How to turn the iOS 12 keyboard into a trackpad on any iPhone or iPad

Posted:
in iOS
One of the potentially bothersome aspects of iOS is how hard it can be to tap your cursor exactly where you want it when typing or trying to copy or paste media. It's relatively easy to get around the issue, and with iOS 12, the solution is no longer limited to 3D Touch devices or multi-finger gestures.

iOS 12 trackpad


This isn't strictly a new feature in iOS 12, but given the volume of emails we've gotten about it, coupled with forum discussions mentioning it, we thought we'd bring it up again.

If your device has 3D Touch -- which includes most iPhones since 2015's iPhone 6s -- you can hard press the keyboard whenever it's present onscreen, turning it into a makeshift trackpad. If you have an iPhone SE or iPhone XR with iOS 12 -- both of which lack 3D Touch -- you can now long-press the spacebar to invoke the same trackpad.

Once the keyboard goes blank you can ease downward pressure to more easily track around the screen, but it's important that your finger stay in constant contact with the display surface. The cursor moves in relation to your finger and will perform an up, down, left or right scrolling operation when it hits a corresponding text box boundary. To set the cursor in its current position, simply release your finger from the screen.

To select text while in trackpad mode, move the cursor over a desired word and press firmly or long press to highlight. Release pressure and drag up or down to select larger blocks of text. Alternatively, performing two consecutive deep presses without moving your finger expands the selection to an entire sentence, while three presses selects a paragraph. The usual contextual menu with options for cut, copy, paste, font and define is invoked by tapping on the now highlighted text.

The spacebar method is available on all iOS devices, including iPads. iPad owners can also make use of an existing gesture in which they place two fingers on the keyboard simultaneously.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    Cool that’s one XR deal-breaker to cross of the list.
    cornchip
  • Reply 2 of 25
    That’s incredibly useful, thanks.

    Now, do you know a trick to get ‘undo’... 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 25
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,667member
    kayess said:
    That’s incredibly useful, thanks.

    Now, do you know a trick to get ‘undo’... 
    shake the phone. 
    racerhomie3kayesswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 25
    I love this, thanks. Now if you could just select text with the trackpad.... maybe in a future update. 
  • Reply 5 of 25
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 661member
    hexclock said:
    I love this, thanks. Now if you could just select text with the trackpad.... maybe in a future update. 
    You can with 3D touch, press to show the cursor, press again to begin selection. Move your finger and release to finish your selection, works great :smiley: 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 25
    macguimacgui Posts: 934member
    I wish there was a long press command to bring up cursor keys (SE here, no 3D Touch).

    Getting the cursor where I want it is a frequent pain, with the OS misinterpreting my efforts. I'll give this a try.
  • Reply 7 of 25
    elijahg said:
    hexclock said:
    I love this, thanks. Now if you could just select text with the trackpad.... maybe in a future update. 
    You can with 3D touch, press to show the cursor, press again to begin selection. Move your finger and release to finish your selection, works great :smiley: 

    Without 3D Touch, after long pressing the space button, while moving the cursor, tap keyboard with another finger. It changes the mode from moving to selecting. 
    lowededwookielolliverurashidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 25
    I love this. I often forget about it. Thanks for the reminder. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 25
    thttht Posts: 2,930member
    hexclock said:
    I love this, thanks. Now if you could just select text with the trackpad.... maybe in a future update. 
    For Force Touch phones:

    Mind that there is a difference between resting a fingertip on the glass (a rest) and pressing down on the glass (a press). 

    With the keyboard out, force touch on the keyboard, when you enter text cursor mode, move the cursor point to selected word, rest but not lift your finger off the keyboard, then press. The word then will be selected/highlighted. Then, you can continue to slide up or down to continue to select text in one direction.

    For iPads:

    Two finger rest on the keyboard. Move cursor point to the word you want. Double tap with two fingers. The word will be selected. Then, double finger slide left will move the left upper selection point left and up, and right and down after you’ve started left/up.  

    The right and bottom selection point can be moved similarly but with reverse movement. Double finger move right and down will move the selection point right and down. You can move it left and up after you’ve moved right and down first. 

    edit: Ninja’ed by Elijah
    edited October 20 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 25
    thttht Posts: 2,930member

    macgui said:
    I wish there was a long press command to bring up cursor keys (SE here, no 3D Touch).

    Getting the cursor where I want it is a frequent pain, with the OS misinterpreting my efforts. I'll give this a try.

    Yes. They really want to keep the system simple, but I really wish they would just add arrow keys to the iPad keyboard at least. The emoji and microphone keys are seriously in the wrong location. They should be in the top row where the word suggestions are. 

    Plus, they can just add a full featured trackpad mode by pressing the language key which switches keyboards already. 

    And oh, I really hope they finally add “Haptic Touch” to iPads. I would think a Taptic Engine to provide feedback for long presses, selection completion, rolodeck ticks, and other things would be great!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 25
    netroxnetrox Posts: 674member
    I never knew pressing again will select text! But it's awkward though, in order to do that, you cannot ever release finger after you press for cursor to appear, you have to press (without ever releasing) then press harder and it will select text. 
  • Reply 12 of 25
    spheric said:
    kayess said:
    That’s incredibly useful, thanks.

    Now, do you know a trick to get ‘undo’... 
    shake the phone. 
    Ah, I'd forgotten that old trick, thanks.  Invaluable tip.  (Though I'd definitely prefer an undo key...)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 25
    wrotaz said:
    elijahg said:
    hexclock said:
    I love this, thanks. Now if you could just select text with the trackpad.... maybe in a future update. 
    You can with 3D touch, press to show the cursor, press again to begin selection. Move your finger and release to finish your selection, works great :smiley: 

    Without 3D Touch, after long pressing the space button, while moving the cursor, tap keyboard with another finger. It changes the mode from moving to selecting. 
    Promoting this because I just tried it on my 6 Plus and it worked perfectly. Thanks mate.
    aaronsullivanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 25
    tht said:

    macgui said:
    I wish there was a long press command to bring up cursor keys (SE here, no 3D Touch).

    Getting the cursor where I want it is a frequent pain, with the OS misinterpreting my efforts. I'll give this a try.

    Yes. They really want to keep the system simple, but I really wish they would just add arrow keys to the iPad keyboard at least. The emoji and microphone keys are seriously in the wrong location. They should be in the top row where the word suggestions are. 

    Plus, they can just add a full featured trackpad mode by pressing the language key which switches keyboards already. 

    And oh, I really hope they finally add “Haptic Touch” to iPads. I would think a Taptic Engine to provide feedback for long presses, selection completion, rolodeck ticks, and other things would be great!

    That's actually what haptic feedback is *for*.  The whole idea is that when you tap a button you get a click back to let you know you've actually hit it-- the most important part of haptic feedback is when you *miss* a button and *don't* get the click-- it immediately gives you feedback that you missed the button.  Similarly, giving feedback that a long press was a long press and not a normal click (and so forth) would be very useful

    I wish that more engineers would realize this and code it appropriately.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 25

    netrox said:
    I never knew pressing again will select text! But it's awkward though, in order to do that, you cannot ever release finger after you press for cursor to appear, you have to press (without ever releasing) then press harder and it will select text. 
    It's not really any different to using a trackpad if you think about it other than the extra press to trigger the selection process. You still have to hold down the trackpad to select. It's neither rocket science nor overly complex and gets over a physical limitation of the hardware nicely.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 25
    phredphred Posts: 10member
    With an iPad mini 2,the only thing I have been able to do is move the cursor within the address bar.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    Thanks, great tips, didn’t know about this. I regularly read here and other sites and never knew. I will use this everyday.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 25
    JustAnotherLonelyVoiceJustAnotherLonelyVoice Posts: 6unconfirmed, member
    This has been around since copy and paste - what's all the fuss about? You've been able to move your cursor with your finger, tap to select words, then whole sentences... for what 5 updates?!  WTF people!?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 25
    This has been around since copy and paste - what's all the fuss about? You've been able to move your cursor with your finger, tap to select words, then whole sentences... for what 5 updates?!  WTF people!?
    This is different and better. Maybe you didn't read carefully enough, or just misunderstood. Using the entire keyboard area as a trackpad to move the cursor around is much less fiddly and much more precise than the old method.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 25
    I suggest this article get a refresh for clarity. It tries too hard to explain the processes for every type of device at once, but the comments, here, have done a better job of parsing out the different interactions necessary.

    Especially this bit by wrotaz needs to be included because I couldn't figure it out on my own and it's much more comfortable than using 3D force touches to do it.
    wrotaz said:
    Without 3D Touch, after long pressing the space button, while moving the cursor, tap keyboard with another finger. It changes the mode from moving to selecting. 

    edited October 21 williamlondonwatto_cobra
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