How to Turn iPad’s Keyboard into a Joystick | When to Use Joystick Mode |  ios 9 Tip

Every year Apple releases the next big thing for ios, always in September. Each year they add a few new features and capabilities for the keyboard too. Some of the more memorable new keyboard improvements in recent years include:

  • ios 8  2014 was a huge year for Apple’s mobile keyboard.  This is the ios that finally opened up the keyboard source code to outside developers so that entirely new and different keyboards could be used in place of Apples.  Things like gesture typing and keyboard shortcuts really came into their own in 2014.

One Big Improvement in ios 9 is the Ability to Turn the Keyboard into a Joystick

Where this comes in extremely handy for me is while I’m typing longer documents or emails.  I make the same typing mistakes over and over…which isn’t a bad thing because Apple keyboards now have a unique way of learning and adapting to a users specific style of typing.

The more I type, the better the keyboard becomes at auto-correcting my errors.  Although, this behavior is somewhat odd in that it works better on some devices than it does on others.  Perhaps a detailed analysis of my Settings on all devices is in order.

But the new Joystick feature for me, has improved my typing productivity immensely…by speeding up my own corrections when auto corrections aren’t enough.

How to Engage Joystick Mode

(Some people refer to this as ‘2 Finger Slide mode’ instead)

It’s really simple to do actually.  You just need to place two fingers together anywhere on the keyboard, and all the keys become ‘immobilized’ by appearing to be ‘greyed out’.  That means you did it!  You are now able to move your fingers all around the Keyboard space, which moves the curser too.  You can glide the curser wherever you want it to be…quite precisely I should add!

An alternative method of engaging joystick mode is to just quickly tap with 2 fingers anywhere on the onscreen keyboard.  Not only does this engage the joystick, but it automatically selects the word that the curser was on at the time you tapped too.  For more information on this method look below for the section ‘The Hidden Joystick Shortcuts.’

Here’s my really quick YouTube video demonstrating how to engage the joystick.

iPad Pro Keyboard versus iPad Air 2

A Side-by-Side Keyboard Comparison between 2 iPads, the Pro (top) & Air 2

Joystick Mode Helps Me Fix Errors Which Arise Due to

My 2 Worst Recurring Typos:

Recently, my finger dexterity seems problematic.  Although it’s quite possible that Apple’s redesign of the keyboards is actually to blame.  I haven’t compared the overall size of the newest keyboard to say the ios 8 or even ios 7’s, before all the recent keyboard enhancements began.

But, regardless of the reason, this phenomenon is responsible for 2 frequent typos I’m constantly correcting.  The first is that I now miss the Space Bar…a lot.  I inadvertently hit the m key instead.  This adds one more item to my ever growing proofreading routine…deleting random m’s.

The 2nd is that I don’t readily reach the Shift key when I want to capitalize letters now.  Except in this instance, I inadvertently ‘depress’ the a key…so I have a lot of a’s to remove too, as well as an extra step that capitalizes words I’d intended to but didn’t.

Corrections which were once tedious (and time-consuming) are now fun, easy, and super quick with the new joystick!!!




Key Benefits of Joystick Mode

#1  Precision curser positioning within words

Precise control over curser placement is my favorite benefit of using joystick mode. Trying to position the curser inside a word exactly, where you need to place it can be exceedingly difficult (although this ease is dependant upon the app you’re using too.)   This is because the app you are using dictates exactly which keyboard features are available to you.

For example, I use Evernote a lot.  But one quirk of Evernote is that it’s nearly impossible to place the curser within the letters of a word.  Although even this ability varies depending upon which version of the specific app your are using too.  I’m a beta tester for EV, which means that I frequently change versions…much more often than others do I suspect. Yet infrequently,  for brief periods of time, I don’t experience this problem…than one day, out of the blue, the problem just appears again (always following an update but it took me a while to figure that out because I have so many ios devices in various stages of updating apps.)

#2  Fast selection for words, sentences and paragraphs

There’s a ‘hidden’ shortcut in joystick mode, which is also a great time saver.  The shortcut works like this.  With joystick mode engaged, if you place the curser on a word and tap once, that word is immediately selected.  If you tap twice, the whole sentence containing that word is selected.  If you tap 3 times, the entire paragraph is selected.

The ability to quickly select in these three different scenarios, rather than needing to accomplish this task manually by first selecting a word and then dragging the ‘blue dot handles’ around your desired capture target (this alone can be a frustrating endeavor,) saves me a lot of time!

The Hidden Joystick Shortcut

  • Tap once to select a word.
  • Tap tock to select a sentence
  • Tap 3 times to select a paragraph, block, or section of text

#3   Fast curser positioning anywhere on a page or within a document

As most people who type a lot on ios devices know, even ther mere act of positioning the curser somewhere can be difficult at times and extremely frustrating occasionally too.  Joystick mode bypasses all the frustration by allowing you to position the curser anywhere quickly and easily.

Bonus Tips

While researching this topic for my post I ran across this quick video tip which shows you how to turn an iPad or iPhone into a remote keyboard for a computer.

And another great YouTube video that reviews 9 of the best free keyboard apps for ios.

Here’s a good  YouTube video highlighting some of the best new features in ios 9.   If you fast forward to about the 10:30 (or 10 1/2 minutes from the beginning of the video) there’s a great demonstration o.f the hidden joystick shortcuts.

Please leave any comments or questions using the form below.


About vsajewel

Hi...I'm the author of 2 main blogs on WordPress...vsatips...where I write tech tips for mobile devices...primarily ios...2nd is vsatrends...where I write less about tech things and more about everything else. I also host a YouTube channel which I use to better illustrate some of the 'how to's' in my posts. I love everything about technology. Currently, my main interests/platforms are ios, Windows and Amazon Echo. Recently I decided we were spending way too much money with our local cable provider. So I decided to cut the cord. There is a definite learning curve, especially the antennae part, but we successfully did that and are now saving a boatload of money, so I write some about that. I also am extremely conscientious about security because of an event my family endured , so I write a lot about that too. Two sub-categories of security I tend to focus on are the password manager Dashlane and Hardware Firewalls. Last, I take a lot of notes and have been a beta tester for Evernote for many years. I love Evernote! In recent years Apple has beefed up Apple Notes a it’s become a fairly serious note long as its OK if you lose or mess up all your Apple note data. I write about those 2 note platforms primarily.
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