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Operating the Touchscreen

You can zoom in and out, scroll through lists, drag items here and there, and even type messages. Amazingly, the touchscreen requires no external hardware to do all this. You don't need a stylus or digital pen, and you don't need to attach anything to the iPhone. Instead, the touchscreen requires just your finger (or, for some operations, a couple of fingers).

Navigating the touchscreen

There are a few maneuvers that you need to be familiar with to successfully use the touchscreen in all its glory. Take some time to try these out now.

  • Tap. This means that you use your finger to quickly press and release the screen where desired. This gesture is what you use to initiate just about any action on the iPhone. This opens applications, activates options, enters text boxes, and much more.
  • Double-tap. This is what it sounds like: two quick taps with your finger. In applications such as Photos or Safari, it zooms in on images or chunked parts of web pages. A second double-tap zooms back out.
  • Swipe and flick. To swipe means to drag your finger across the screen. You use this technique to scroll through lists, drag items to different spots, and unlock the iPhone. Flicking is just an exaggerated swipe. This rapidly scrolls through lists. Flick your finger up and down (or sometimes left and right) on the screen and the iPhone rapidly scrolls through the list. The faster the flick, the faster the scroll. Touch the screen to stop the scrolling process.
  • Spread and pinch. You use these techniques to zoom in on or out of the screen. To spread means to move two fingers apart, and you use it to zoom in; to pinch means to move two fingers closer together, and you use it to zoom out. This is especially useful when viewing web pages because the text is often too small to read. Spread to zoom in on the text making it readable and pinch to return to the full screen for easy scrolling and navigation.

Typing on the keyboard

You can type on your iPhone, although don't expect to pound out the prose as easily as you can on your computer. The on-screen keyboard (see Figure below) is a bit too small for rapid and accurate typing, but the iPhone does typing better than any other touchscreen phone out there.

On-Screen Keyboard

To use the keyboard, tap into an area that requires text input. The keyboard appears. Tap the keys that you want to enter. As you touch the keys, a magnified version of the letter pops up. If you touch the wrong key, slide your finger over to the correct one. The keyboard does not enter a key until your finger comes off the screen.

Special keys

The keyboard has a few specialty keys that allow you to do some tricks:

  • Shift. This key is a little upward pointing arrow. Tap this once to engage shift. The key glows white and the next letter you type will be a capital letter. The Shift key returns to normal automatically.
  • 123. Tap this key to display the numeric keyboard, which includes numbers and most punctuation marks. The key then changes to ABC. Tap this to return to the standard keyboard.
  • #+=. This key appears within the numeric keyboard. Tap this to enter yet another keyboard that contains more punctuation marks as well as a few symbols that aren't used very frequently.
  • Backspace. This key is shaped like a backward arrow with an X inside of it. This deletes at three different speeds. The first speed deletes in response to a single tap. This deletes just a single letter. The second speed deletes in response to being held. If you hold the delete key it begins moving backward through letters and won't stop after a single letter. The third speed kicks in if you hold the delete key long enough. This deletes entire words.
  • Return. This key moves to the next line.

Editing text

Everyone asks me how you're supposed to move throughout the text in order to edit it. The only obvious option is to delete all the way back to your error, which is impractical to say the least. The solution is, of course, in the touchscreen, which enables you to zoom in on the specific section of text you want to edit. Follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold your finger on the line you want to edit. iPhone displays the text inside a magnifying glass, and within that text you see the cursor.
  2. Slide your finger along the line. As you slide, the cursor moves through the text in the same direction.
  3. When the cursor is where you want to begin editing, remove your finger.

Using the suggestion feature

If you mistype a word, the iPhone provides a suggestion in a little bubble underneath the misspelled word. To accept the suggestion, tap the spacebar or any punctuation. To ignore it, tap the suggested word bubble on the screen. This helps save time when you use apostrophes. Leave the apostrophe out and the iPhone recommends the correct word. For example, if you type shell, the iPhone suggests she'll because that's a legitimate word as well. If she'll is what you want, accept the suggestion (again, by tapping the spacebar or any punctuation); otherwise, tap the suggestion to retain shell.

The suggestion feature also shows up with unfinished words. The iPhone guesses how you want to finish the word you are typing and provides a suggestion. If the suggestion is the word you want, accept it.

Selecting and copying noneditable text

How you select and then either cut or copy text depends on whether that text is editable or noneditable.

The simplest case is noneditable text, such as you get on a web page. In that scenario, when the text you want to use is on the screen, tap and hold anywhere within the text. After a second or two, your iPhone selects the text and displays blue selection handles around it. If necessary, tap and drag the selection handles to select more or less of the text, and then tap Copy.

Selecting and then cutting or copying editable text

If the text is editable, such as the text in a note, an e-mail message you're composing, or any text box, then the process is more involved, but only ever so slightly:

  1. Tap and hold anywhere within the text. After a short pause for effect, your iPhone displays a couple of buttons above the text.
  2. Tap one of the following options:
    • Select. Tap this button if you only want to select some of the text. Your iPhone displays blue selection handles around the word you tapped.
    • Select All. Tap this button if you prefer to select all the text. The iPhone displays the buttons; if you don't need to adjust the selection, skip to Step 4.
  3. Tap and drag the selection handles to select the text you want to work with. The iPhone displays a new set of buttons above the text.
  4. Tap the action you want iPhone to take with the text:
    • Cut. Tap this button to remove the text and store it in the iPhone's memory.
    • Copy. Tap this button to store a copy of the text in the iPhone's memory.

Pasting text

With your text cut or copied and residing snugly in the iPhone's memory, you're ready to paste the text. If you want to paste the text into a different app, open that app. Position the cursor where you want the text to appear, tap the cursor, and then tap Paste. Your iPhone dutifully adds the cut or copied text.

Copying and pasting a photo If you want to make a copy of a photo, such as an image shown on a web page, the process is more or less the same as copying noneditable text: 1. Tap and hold the photo. After a second or two, your iPhone displays a pop-up menu of image options. 2. Tap Copy. The iPhone copies the photo into its memory. 3. Open the app where you want the copy of the photo to appear. 4. Position the cursor where you want the photo to appear, and then tap the cursor. 5. Tap Paste. The iPhone pastes the photo.

Undoing a paste

The addition of the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands makes the iPhone feel even more like a computer. That's good, but it also means that you can also make the same pasting errors that you can with your regular computer. For example, you might paste the text or photo in the wrong spot, or once you've performed the paste you might realize that you selected the wrong data.

Tap Undo Paste to reverse your most recent paste, and then move on with your life.