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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Entering Text

To enter text on your Android device, you can use the onscreen keyboard, a hardware keyboard, or dictation. You can also enter emoticons to liven up your messages or documents.

Using the Keyboard and Spelling Correction

The most straightforward means of entering text in a document is the onscreen keyboard. Android automatically displays the onscreen keyboard when you touch a text field in a document or the user interface. The keyboard has a letters layout, a symbols and numbers layout, and an extended symbols layout.

Here’s what you need to know about the keyboard:

  • Switch among layouts. Tap the ?123 button to display the symbols and numbers layout. From there, tap the ABC button to return to the letters layout or tap the =\< button to display the extended symbols layout. From the extended symbols layout, tap the ABC button to display the letters layout or tap the ?123 button to return to the symbols and numbers layout.

  • Type numbers from the letters keyboard. The top row of letters on the letters layout has a number in the upper-right corner, from 1 on the Q key to 0 (zero) on the P key. To type the number, tap and hold the appropriate key until the pop-up panel appears, and then lift your finger. Some of the pop-up panels also contain alternate characters (discussed next), but the numbers are the default characters.
  • Type alternate characters. The vowel keys, some letter keys (such as N, S, and C), and many of the symbol keys give access to pop-up panels containing alternate characters. For example, tapping and holding the A key opens a pop-up panel with alternate characters such as ã and æ (see Figure 1.5); and tapping and holding the asterisk key gives you access to star, dagger, and double-dagger symbols. So when you need to type a character that does not appear on any of the keyboard layouts, tap and hold the key for the base character, and then tap the character on the pop-up panel.

    FIGURE 1.5

    FIGURE 1.5 Tap and hold a character to display a pop-up panel of alternate characters, and then tap the character that you want to enter.

  • Type real fractions. To type a real fraction, display the symbols and numbers layout, tap and hold the number key for the first part of the fraction, and then tap the fraction on the pop-up menu that appears. For example, tap and hold the 1 key to type 1/3, or tap and hold the 5 key to type 5/8.
  • Type quickly with Gesture Typing. The Gesture Typing feature enables you to type words by sliding your finger from one letter to another over the keyboard without removing it. At the end of a word, you can either swipe over the spacebar to type a space and continue swiping the next word, or lift your finger off the screen and then put it back down to start the next word.

  • Using suggestions. By default, the Google Keyboard displays suggestions as you type in the area above the top row of the keyboard. The suggestion with three dots below it is the default one; you can enter this word by tapping the spacebar or a punctuation key (such as the period key). You can enter another suggestion by tapping it. To see the full list of suggestions, tap and hold any of the suggestions until the pop-up panel appears (see Figure 1.6).

    FIGURE 1.6

    FIGURE 1.6 Tap and hold a suggestion to display the full list of suggestions. You can then tap a suggestion to insert it in the document.

Configuring Text Correction

Android’s Text Correction feature automatically corrects words and phrases you type that appear to be wrong. You can control how aggressively Text Correction corrects text, so if you find Android changing too many words and phrases that you actually want to use, try turning down the degree of correction.

Here’s how to configure Text Correction:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap the Language & Input button in the Personal section to display the Language & Input screen.
  3. Tap the Settings button (the sliders icon) to the right of the Google Keyboard button in the Keyboard & Input Methods section. The Google Keyboard Settings screen appears. Figure 1.7 shows the Text Correction section of this screen.

    FIGURE 1.7

    FIGURE 1.7 Use the controls in the Text Correction section of the Google Keyboard Settings screen to configure automatic corrections, correction suggestions, and add-on dictionaries.

  4. Check the Auto-Capitalization check box in the General section if you want Android to automatically capitalize the first letter of each sentence or new paragraph.

  5. Check the Block Offensive Words check box if you want Android to suppress words that some people may find offensive.
  6. Tap the Auto-Correction button to display the Auto-Correction dialog box, and then tap the option button for the degree of correction you want: Off, Modest, Aggressive, or Very Aggressive. You’ll probably want to experiment with the Modest and Aggressive settings to see which suits you best.
  7. To control whether Android displays correction suggestions, tap the Show Correction Suggestions button, and then tap the appropriate button in the Show Correction Suggestions dialog box: Always Show, Show in Portrait Mode, or Always Hide.

  8. Check the Personalized Suggestions check box if you want Google Keyboard to learn words and phrases from what you type. Personalized suggestions are usually helpful.

Adding Words to Your Personal Dictionary

Android enables you to maintain a personal dictionary containing words that are correctly spelled but do not appear in Android’s dictionary. By adding words to your personal dictionary, you can prevent Android from querying them. You can also create a shortcut for any word or phrase so that you can enter it by typing the shortcut.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap the Language & Input button in the Personal section to display the Language & Input screen.
  3. Tap the Personal Dictionary button to display the Personal Dictionary screen.
  4. Tap the + button to display an input screen.
  5. Type the word or phrase on the upper line.
  6. Tap the Shortcut field and type any shortcut you want to use for the word or phrase.
  7. Tap the Back button to finish adding the word.

Entering Text Using a Hardware Keyboard

The stock Android onscreen keyboard is easy enough to use, but very few people are able to touch-type on it, especially on a phone rather than a tablet. So if you need to type large amounts of text on your Android device, you should think seriously about connecting a hardware keyboard to it.

You can connect a wide variety of keyboards via either Bluetooth or a cable. Bluetooth is handy, especially if you get a Bluetooth keyboard built into a case that fits your device. See Chapter 4, “Connecting to Networks and Devices,” for instructions of connecting Bluetooth devices.

But if you simply need to enter a lot of text quickly, any regular USB keyboard will do the trick as long as your device supports the USB On-the-Go standard. Get a USB A female to micro USB B male adapter cable that also supports USB OTG, plug the keyboard into the USB female port, and plug the micro USB jack into your device.

After connecting a hardware keyboard, you can use the keyboard shortcuts explained in Table 1.2 to navigate through text.

Table 1.2 Keyboard Shortcuts for Hardware Keyboards

Keyboard Shortcut

What It Does

Left arrow

Moves the insertion point one character to the left.

Right arrow

Moves the insertion point one character to the right.

Up arrow

Moves the insertion point up one line.

Down arrow

Moves the insertion point down one line.

Ctrl+Left arrow

Moves the insertion point to the beginning of the current word (if the insertion point is within a word) or to the beginning of the previous word (if it is not).

Ctrl+Right arrow

Moves the insertion point to the beginning of the next word.

Alt+Left arrow

Moves the insertion point to the beginning of the line.

Alt+Right arrow

Moves the insertion point to the end of the line.

Alt+Up arrow

Moves the insertion point to the beginning of the document or text field.

Alt+Down arrow

Moves the insertion point to the end of the document or text field.


Deletes the current line.


Selects all the content of the document or the active field.


Copies the selection (if there is one) or the entire document (if not).


Cuts the selection (if there is one) or the entire docu-ment (if not).


Pastes the most recent Clipboard item.

Entering Text Using Dictation

Typing is the standard way of entering text, but you may be able to enter text more quickly—and accurately— by using the Google Voice Typing feature.

Google Voice Typing may already be set up on your phone or tablet. If so, you’re good to go, but you may want to set up your input languages or install offline speech recognition.

Follow these steps to set up and configure Google Voice Typing:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap the Language & Input button in the Personal section to display the Language & Input screen.
  3. Check the Google Voice Typing check box.
  4. Tap the Settings button on the right of the Google Voice Typing button to display the Google Voice Typing Settings screen.
  5. If you want to select input languages, tap the Choose Input Languages button and work on the Choose Input Languages screen.
  6. Check the Block Offensive Words check box if you want Google Voice Typing to censor your input.
  7. Tap the Offline Speech Recognition button to display the Download Languages screen. This screen has three tabs: Installed, All, and Auto-Update. The Installed tab appears first.
  8. Review your current languages on the Installed tab.
  9. If you need to install another language for offline speech recognition, tap the All tab, and then tap the language you want to download and install.
  10. Tap the Auto-Update tab to reveal its controls, and then tap the option button for the way you want to update. Your choices are Do Not Auto-Update Languages; Auto-Update Languages At Any Time; Data Charges May Apply; and Auto-Update Languages over Wi-Fi Only.

After you’ve turned on Google Voice Typing, tap the microphone button to the left of the spacebar on the onscreen keyboard to start dictation.

Entering Emoji

The Google Keyboard provides a large selection of emoticons that you can enter in your messages and documents. To access the emoticons, tap and hold the Enter key at the lower-right corner of the onscreen keyboard, and then tap the smiley-face icon on the pop-up panel.

With the emoticons displayed (see Figure 1.8), tap the Tab button for the category you want to view, and then scroll right to see further characters. Tap the Recents tab button (the leftmost button, with the clock icon) to see the characters you’ve used recently. Tap the ABC button to return to the letters keyboard.


FIGURE 1.8 You can easily enter emoticons in your messages and documents by using the Google Keyboard.

Using Alternative Keyboards

If you find the Google Keyboard difficult to use, you can install another keyboard that suits you better. You’ll find a wide variety of alternative keyboards in the Play Store. Here are three alternative keyboards to consider:

  • Hacker’s Keyboard (free) is a highly customizable keyboard that includes keys you normally find on hardware keyboards, such as Ctrl and Tab, but not on Android keyboards. This keyboard is great for remote access to computers.
  • SwiftKey is a trace keyboard (like the Gesture Typing feature on the Google Keyboard) with strong predictive text features. Download the SwiftKey Trial app to give the keyboard a spin and see if you want to pay for the full version.
  • Smart Keyboard Pro ($2.75) is a customizable keyboard that includes skins for different looks and optional transparency. You can customize the key height separately for portrait and landscape orientations; hide the period and comma keys; and switch among Normal mode, T9 mode, and Compact mode. Smart Keyboard Pro includes a calibration tool that you can run to improve accuracy if you find you tend to tap the wrong keys. Download the free Smart Keyboard Trial to test; you can then pay for the upgrade to Pro if you like it.
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