By Edward C. Baig, Bob LeVitus

Instead of a physical keyboard, several “soft” or “virtual” English-language keyboard layouts slide up from the bottom of the iPad screen, all variations on the alphabetical keyboard, the numeric and punctuation keyboard, and the more punctuation and symbols keyboard.

Indeed, the beauty of a software keyboard is that you see only the keys that are pertinent to the task at hand. The layout you see depends on the application. The keyboards in Safari differ from the keyboards in Notes. This figure displays the difference between the Notes (top) and Safari (bottom) keyboards.

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Before you consider how to actually use the keyboard, here’s a bit of the philosophy behind its so-called intelligence. Knowing what makes this keyboard smart can help you make it even smarter when you use it:

  • It has a built-in English dictionary that even includes words from today’s popular culture. It has dictionaries in other languages, too, automatically activated when you use a given international keyboard.

  • It adds your contacts to its dictionary automatically.

  • It uses complex analysis algorithms to predict the word you’re trying to type.

  • It suggests corrections as you type. It then offers you the suggested word just below the misspelled word. When you decline a suggestion and the word you typed is not in the iPad dictionary, the iPad adds that word to its dictionary and offers it as a suggestion if you mistype a similar word in the future.

    Remember to decline incorrect suggestions (by tapping the characters you typed as opposed to the suggested words that appear beneath what you’ve typed). This helps your intelligent keyboard become even smarter.

  • It reduces the number of mistakes you make as you type by intelligently and dynamically resizing the touch zones for certain keys. You can’t see it, but it is increasing the zones for keys it predicts might come next and decreasing the zones for keys that are unlikely or impossible to come next.