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International keyboards on the iPhoneSome people love the iPhone’s ‘soft’ keyboard, others loathe it. Whichever camp you belong to, you can make your keyboarding life far more efficient by taking advantage of all the hidden tricks lurking beneath the keyboard’s apparently simple exterior.

One of the big advantages of having a software keyboard is that it’s adaptable and flexible. You’ve probably noticed this already in the way keyboard styles differ slightly from one app to another. Some app developers, for example, considerately place an @ symbol on the main keyboard when you’re prompted to enter an email address. Small touches such as this add up to huge savings in frustration and time over the life of your iPhone.

Eschew accuracy

Perhaps the most useful keyboarding tip of all is this: don’t strive for accuracy. If you spend time trying to ensure you hit the exact key, it’ll not only take you longer to type text, you’re also quite likely to make more mistakes, given the size of the phone’s keyboard. If, on the other hand, you type fairly rapidly, the iPhone’s smart software will step in and correct the vast majority of your mistakes.

Two things make this possible: an extensive, auto-correcting spelling dictionary and context-sensitive key resizing. The latter is particularly nifty. Although the letters on the keyboard look like they occupy the same area, the landing zone for each key grows bigger or smaller depending on the letters you’ve already typed. So, if you’ve typed ‘blac’ the landing zone for the letter ‘k’ will increase while those for the surrounding letters ‘j’ and ‘l’ grow smaller. This happens invisibly, but it does happen. As a result, you don’t need to worry too much about precise finger placement; just type away as quickly as possible and let your phone do the work.

If you make any mistakes, tap and hold to display the magnifying glass, slide your finger to the offending word, lift your finger and tap Select, then type the correct word.

TIP: Make sure you’ve adjusted all the keyboard settings to your liking: Tap Settings -> General -> Keyboard. You can switch auto-capitalisation of sentences on or off; spelling checking and auto-correction on or off; enable Caps Lock (use by double-tapping the Shift key); and the fullstop shortcut (double-tap the Spacebar to insert a fullstop).

Slide

The keyboard really contains four keyboards: lowercase alphabetic; uppercase alphabetic accessed via the Shift key; numeric accessed via the 123 key; and special characters accessed via the #+= key from the numeric keyboard.

To insert, say, a comma, you normally do this:

  1. Tap 123 to display the numeric keyboard;
  2. Tap ,;
  3. Tap ABC to redisplay the alphabetic keyboard.

Instead of three-tapping, you can insert a comma simply by tapping the 123 key and, without lifting your finger, sliding to the comma.

Use the same sliding technique to insert any character from the numeric keyboard and use a similar technique to access special characters from the numeric keyboard. You can also slide onto the Shift key then to any letter to enter a single uppercase letter. If you accidentally press a key you don’t want to type, simply slide off the keyboard

iPhone special charactersHold

As well as the letters and characters displayed on the keyboards, you can insert a bunch of other characters by holding particular keys for a second. Tap and hold A, for example, to display a list of accented characters, then slide onto the character you want to insert it.

The accompanying table lists all the characters available by holding other keys. In addition, some apps let you quickly enter top-level domain names by holding down the fullstop (period) key. For example, when you’re using the Mail app, tap-and-hold fullstop to enter .com, .net, .edu, .org and .us.

So, where’s the .au domain shortcut, the .co.uk shortcut, or shortcuts for other country domains? You need to make sure you have your region set to the appropriate country. For Australia: Tap Settings -> General -> International -> Region Format -> Australia. As well as setting your region to Australia, make sure your keyboard is set to British English; that way, you won’t have to deal with words being auto-corrected to the US spelling: Tap Settings -> General -> International -> Keyboards -> Add New Keyboard –> English (UK). With the keyboard set to UK and the Australian region enabled, holding down fullstop will let you enter .eu and .co.uk in addition to the standard domains.

Note that if you have more than one keyboard enabled, you can enter a character from either keyboard by tapping the globe icon which appears on your keyboard, or hold the globe icon and select a keyboard to be the default for the current editing session. To change the default keyboard permanently, use the Keyboards list in Settings -> General -> International -> Keyboards.