The Software Keyboard Is Not for Me

3 min read

As iPhone was the first of my devices I learned to use, touch was obviously the primary input method. It worked to send short messages and look up something in a browser, but nothing longer than that. I tried Siri, and it works from time to time. I can't rely on functionality which is unstable and you can't be sure that outcome will be as you wanted. Usually, I end up with double-checking the things that were processed by 'smart' assistent. In addition, often needed to change or correct the results.

Three Methods of Touch-Typing With VoiceOver

There are three options you can choose from to how you want to interact with the keyboard.

  • Standard Typing
  • Touch Typing
  • Direct Touch Typing

Standard Typing

The first one which is on by default involves that you swipe left or right on your keyboard, to find numbers, letters or symbols. While you swipe, VO will announce respectively which letter or symbol you have in focus now. To insert a letter, you need to double tap with one finger. Then VO will announce one more time which character was inserted to make sure that it was actually the correct character you looked after.

Also, if you didn't hear properly which letter it was, VO will announce the word which starts with this letter. For example, if you have 'w' in focus, if you wait a second, you will hear 'whisky'. Depends where you are on screen and which next character you need to insert, You can also randomly tap on screen and sometimes approximately hit the right area to avoid unnecessary extra swipe gestures. Let's say you are on 'b' and not interested to swipe hole way to 'o', you can try to speed up this process by tapping the top-right area of the keyboard.

This method is slowest, but is more safe for people who just beginning to learn how to use VoiceOver on their mobile devices.

Touch Typing

This second method is more interesting, but takes more time to implement. I haven't still learned this technique of typing because I prefer to type on a hardware keyboard instead.

As opposed to the first method, with Touch Typing you keep your finger on the screen and don't lift it until you find the character you need to enter. As long as, you remember the position of keys on your keyboard it will be a little faster to come to the result than the method above. After you lift the finger, VOiceOver will announce which letter was inserted.

As you can read, with this method you skip the double tap confirm process. It sounds like a small modification, but actually makes a big difference in user experience. On the other hand, it takes time to get used to this type of input.

Direct Touch Typing

Last which is accessible for them who have still some parts of sight. This input method acts like input when you have turned VoiceOver off. So basically VoiceOver is disabled, but only for the keyboard. If you depend on VoiceOver for navigation, but can still use your sight to type without sound feedback, this method will work for you.

Why I Still Prefer Hardware Keyboard

Many people who grown up with a smartphone can type on their software keyboards almost as quickly as someone who types fast on a hardware keyboard. Simply because most of us have a phone in the pocket or nearby anyway. Phones let us to type on the go and is an effective way of communication. Even before smartphone was a thing, with qwerty keyboard you could memorise how many times you needed to press on a button to get a specific letter.

Obviously, without sight it becomes more complicated to use touch input as the primary input method. Often to avoid frustration and save time, I grab a hardware keyboard and start to type right away.