How to use a secret virtual trackpad on your iPhone to edit text with ease

Learn to position the cursor precisely and quickly select text passages by turning your iPhone’s stock keyboard into an effortless virtual trackpad.

A feature introduced in iOS 12 makes it easy to select text and position the cursor with great precision by turning the stock iPhone keyboard into a virtual trackpad.

Your iPhone has a secret virtual trackpad

Handy keyboard trackpad mode is now available on iPhone and iPod touch devices that lack 3D Touch

It debuted as an iPad-only thing in iOS 9, released in 2015. You could slide two fingers across the virtual keyboard to move the cursor or select a chunk of text with precision. A few years later, the iOS 12 update refined this super-handy feature and brought it to all iOS and iPadOS devices, whether or not they have 3D Touch.

Follow along with our quick tutorial right ahead as we show you how to accurately control the cursor on your iPhone or iPad with a secret gesture.

How to turn the iPhone’s keyboard into a virtual trackpad

  1. Open an app like Notes and hit a text field to pull up the stock keyboard.
  2. With the virtual keyboard active, touch and hold the Space bar key.

All the keys will be greyed out to indicate that the keyboard is now in virtual trackpad mode. Without letting go of the Space bar key, you can now do the following:

  • Position the cursor: Move the finger around to position the insertion point anywhere within the active text field, then let go.
  • Select text: Be sure to memorize this useful text-editing gesture. After entering trackpad mode, continue holding the Space bar key and touch anywhere on the keyboard with another finger to enter text selection mode. Drag the other finger to include more or less text in the selection, then let go. You can now touch the selection to bring up the bubble menu with Copy, Paste and other commands.

In addition to supporting iPhones with and without 3D Touch, this feature also works on all iPad and iPod touch models. Keep in mind that this handy virtual trackpad mode is only available on the stock keyboard from Apple. In other words, you won’t get it if you use a third-party keyboard downloaded from the App Store.

Text editing with 3D Touch

While holding the Space bar key, tap anywhere on the keyboard with another finger to begin text selection

Suppose your iPhone does have 3D Touch hardware. In that case, however, you can take advantage of advanced text-selection features such as quickly selecting a word, sentence or paragraph, deleting large chunks of text faster by pressing the Backspace key with 3D Touch, and so on.

Which iPhones have 3D Touch?

iPhones with 3D Touch hardware include the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models, according to a support document on Apple’s website.

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