreen keyboard on your iPhone or iPad that end up saving a lot of time, taps, and frustration down the line. If you type a lot on your iPhone or iPad, here are all the best keyboard tips and tricks for you to learn.

Type with the onscreen keyboard on iPhone

On iPhone, you can use the onscreen keyboard to enter and edit text:

  • Display the insertion point: Tap in a text area where you want the insertion point to appear.

  • Move the insertion point: Tap where you want to type or place a finger on the insertion point and drag it where you want to go.

  • Select text: Double-tap with one finger to select a single word. Without lifting your finger, you can drag it to continue selecting text. Triple-tap with one finger to select an entire line or quadruple-tap with one finger to select a paragraph. After text is selected, you can drag the handles to shrink or expand the expansion.

  • After you select text, an edit menu appears overhead with common options like Copy, Cut, Paste, etc. You can tap the arrow to view more options.

  • Copy text: With text selected, tap Copy or pinch close with three fingers.

  • Cut text: With text selected, tap Cut or pinch closed with three fingers two times.

  • Paste text: Move the insertion point to where you want to paste text and then tap Paste or pinch open with three fingers. Select text and paste to replace it.

  • Undo and redo: Swipe from right to left with three fingers to undo the last action and swipe with three fingers from left to right to redo the last action.

  • Special characters: Typing special characters, like è or ü, is easy in iOS and iPadOS. Tap and hold the letter, number, or symbol that contains the special character you want to access until a popover appears, then tap the character you want to type.

Save Time Typing

Typing on a piece of glass can be frustrating, but iOS and iPadOS include some features that make working with text faster:

  • QuickType: This is Apple’s predictive keyboard that gets smarter as you use it. Since QuickType is contextually aware of your conversation, it can even present you with an answers to common questions. And depending on who you’re corresponding with, QuickType can even pick up on your conversation style. All you have to do is start using it! As you type, the QuickType bar suggests words. Tap one to insert it.

  • Slide to Type: On an iPhone, you can slide your finger over the letters on the keyboard to type words. Place your finger on the first letter of the word, drag your finger to the second letter, and so on. Lift your finger off the keyboard after you reach the last letter of the word and the keyboard inserts the word it thinks you meant, with alternatives displayed in the QuickType bar. For example, if you want to type "avocado," you start by placing a finger on the "A" key and then drawing a line to the "V" followed by "O" and "C" and so on until you’ve connected every letter in the word. Once you’re done, lift your finger off of the keyboard.

  • Text replacement: You can enter commonly used bits of text, such as your email address, by typing only a few characters. For instance, you might regularly tell family members, ”I just left work and expect to be home shortly. Call me if you need anything from the grocery.” You can enter that into the phrase field and supply an easy to remember shortcut, perhaps ‌”jlw” for ”just left work.” Now, in message, email or other text fields, you can simply type ”jlw” and hit the space bar to invoke the longer phrase, ”I just left work and expect to be home shortly. Call me if you need anything from the grocery.”. The Text Replacement function is found under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. To create your own shortcuts, tap the plus sign.

Type Other Languages and Emojis

You can type in multiple languages in iOS and iPadOS. To add a new keyboard, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards, tap Add New Keyboard, then choose a keyboard from the list. Repeat to add more keyboards. To remove a keyboard: Tap Edit, tap the Delete button next to the keyboard you want to remove, tap Delete, then tap Done.

While typing text, tap the globe to switch to another keyboard.

One additional keyboard that’s enabled by default is Emoji. Emojis are small pictographs. With emojis, for example, instead of typing a colon, hyphen, and parenthesis 🙂 to indicate a smile, you can type a cute smiley face

Type with Stickers

Stickers have been available in Messages for years, but with iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, you can now use stickers in most places where you can emojis. Stickers are typically installed from the App Store, but below you’ll learn how to create your own.

Create Custom Stickers

You can create custom stickers from your photos. Here’s how:

  1. Launch the Messages app on your iPhone and start a new message or select an existing conversation thread.

  2. Tap the “+” button to the left of the messaging window.

  3. Tap Stickers.

  4. Tap the “+” sign to create a new sticker from one of the photos in your library. You can also use the menu at the top to filter by only Live Photos (required for animated stickers) and photos with people, animals, food, vehicles, or statues.

  5. Once a photo is selected, the object of the photo will automatically be detected. If it’s a Live Photo, it will animate automatically as well.

  6. Tap Add Sticker.

  7. You’ll now see the Sticker added to your list of custom Stickers, and you can select and send it in a Message at any time by pulling up the Sticker Drawer.

You can also create stickers directly from the Photos app. Here’s how:

  1. Launch the Photos app.

  2. Open the photo you want to turn into a sticker.

  3. Long press on a subject in a photo until a white flash appears around it.

  4. Release your finger.

  5. On the popover menu that appears, tap Add Sticker.

  6. A Stickers window appears with your new sticker and another popover menu that gives you options to rearrange stickers, add an effect to the new sticker, or delete the new sticker. (More on these below.)

Photos work best as stickers when they have a clear, sharply focused subject and a nondescript contrasting background. You’ll likely find it works best if you choose photos explicitly made for the purpose of being turned into a sticker.

Add effects to stickers

In addition to turning a photo into a shareable sticker, you can also add various effects to it. Here’s how:

  1. Press and hold the custom sticker you want to create an effect with until the menu pop-up appears.

  2. Select Add Effect. This reveals five additional visual effects you can add to each sticker:

    • Original: The sticker without visual effects.

    • Outline: A thick white border around the outline of the sticker.

    • Comic: A hand-drawn effect.

    • Puffy: A pseudo-3D effect to replicate the look of “puffy” stickers.

    • Shiny: This gives a shiny, holographic appearance.

  3. Once you have chosen your desired effect, select Done. If you don’t like how any of them look, simply go back to the original and tap Done.

Remove or rearrange stickers

It’s easy to get excited once you figure out how to add stickers, and you go wild adding custom ones. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to delete them. Conversely, if you find you use one custom sticker a lot more than others, you might want to rearrange it to appear at the top of the list. Here’s how:

  1. Pull up the sticker drawer while in an iMessage,

  2. Tap and hold on a sticker until they start to jiggle.

    • Select Delete to remove the sticker from your library.

    • Select Rearrange to re-order The stickers. Drag the stickers around until you get the order you like.

It’s worth noting that you can also go back to the stickers menu at any time to add a different effect to it, including reverting to the original. Just long-press on the sticker again.

Make stickers from existing emoji

  1. Open the Messages app.

  2. Open your existing conversation thread or start a new one.

  3. Tap the Emoji button at the bottom left.

  4. Find the expressive emoji you want to use, hold your finger on it, then drag it to the message window.

  5. It may take a moment, but it will pop up in a larger size than usual in the message window.

  6. Tap Send to send it.

Create Memoji

Memojis are custom cartoonish avatars you can use in stickers. Here’s how to create them:

  1. Start a new message or open a conversation.

  2. , tap the “+” sign.

  3. Select Stickers.

  4. Tap the Memoji Stickers button.

  5. Tap the More button.

  6. Tap New Memoji or Edit.

  7. Tap each feature (Skin, Hairstyle, and others to the right) and choose the options you want.

  8. Tap Done to save the Memoji to your collection.

You can also send animated Memoji or Memoji recordings that use your voice and mirror your facial expressions.

Dictate Text

You can dictate text using your device’s microphone. Here’s how:

  1. Make sure Enable Dictation is enabled in Settings > General > Keyboard.

  2. In a text field, move the insertion point where you want to insert text.

  3. On the keyboard, tap the microphone.

  4. If you have multiple language keyboards enabled, tap the globe

  5. Start talking. The device listens to your voice and turns it into text as you talk. Use keywords to insert punctuation or paragraph breaks as needed. You can turn on Auto-Punctuation in Settings > General > Keyboards, which should add punctuation automatically, at least in theory, but you still may have to speak punctuation on occasion.

  6. If you make a mistake, you can move the insertion point manually and edit text with the keyboard. To continue dictating, move the insertion point to where you want to insert text and continue talking.

  7. Tap the microphone.

To get the most out of voice dictation, speak these keywords to add punctuation or line breaks:

  • Period: The "." is the standard way to end a sentence.

  • Question Mark: The "?" punctuation mark.

  • New Paragraph: Starts a new paragraph. End the previous sentence before beginning the new paragraph.

  • Exclamation Point: The "!" punctuation mark.

  • Comma: The "," punctuation mark.

  • Colon: The ":" punctuation mark.

  • Semi-Colon: The ";" punctuation mark

  • Ellipsis: The "…" punctuation mark

  • Quote and Unquote: Puts quotation marks around words or phrases.

  • Slash: The "/" symbol.

  • Asterisk: The "*" symbol.

  • Ampersand: The "&" symbol, which means "and."

  • At Sign: The "@" symbol found in email addresses.

Voice dictation automatically adds spaces after punctuation that needs it–periods, commas, and closing quotation marks, for example.

Other punctuation marks are also available, so if you need one of the rarer ones, say it. For example, say, ”upside-down question mark” to produce an upside-down question mark (“¿”).

Type One-Handed

If you’re having trouble typing out your thoughts single-handedly, there’s a one-handed iPhone keyboard you can access quicker than you think. Here’s how to find it.

  1. Tap and hold the globe or emoji icon on your keyboard.

  2. Tap the left keyboard icon to for left-handed typing or tap the right icon to enable the right-handed one. The middle keyboard, which should already be highlighted, is for the standard keyboard layout.

  3. Your device will stay in one-handed mode unless you change it back.

You can also set the keyboard’s orientation in Settings > General > Keyboard > One Handed Keyboard.

On an iPad, you can pinch in on the keyboard with two fingers to shrink it down to a small iPhone-sized floating keyboard, which is ideal for typing with one hand while holding the iPad with the other.

Autofill Passwords

Your device can manage passwords for websites and apps, or help you fill in passwords from your favorite password management app.

To set up password autofill to use a third-party app, go to Settings > Passwords > Password Options and select the apps you’d like to access passwords from, such as 1Password or LastPass. If you don’t have one of these apps, iCloud Passwords & Keychain is always an option.

When you log in to a website or app, if iOS or iPadOS recognizes that you have an associated login, it prompts you to use that login and you’ll have to verify with Face ID or Touch ID.

When you log in to a new account for the first time, iOS/iPadOS offers to create and save a password for you. You can always find those passwords in Settings > Passwords.

Install Third-Party Keyboards

There are a lot of keyboards available in the App Store which give you a ton of options for how you can interact with your iPhone. Here’s how to enable and use them.

To enable a third-party keyboard:

  1. Download a keyboard from the App Store. (If you don’t know what to look for, search for ”keyboard” and browse the results.)

  2. Open Settings and tap General > Keyboard > Keyboards.

  3. Tap Add New Keyboard.

  4. Tap the keyboard on the Third-Party Keyboard list.

  5. Most keyboards require Full Access to be fully operational. To enable it, still on the Keyboard screen, tap the keyboard’s name and turn on the Allow Full Access switch. An alert warns you that with Full Access, the developer can see anything you’ve typed. Tap Allow or Don’t Allow.

  6. To switch keyboards, tap the globe.

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By Stacey Butler Senior Staff Writer
Stacey is a senior staff writer at GeeksChalk and has been writing about Apple for nearly a decade. She covers all things Apple for GeeksChalk, including iPhones, iPads and Mac. Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Stacey is often found hiking precarious landscapes or tinkering with a camera.
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