Tips for Typing on Your Android Tablet

By Dan Gookin

Typing should be a basic activity. It should be. Typing on your Android tablet’s touchscreen keyboard can be, well, touchy. Use the advice below to get some basics and perhaps discover a few tricks.

Typing one character at a time

The onscreen keyboard is pretty easy to figure out: Tap a letter to produce the character. As you type, the key you touch is highlighted. The tablet may give a wee bit of feedback in the form of a faint click or vibration.

  • To type in all caps, press the Shift key twice. The Shift key may appear highlighted, the shift symbol may change color, or a colored highlight may appear on the key, all of which indicate that Shift Lock is on. Tap the Shift key again to turn off Shift Lock.

  • Above all, it helps to type slowly until you get used to the onscreen keyboard.

  • A blinking cursor on the touchscreen shows where new text appears, which is similar to how typing text works on a computer.

  • When you make a mistake, tap the Delete key to back up and erase.

  • When you type a password, the character you type appears briefly, but for security reasons, it’s then replaced by a black dot.

Accessing special characters

You’re not limited to typing only the symbols you see on the alphabetic keyboard. Tap the ?123 key to get access to additional keyboard layouts.

The number and symbol keyboards.

The number and symbol keyboards.

The symbol keys are accessed by tapping the key labeled ~[<, although some tablets label that key as Sym (for symbols).

Tablets with multiple sets of symbol keys let you page through them by tapping the 1/2 and 2/2 keys. Some tablets may have three sets of symbol keyboards, in which case the keys are labeled 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3.

To return to the standard alphabetic keyboard, tap the ABC key.

Some keys feature a pop-up palette from which you can choose variations on a character. The key is to long-press the key. Upon success, you see additional characters, similar to the ones shown for the A key.

Special-symbol pop-up palette-thing.

Special-symbol pop-up palette-thing.

Choose a character from the pop-up palette. If you choose the wrong character, tap the Delete key on the onscreen keyboard to erase the mistyped symbol.

You can use this long-press technique also to access the gray or tiny characters on the alphanumeric keyboard, such as the numeric keys.

Typing quickly by using predictive text

As you type, you may see a selection of word suggestions just above the keyboard. That’s the tablet’s predictive text feature. You can use this feature to greatly accelerate your typing.

Here, the word I was typed. The keyboard has suggested the words can, am, and just. Each of those is a logical choice for the next word after I. Additional choices are viewed by long-pressing the center word. Tap a word to insert it into your text.

Predictive text in action.

Predictive text in action.

When the desired word doesn’t appear, continue typing: The predictive text feature begins making suggestions, based on what you’ve typed so far. Tap the correct word when it appears.

Predictive text should be active for the Google Keyboard.

Typing without lifting your finger

If you’re really after typing speed, consider using gesture typing. It allows you to type words by swiping your finger over the onscreen keyboard, like mad scribbling but with a positive result.

Gesture typing works by dragging your fingers over letters on the keyboard. You can see how the word taco would be typed in this manner.

The gesture typing feature may not be active when you need to type a password or for specific apps. When it doesn’t work, type one letter at a time.

This feature isn’t on by default for certain Android tablets.