Academic Technology @ Palomar College

iPad Typing Tips

If you are new to the iPad typing experience, or old but too lazy to ever have read the product guide, this post is for you.  In it I will review some of the more useful typing tips I have discovered.

General Keyboard Settings

First, at the settings level, you control keyboard settings (as much control as is possible, that is) by going to Settings > General > Keyboard.  From that screen you can toggle on/off Auto-Capitalization, Auto-Correction (you know, those hilarious word corrections where the iPad insists it knows better than you), Spell check, Caps Lock enabling, and the period “.” shortcut (i.e., pressing double space bar to insert a period, typically at end of sentence.  If you type in other languages, you can also add an International Keyboard from this control.  Here are the default settings for the keyboard:

iPad Keyboard Settings


As you can see from the settings above, Auto-Capitalization and Enable Caps Lock are on by default.  First characters of a sentence, or simply first characters after a period-space combination will be capitalized.  Changing this setting to Off will suppress this behavior.  A blue outlined arrow on the shift key indicates that this feature is active.

iPad keyboard shift key

Tapping the shift key once in this condition turns off capitalization, and the arrow becomes black.  With capitalization turned off, tapping the shift key once turns the arrow solid blue and turns capitalization on for first letters, as described above.  Tapping it twice rapidly turns the entire key solid blue with a white arrow, meaning CAPS LOCK is turned on (provided you have not disabled this effect in the keyboard settings).  After turning on CAPS LOCK all letters typed will be capitalized until you tap the shift key a single time to turn it off.

When the shift key is in lowercase mode, you can also press your finger down on the shift key and slide to a letter.  Your iPad will respond with a capital letter but leave the keyboard in lowercase mode.


Love it or hate it.  Turn it on or off depending on your tastes.  On balance auto-correction is so useful that I leave it on, even though it sometimes makes outrageously wrong suggestions.  Here’s how it works:

Just start typing.  For example, if you need to type a contraction, just type it without the apostrophe” “dont.”  A little word bubble will appear beneath what you typed with the correct form in it: “don’t.”  Hit the space bar while this little bubble is visible and it will replace the word you typed.

This works for many non-contracted words too, of course, just like on your iPhone.  If you are a slow typist (and who isn’t on an on-screen, smaller than life-sized keyboard) auto-correct will suggest words before you have finished typing them.  Tapping the space bar inserts the full word, assuming your iPad guesses correctly.  This can often be helpful, but once in a while is laughably wrong.

This is closely related to spell checking.  In fact if you turn off auto-correct in the keyboard settings panel spell checking is automatically turned off.  It can be turned back on independently, however.  If you misspell a word and press the space bar (without accepting a possible auto-correct suggestion) a dotted red underline appears beneath the word.  Tap the word and a set of suggestions will appear above the offending word.  Tap the correct version and it will replace the misspelled word.


A related usage is to quickly double tap a correctly spelled word.  The iPad selects the word and offers the usual Cut | Copy | Paste options but adds “Replace…” which is a simple thesaurus of sorts that will suggest possible word replacements.

word replace

Apostrophe and Double Quotes

The default qwerty keyboard has only two symbolic keys.

qwerty symbol keys

But they do double duty.  If you press and hold either of these keys the apostrophe and double quotes characters will appear.  Sliding up to the apostrophe or double quote character will insert them.  A cooler technique is to simply flick up on either of these keys.  Flicking will also insert the apostrophe or double quotes.  Practice this s little.  It is a quick touch and slide action that will save you significant time.

Numbers and Common Symbols

To type numbers and common symbols, press the .?123 key on the qwerty keyboard layout.

symbol 123 key

The keyboard layout will change to display numeric and common symbols.

Symbol Keyboard 1

Entering numbers is straightforward, though if you press and hold the zero key a choice between zero and the degree symbol will appear.  Sliding your finger to the degree symbol will insert it.

degree symbol

Other keys that provide optional input on this keyboard layout are the hyphen key, the dollar sign key (alternate currency symbols), the ampersand (section symbol), the period key (ellipsis), the question mark key (upside-down question mark), ditto the exclamation point key, the apostrophe key (alternate single quote marks and grave), and the double quote key (several alternative symbols).

If this set of symbols is insufficient or inconvenient, press the #+= key to see another layout.

symblos 2 key

You will see another symbols keyboard:

symbols 2 keyboard layout

This keyboard repeats a few of the more common symbols available by pressing and holding keys on the first symbols keyboard layout, but has some unique ones too, like the square and curly brackets symbols, the tilde, angle brackets, and so on.  Alternate symbols display when you press and hold the % key, the period key (same as the symbols 1 layout), the ?, !, ‘ and ” keys.

From any layout press the dismiss keyboard key to make it disappear.

dismiss keyboard key

Diacritical Marks and Special Alternative Characters

For those who need diacritical marks, use the Qwerty layout but press and hold characters to be marked.  For example, the E key:


Simply slide to the appropriately marked character and it will be inserted.  Keys that have alternative diacriticals are E, Y, U, I, O, A, S, L, Z, C, and N.  For non-western language symbols you may have to load one of the many international keyboards available in the General Settings area.

Now, if there were only a key that would transform my hooves into dextrous digits…


One Response to “ “iPad Typing Tips”

  1. Kalyna says:

    Thanks, Terry! I figured out some of this on my own, but I”ll confess that I was one of those people who was too lazy to read everything in the product guide. This helps a lot!

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