Upgrade Your Life

Android Touchscreen Secrets

Upgrade Your Life

Typing on your phone can be a pain, but hidden shortcuts can reduce repetitious tasks and save you tons of time. So here are our top Android touchscreen shortcuts:

(Looking for iPhone and iPad touchscreen secrets? Click here.)


  • Caps Lock: Hit the shift button twice to start typing in ALL CAPS.
  • Press & Hold: To get the edit menus to come up when typing, press the screen where you are typing and hold. You get options like select all, select word, cut, copy, and paste.
  • Long Hold: Holding your finger down on certain letters on the virtual keyboard will reveal alternate characters or symbols. Any options associated with that key will pop up so you can choose them directly, meaning you don't have to go through the extra steps of switching over to the symbol or number keyboards.
  • Symbol Long Hold: On the symbol keyboard, hold down the dollar sign for alternate currency symbols; hold punctuation symbols for more obscure options like accents or umlauts. And if you hold down a number, it will give you common fractions like ½ or ¼.

If you have a common chunk of text that you regularly need to include in emails from your phone (like directions or legal jargon), try the insert memo function:

  1. Go to the 'Memo' app in your Android phone.
  2. Write the text you commonly need to repeat, and save that memo.
  3. When you need to insert it within an email you're writing, simply choose Insert, then select the memo you saved. All that text magically appears in your email.

You can use this same feature to insert pictures, and you can also directly add a contact or location to your email.

If you are trying to call someone, you can always scroll through your hundreds (thousands?) of contacts, but a faster way is to name dial them: Fire up the phone's keypad, and choose the number associated with the person's name. For Joel I'd type 5 for the J, 6 for the O, 3 for the E etc. Then all the matches would come up. It's kind of like old-school texting, but it's kind of hard to explain and a good reason to watch the video demo above.

Most Android phones come with the stock or standard keyboard that Google created for the mobile operating system. But you can use a different one. Swype is an alternate input method that's preloaded on many Android devices or easily downloadable from the Swype site. Instead of hunting and pecking, this text entry method has you slide your finger from letter to letter, only removing it when you want to go on to the next word. The app uses the pattern you've traced to guess the word, and it does an amazingly good job. I have found it much easier than traditional typing, but it does take some getting used to.

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There are many other keyboards you can download, each with unique features, from ThumbKeyboard — which aids recovering Blackberry addicts — and SwiftKeyX, which allows a lot more customization than other keyboards.

Finally, one of Android's best typing shortcuts is to use the voice recognition feature. It is very good — especially for dictating notes, searching, and texting. But my experience is that while it gets it right a lot of the time, when it gets it wrong, it's a pain to go fix it. One partial solution here is to dictate just one sentence at a time to make sure the voice recognition is getting it right as you go. This makes the process a bit slower, but still way faster than typing.

I hope this is just episode one of Android shortcuts; we'd love to hear your favorites either in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Related: Microsoft Word Shortcuts You Probably Don't Know

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