Typing with Vertical Navigation on iOS

Last modified
Thursday, December 19, 2019


A few weeks ago, I found myself looking for keyboard tips for VoiceOver users online, hoping I'd find something that was perhaps different. I was getting tired with the amount of stress BSI (Braille Screen Input) was giving me, and my most vulnerable weak spot was the onscreen keyboard. I was too slow on it, couldn't type quick enough to match my laptop-typing standards, and was just over the fact that I must've been relying too much on my BrailleSense to have a backup in place when I was without it.

For awhile I tried FlickType, and I very much enjoyed it. But it always seemed to interfere with my Notification Center always being pulled up when I swiped down, so I was perhaps not patient enough to swipe carefully and avoid such situations. However, I was done. I also attempted to use the new QuickPath keyboard, and liked it for awhile, but finding keys that way wasn't always easy, because you have to be somewhere around the letter when you drag.

This is when I began my thought process. I began to realize, there is still one other method of typing I don't see talked about much. It's not the best, but on game consoles, it's used similarly. Typing with Vertical Navigation.

Let's dive into it and I'll explain everything.

Method in More Detail, Using Game Controllers

If you have used a game console, you know how the keyboard works when you are typing text. If not, I can explain.

I'll be using my Xbox One controller setup to explain this section, but it should apply similarly to other consoles out there. This is to better get you to understand what I'm about to have you do on the iOS section of things.

On a typical Xbox One controller, you have the rotational joystick. This moves Narrator up, down, left and right.

Now, in an edit box with a keyboard, pushing the joystick left will move to the previous letter, and pushing the joystick right will move to the next one, as usual.

However, pushing your joystick up will move to the previous row of the keyboard, and pushing your joystick down will move to the next row of the keyboard. Keeping this in mind, if you are on f, pushing the joystick upwards will move your focus up to the letter r, and pushing your joystick down will move down to the letter v.

If you are beginning to see what I mean, I'd now like to explain the iOS area of this. So, let's go.

Typing with Vertical Navigation and Flicks

When you are flicking left or right, all you are doing is moving horizontally across the screen, then VoiceOver is automatically doing you a favor by jumping down to the next row when you reach the end of that row. This is where Vertical Navigation comes into play.

Vertical Navigation is a Rotor option that allows you to move up or down vertically on the screen, without having to flick through several things to reach that item which is lower on the screen for example. Here's how to add it to your Rotor.

  1. From Home, launch Settings.
  2. Find Accessibility and select it.
  3. Select VoiceOver.
  4. Scroll down a little bit until you find Rotor, then double tap on it.
  5. From the list of Rotor options, find Vertical Navigation, and double tap on it so it says "selected."

Now, to test this method, open an application such as Notes, and create a blank entry. If you are using a keyboard other than English U.S., I am not sure if the layout will be the same, so switch to the English U.S. keyboard if possible. Make sure to set Typing Mode to Standard Typing for this to work.

Place VoiceOver's focus on the keyboard area. Then, use the dial gesture to cycle through the Rotor until you find Vertical Navigation.

Flick up and down to move to the next and previous rows of the keyboard, and double tap to type, keeping in mind that you can still flick left and right to hit the close letters. If you wanted to type "hi," all you would have to do is find h, then go up a row and flick right once, or flick right once and go up a row, making sure you double tap on each letter.

Concluding Message:

Now, like I said above, this is not the best method, I'm sure many of you would totally prefer using BSI or typing with Touch Typing. But, it works, and it's out there now, so feel free to use it as you wish!


The article on this page has generously been submitted by a member of the AppleVis community. As AppleVis is a community-powered website, we make no guarantee, either express or implied, of the accuracy or completeness of the information.



Submitted by ironcross on Thursday, December 19, 2019

OK, there are times when I do find vertical navigation useful; however, in this case, i just can't see that it would be that good of a solution. For one thing, I've never used the flick method of typing. If I type at all, it's on touch mode, where you explore the screen and lift up to type that character. Most of the time, I use BSI. I get that it's not for everyone though.

In short, while I'm not doubting that this is a valid way of typing, I am wondering about it's speed and efficiency as compared to other methods available to us.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Thursday, December 19, 2019

Like I said, I saw this type of comment coming, and I respect your opinion. Whether you'd like to use it or not is up to you, and you alone. It's not the best, like I stressed. It's really only for those who struggle so much with typing onscreen that if they have perhaps played a console, it may be another solution for them.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Thursday, December 19, 2019

Alone, its a bit slow. But if you combine with Predictive Typing it's good enough.

Submitted by J.P. on Thursday, December 19, 2019

This is the style of typing keyboard on Apple and Fire TV keyboards. While it works for that, I’d never really use on iOS.
That’s not saying it’s not a beneficial option in some cases. Just clunky and slow for most keyboard scenarios.

Submitted by mority on Sunday, May 17, 2020


Well this at least for my case seams to be abit slow, i generally use the direct touch typing, not the one where you lift your finger and the letter gets typed, I use the direct mode because it's faster than the predictive keyboard, normal touch typing or BSI.

Greetings Moritz.

Submitted by Zoe Victoria on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

That’s an interesting method, not sure why I didn’t think of it. i’ll probably stick to BSI or my smart keyboard when I’m on iPad, but it’s good that you put it out there.

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