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How Apple could improve typing on the iPad

Ted Landau | May 3, 2013
When it comes to my iPad, I fear I'm like the proud-but-overbearing parent to a very talented child. I continue to be impressed by the capabilities of my iPad. I praise the device's merits to everyone I know. I can no longer recall how I got along without an iPad. And yet ... I keep wanting more. "You're a wonderful kid, iPad, but you could be better. Couldn't you try just a bit harder?"

More often, perhaps because I'm focusing on the keyboard, rather than on the text area, I don't always notice each autocorrect pop-up and instead keep typing away. As a result, unwanted corrections automatically replace what I typed. By the time I pause and check over what I've written, there may be several such errors. I now have to go back (using the loupe tool!) and separately fix each one. Making matters worse, I may never notice some miscorrections and leave them in place.

I can imagine a few ways to prevent all of this. The most obvious one is to disable autocorrect, via the toggle in the Keyboard section of the Settings app. However, this prevents autocorrect and autocompletion from working in those situations where it would be an advantage.

A better choice might be to have a single tap of the backspace key dismiss the autocorrect pop-up, rather than delete a letter. An autocorrect attempt would not appear again until after you tap the space bar.

Another solution would be a compromise, a sort of semi-automatic correction, where the autocorrect pop-up appears when iOS suspects a misspelling--just as it does now. The difference is that you tap the pop-up to make the replacement, not to avoid it. This means that if you ignore the pop-up and tap the space bar, no changes are made. Suspected misspellings could still be indicated by dotted lines under the words. Which option you prefer would depend upon whether you more often accept or reject automatic corrections.

Customize the keyboard

Suppose you want to type the plus (+) symbol--you won't find it on iOS's initial keyboard display. To get it to it, you must tap one of the .?123 keys that straddle the space bar, which brings up the separate numeric keyboard. Unfortunately, the + symbol is still not accessible there; instead, you have to tap one of the #+= keys to bring up a third keyboard, one that at last includes a + key.

If you often need to access the third keyboard, this can become tiresome. Apple could improve matters by replacing one of the .?123keys with a #+= key. Then you could go to either of the secondary keyboards with one tap.

Even better, a redesigned iOS keyboard could include an option to add a thin row of user-definable keys at the top of the keyboard. Users could set these to be whatever characters, or combination of characters (such as ".com"), that they use most often.

Bottom line

The changes I am advocating are hardly earthshaking. In fact, if the bulk of your iOS typing consists of brief bursts of text, you may feel these changes are almost too trivial. However, any time you need to pause your typing and move your hands from the keyboard, whether to use the loupe tool or to tap a pop-up selection, you are slowed down a bit. The more time you spend on such off-keyboard tasks, the more you're slowed down. If you frequently need to perform these actions, you're slowed down a lot. That's why If you use an iPad to work on multiparagraph documents--or any similar productivity task--these changes could make a significant difference.

 

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