Type Faster on iOS
Have you ever wanted a way to speed up your typing on iOS? Have you felt frustrated, or possibly bogged down with typing on the iOS keyboard? Have you tried Braille Screen Input, and found it frustrating as well? If the answer to these questions is a yes, there is a solution. It’s called FlickType. It is a continuation of the Fleksy keyboard, which has been reworked specifically for the blind and visually impaired. If you haven’t heard of Fleksy, or haven’t had the opportunity to test it, fear not, and simply read on as all shall be explained.
What is FlickType?
FlickType allows you to input text as if you were typing on a physical qwerty keyboard, but without the constraints of needing to hit every key accurately. It does this by selecting words based off of the position of each tap on the screen, not necessarily the letter that was tapped. There is support for entering letters, numbers, symbols, and limited emoji support. The app is very much still in development, and is only improving with time. Since FlickType uses a prediction engine to offer suggestions based off of taps you enter, there is also dictionary support, to add your own custom words. The app also offers a fair few settings for tailoring it to your need.
How to use FlickType
Let’s say you wanted to type the word, ‘golf’, ordinarily on iOS, you would either need to explore the screen with one finger held down, or flick left and right through all the letters. If exploring, if you also have the touch typing mode on, you can lift your finger over a letter to enter it, if this is not on, you would have to lift, then double tap. You can take advantage of iOS’s predictions to make the process easier and a bit faster, but let’s see how the process differs when using FlickType.
FlickType does not require, or even necessarily encourage that you try to be 100% accurate with every tap. In fact, to get the best speed when using it, its best that you simply try to be close, and try not to care about being completely accurate. The method of entering text is simple, all you do is tap the screen where you think each letter is in the word you are trying to type, then, when you’re done, flick right. You don’t use a finger to move among the letters and lift to type (though you can, more on this later). When you flick right after typing a word, you’ll be presented with the word FlickType thinks you meant to type. Don’t worry if it isn’t the word you meant, but if it is that word, simply begin typing the next word in your sentence. If FlickType did not predict the correct word, you can flick down to access each of the suggestions in a list of words that you might have typed given the taps you entered. Back to the golf example. This author has typed out the word, but intentionally tapped nearer the, ‘h’, than the, ‘g’. Still, FlickType presented, ‘Golf’ as the first suggestion, capitalized because it is the first word in a sentence, still, let’s review the possible alternatives. ‘hong, gulf, hold, gold, holy, find, dong, hung, bing, bum, fun’, and so on. Once you learn to use FlickType, more often than not, the word you want will either be the first suggestion, or within the top three choices. This makes typing long emails, notes, and other text much faster and more productive.
Going on this way, where you tap where you think each letter is, flicking right at the end of a word, and typing a new word if the first suggestion is correct, and swiping down through the suggestions if it isn’t, you can enter a full sentence. At the end of a sentence, rather than typing another word, simply flick right again and you’ll get several choices for punctuation. You can flick down through them, and flick up back to the top of the list. You also have the option to flick up further to access emoji, which you can add in the app’s settings’s. But what if you entered a word incorrectly, or none of the suggestions matched what you wanted to type, simply flick left to delete that word and try again. The same can be said if you are typing a word, and you realized that you either typed too many letters, or made another mistake. The difference is that VoiceOver will announce either, ‘deleted’, or ‘cleared taps’.
You can make the next letter a capital by two finger single tapping before you tap the letter. A two finger double tap will switch to numbers, with some symbols below the main row, and from there, a two finger single tap will switch to another symbols keyboard. When done entering numbers and symbols, you can just flick right the same as normal text, and the keyboard will switch back to letters mode.
Manual Text Entry
There will be times that you will need to manually input text. That is to say, select each letter of a word as if you were typing it on the iOS keyboard. You will need to do this when FlickType doesn’t offer the word you wish to type as a suggestion. The process is simple, Press and hold on part of the screen where the keyboard is, which will be approximately the lower third. After a short delay, VoiceOver will announce a letter, and you will hear a click. Simply move your finger around the screen and lift it when the letter you wish to enter has been announced. Repeat this process for each letter in the word, then flick right when done. At each letter, it is important when placing your finger to keep it still for the brief delay, so FlickType doesn’t interpret it as a gesture. You also don’t want to prematurely lift your finger, or it might be interpreted as a tap, which isn’t what you want in this case. When manually entering a word, it is added to the custom words dictionary, so next time, you need not enter the word manually. Though, it is worth noting that this process doesn’t occur until FlickType is dismissed.
It is possible to edit text with FlickType. TO this end, there are two sets of gestures. Flicking left or right with two fingers will navigate left and right through the words you’ve typed, and the same with three fingers navigate by sentence. If you find a word that isn’t needed, or needs correcting, just flick left and re-enter it. When you’re done typing your message, note, email, post, etc. You can dismiss FlickType in two ways, flick up and hold to switch to the next keyboard, or flick down and hold to dismiss the keyboard altogether. Since there seems to be a bit of confusion on these gestures, let’s describe them. flick up means to place a finger on the screen, move it rapidly upward, then release that finger. A flick up and hold is much the same, place the finger, move it rapidly up, but instead of releasing, continue to leave the finger in place. After a short delay, this gesture will be interpreted, and the action will take place. This is the same for all flick and hold gestures.
How is FlickType Organized?
FlickType has two parts. A container app (their term for the actual app that you launch), and the system keyboard, which will have to be set up before it can be used for the first time. The container app is free to download, and has a demo tab where users can type text and copy it to paste into other places. The main screen contains instructions, and is recommended by this author to all FlickType users, as alas, this post does not contain the sum total of all knowledge needed to operate the app and its keyboard with maximum efficiency. The other tabs are for making custom dictionary entries, and settings. But that is for the user to explore at their leisure.
The System Keyboard
Let’s take this opportunity to clear one thing up, so its not a hindrance, or point of contention. The use of the system keyboard is not free, it is a subscription based service. The subscription costs $0.99 per month at the time of this writing. When I reached out to the developers, they were generous enough to respond. This is what they have to say regarding why they chose a subscription based service over a one-time fee.
As we have a developing product that we will be making considerable updates and improvements to, coupled with a small market, an ongoing subscription model is the best way to ensure that the project is sustainable and will be around for a long time. This, as well as the fact that we want to ensure everyone is paying for what they’re using and not paying a one time purchase for a product that they don’t use a year or two down the road, we feel that a subscription is best for everyone. That being said, things are not set in stone as we are going to be fluid and adaptable to the circumstances.
When you get your app, you will have to go through the upgrade process to get access to the system keyboard. There is a tab complete with instructions on how to install and use it, as well as an upgrade button along the top right.
Using the System Keyboard
If you want the keyboard to show up all the time, what you will want to do is reorder it to the top of all the other keyboards. Instructions as to how to do this are included within the app. After you give full access and enable the keyboard, its best to restart the phone. Now, when you enter any edit box, FlickType should pop up rather than your normal keyboard. If it doesn’t, you can access it with iOS’s ‘Next Keyboard’ option which is at the bottom row, left hand side. You can either keep activating that until FlickType comes around, or you can double tap and hold, then drag up to get to it. Once its up, just type as described by the steps laid out earlier in this post, and more importantly, as described in the instructions inside the app.
The FlickType experience is great. There is a learning curve to using it, and using it well, but once you get past that, you will be typing quicker than you ever could with the iOS keyboard. The main point to typing quickly using FlickType is to not get hung up over typing accurately, letting the prediction engine do what it was designed to do and by doing this, you will have a smoother workflow as you type. Your words will be in the first three suggestions most of the time, and as you get better with it, you’ll find that often, your word is the first one. When this happens, typing feels quite natural.
There are some frustrations with the app, but it is very much still in development. These are usually minor, such as typing in a word three or so times,not having it be recognized, to have to go back and type it in manually. The pros of using the app so outweigh the cons, however, that I can be confident you’ll love it.