The Handwriting mode on iOS

iOS & iPadOS

How does the handwriting mode on iOS work?



Submitted by David on Monday, August 17, 2015

Well, it's kind of like it says on the tin.

You turn the rotor control to handwriting when you're in an edit field. Make sure you're editing in the field first by double-tapping it. Then, once handwriting mode is selected, you just write the letter s one at a time on the screen. It defaults to lower case. To add upper case, numbers and punctuation, swipe down with three fingers and it will change to each of the modes with each swipe. Swiping up with three fingers will go back through the options in the reverse order. E.g. to get to upper case from lower case, do a three finger swipe down once. To get to punctuation from lower case, swipe up with three fingers once and so on. And to add a space, you swipe right with two fingers. Swipe left with two fingers to delete the last character or selection.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but I can probably write as quickly with handwriting as I can with Braille input now. That's not necessarily very fast, but it works for me.

Submitted by Maria Reyes on Monday, August 17, 2015

Thank you! I am a fan of Braille screen input and just wanted to try out handwriting mode.

Submitted by Brian Negus on Monday, August 24, 2015

In reply to by David

I've tried to introduce several trainees to handwriting mode with very limited success. I can use it, but they have a lot of trouble getting their characters correctly recognised. I recently found the DoitWrite app that claims to help users draw characters in a way that handwriting will recognise. Oddly, I simply can't get it to recognise an f written the way it suggests, but it might be helpful for people who find handwriting recognition unreliable. It would be good to know how many people regularly use handwriting input to iOS. I'm mainly a dictation and keyboard person, myself.

Submitted by Kevan on Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I haven't used this mode as I was blind from birth and therefore never fully learned how to write. I can form capital letters but that's about it. Sounds pretty neat though!

Submitted by Ray on Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hello. I've been trying to use the handwriting mode for the last week or so. I'm having problems with ? and ' but otherwise good. Not sure if it's faster than typing on the onscreen keyboard though, but it's certainly different. Hopefully with a bit more practice I should be alright. I've always wanted a feature like this, and never knew it existed until I saw this original post last week.. SO thanks for that guys....

Will keep you posted on how I get on.


Submitted by David on Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The best advice I can give to anyone using the handwriting tool, is to write your letters nice and big on the screen. The bigger the better, so you can clearly delineate the curves, stems, hooks and tails. If you write small, you will find letters like a, q, d and o will get mistaken for each other more often.

I still find letters like t and f are often confused, so I'm developing the swipe left with two fingers to delete the last character quite well. I have been able to write fairly quickly, and especially when on the go on public transport, I find it much easier than trying to hold the phone for braille or typing input.

Naturally, you can't really use proper "joined-up" writing in lower case, since that would require writing quite small and would probably confuse the engine even more.

What would be nice is if the handwriting tool had some of the same features as the typing option, such as autocompletion and auto-capitalisation and the like. I'd also quite like to change the space gesture from a two finger swipe right, which is a bit clumsy and not at all intuitive, to a swipe with the thumb towards the bottom of the screen or something similar. But I'm not sure how it would distinguish between that and certain punctuation when in that mode. Perhaps on the IPhone 6, force touch could be used instead. I just think it needs something a bit more intuitive and natural feeling than the two finger swipe right.

Oh, and the punctuation takes a bit of getting used to as well. Clearly, some symbols are quite similar and hard to distinguish straight off, such as the full stop, comma and apostrophe. In these cases, you use the two finger swipe down to list the available similar options, to select the symbol you meant. This is the only way I've found to enter an apostrophe so far. The two finger swipe down after a letter will let you select another similar letter, although the further down the list you go, the less like your original letter they'll get. But it does allow you to select accented characters, especially useful for non-English languages, although I dare say somewhat clunky.

Lastly, I forgot to add that to enter a new line you do a three finger swipe right.

Submitted by Skippy on Friday, May 28, 2021

I, like another commenter above, am a huge fan of Braille screen input, however, it keeps crashing.
So, I figured I’d give handwriting a try.
I’ve been visually impaired since birth, I have 20/500. I know what print letters look like, but the way that I’m writing them, they are almost never recognized. The app that was referenced above, is no longer available on the App Store. I created a forum topic about this very thing yesterday, but so far, no one has responded.
Can anyone give suggestions as to how I can make hand writing work, until Braille screen input gets fixed?