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May 01, 2013 Technology

iPad Wizardry for Beginners

By Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr.

In any iPad training class, the students range from techies to fuzzies. This column is devoted to the fuzzy, the absolute beginner. The narrative instructions below are intended to lead any fuzzy (and maybe a techie or two) step-by-step through some basic functions on the iPad (all of which apply to the iPad mini and some of which apply to the iPhone). The most difficult part of conquering the iPad for fuzzies is getting past the beginner stage to the point where curiosity starts to inspire self-initiated exploration of the iPad’s mysteries. Unfortunately, however, I may have to do numerous sequels to this column because there are many iPad basics. But here goes.

Hidden Symbols: Where Is the § Key?

Many of my friends in the legal profession have resorted to typing the word “section” or “sec” because they have been unable to find the § symbol on their iPad keyboard. As it turns out, the key is there. It is one of many hidden keys that often are found by chance or by the rare practice of reading instructions, assuming one can find them.

The iPad has numerous onscreen keyboards. Three of them are accessible by tapping the .?123 key or the ABC key or the #+= key. I call them the number keyboard, the alphabet keyboard, and the symbol keyboard, respectively.

To find the “§” key, first access your onscreen keyboard by starting a new e-mail or opening a text document, e.g., tap the Notes icon on your home screen and tap somewhere on the page that appears. Next, tap the .?123 key to access the number keyboard, and then touch and hold the & key. Suddenly, the § key appears. Now slide your finger from the & symbol to the § symbol and release. You have now typed the § symbol that many of your friends never knew existed on the iPad.

Following discovery of the § key, folks begin to notice there are other hidden keys. On the same number keyboard, for example, touch and hold the $ key to reveal the ₩, £, ¢, €, and ¥ monetary symbols. Now, slide your finger from $ symbol to the desired monetary symbol and release. You have now typed a second symbol that, two minutes ago, you did not know existed on the iPad! Exploration of the symbol keyboard (the #+= key) will reveal that you can access the ¿ symbol from the ? key and the ¡ symbol from ! key. On the alphabet keyboard (ABC key), touching and holding the s will reveal š, ´s, and ß, of which the capitalized symbols Š and ´S may be found by simultaneously holding the shift key. There are additional hidden keys to be found. Just try touching and holding various keys and you will eventually discover the ones that produce hidden symbols. Happy exploring, new iPad junkies!

Cut, Copy, and Paste

We are familiar with these terms because they are used in connection with regular activities on our office, home, and laptop computers, namely, cutting and copying text from a document, website, or e-mail and pasting that exact text in another document or e-mail or textbox. Instead of using a mouse for this function, we perform these functions on an iPad using a finger. Be aware that although the principles for cutting, copying, and pasting are the same when using most iPad apps, the mechanics to accomplish the result have some variations, as shown by the explanations below.

To cut, copy, and paste on your iPad, open an existing document in the Notes app or some other word processing app and double-tap a word. This action should highlight the word, and a handle will appear on each end of the highlight. You can expand the highlighted area by touching and sliding either handle to extend or reduce the highlighted area. You can reduce the highlight for a word to one character. You can extend the highlight to include multiple words, multiple paragraphs, or the entire document. Depending on the document you are working with, a message will display that includes choices of Copy|Select All|. . . or Cut|Copy|Paste|. . . or some other variation. After you have highlighted the text you wish to work with, touch the portion of the message to select Cut or Copy. If you wish to cancel this operation and not cut or copy the selected text, merely touch another location on the screen. Instead of highlighting one word by tapping twice with a single finger, try tapping once with two fingers to highlight the entire paragraph. Text that is cut or copied from one document can be pasted in another document you are modifying or creating, even a document in another app.

Tapping once or twice on other documents such as certain web pages and PDFs may not produce the highlighted text because the app uses tapping to zoom in or zoom out. On these documents, you perform the same function by touching and holding a word for about one second, which then produces the highlighted word and a message that displays choices such as Copy|Define|. . . or a menu of other choices.

To paste the text that you have cut or copied, the process is similar. Double-tap a word with one finger or tap once with two fingers to select the text you desire to replace. Or to insert the text without the replacement of other text, touch and hold your finger in the location of the insertion until a magnifying glass and vertical cursor appear, and then slide your finger to the location where you want to paste the text. When you release your finger from the screen, a message will appear that offers choices such as Select|Select All|Paste|. . . or some other variation. If you do not receive the option to paste the text that you just cut or copied, the document you have chosen cannot be modified or you’re using the wrong app.

Sent from My iPad, Signatures, Shortcuts, and the ¶ Symbol

Believe it or not, the above topics are related. You’ll see.

Even if you are fascinated with your iPad, you may not want to advertise that fact with every e-mail you send. If you did not notice it, your iPad inserts a default note at the end of each e-mail you create that reads “Sent from my iPad.” You can replace that free advertisement with your preferred e-mail signature by tapping the Settings icon (the gearwheels), which will open the Settings app. On the left side of the screen, tap the Mail, Contacts, Calendars icon. On the right side of the screen (about halfway down), tap Signature. Now, in the newly opened window, use your virtual keyboard to replace “Sent from my iPad” with your preferred e-mail signature. For future reference, also notice that you can set a different signature for each e-mail account that you add to your iPad, including your office, home, and other personal e-mail accounts.

Sometimes, however, to explain away typos and other inaccuracies in a rushed e-mail, I may want the recipient to know that I am writing from my iPad. In such an instance, simply by typing three letters, “ipn”1 (meaning “iPad note” to me), the following phrase appears, “Please forgive the brevity and formatting of this message. I am responding from my iPad.” How did I do it? It’s easy, and it’s called a shortcut.

Start again at your homepage and tap the Settings icon. On the left side of the next screen, tap General (gearwheels, again). On the right side of the screen, tap Shortcuts and then tap the + sign at the top right of the page. This will reveal two areas for text input. One text area is labeled Phrase and the other is labeled Shortcut. In the Phrase text area, type (without the quote marks) “Please forgive the brevity and formatting of this message. I am responding from my iPad.” In the Shortcut text area, type (without the quote marks) “ipn”. Now tap Save at the top right of the screen. In the future, when you are typing text in an e-mail or other document, typing “ipn” as a shortcut will result in the full phrase appearing.

Now, to explain how this is related to the ¶ symbol, which is called either a paragraph mark or a pilcrow. So far, I have not found the ¶ symbol on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. Until the iPad includes the pilcrow as a symbol on its keyboard, you can set it up as a shortcut as follows. Copy the ¶ symbol from the Internet or an e-mail that you send to yourself. Go to Shortcuts per the instructions above and tap the + sign to add a new shortcut. In the Phrase text area, paste the ¶ symbol. And, in the shortcut text area, type (without the quote marks) “pp” (at first, I used “pm” as the shortcut, but this gave an undesirable result when typing “pm” for afternoon time). Finally, tap the Save button at the top right of the screen. Now, whenever you type “pp” as a shortcut, the ¶ symbol will appear.

By the few descriptions above, you can create shortcuts consisting of Greek symbols, short phrases, and boilerplate paragraphs with only a few keystrokes.

Home Screens, Folders, and the Dock

When you first activated your new iPad, all the apps you owned could be displayed on one home screen. But now, many app purchases later, you have apps on several of the 11 home screens that the iPad will allow. At some point it will be desirable to combine certain apps in folders, for example, games, business, productivity, photography, etc.

To form a folder of two or more apps, touch and hold any app until all apps start to wiggle. Now, touch and hold any wiggling app and slide it immediately on top of any other app. That process will open a folder. Your iPad will give the folder a default name, which you can change as desired. You can move a wiggling folder or app to another screen by merely touching and holding the app or folder and sliding it in either direction until the app or folder is on the desired screen. To stop the wiggling apps and folders, or to close an open folder, touch the home button (see the topic below). Or to add an app to an existing folder, touch and hold any app until all apps start to wiggle and then slide the subject app immediately on top of the targeted folder. To open any folder, merely touch the folder as you would touch any app to open it. A word of caution: Most of the wiggling app icons will show an x at the top left corner of the app icon. Tapping the x, instead of holding the icon, will give you the option of deleting the app. Tap the Cancel option to avoid deleting the app.

The Home Button and Multitasking Gestures

The iPad has a total of four mechanical buttons or switches, three of which are on the edges of the device and one of which is on the face of the iPad. The button on the face of the device is on the end of the iPad opposite the camera lens. The home button is an indented circular button that displays a drawing of a box with rounded corners. Among other functions, pushing the home button once will awaken the iPad from the sleep mode, or retreat from an open app to a folder or home screen. Pushing the home button twice will reveal at the bottom of your iPad screen all your open apps in the order that you accessed them. Scrolling to the left of those open apps will reveal volume, brightness, screen orientation, and playback control functions.

If you are like me and wonder how many millions of times the home button can be pushed before it fails, you will be relieved to learn there is another way to perform the functions above—by using the Multitasking Gestures feature of your iPad. First, ensure that you have turned on the Multitasking Gestures feature by touching the Settings icon and then General on the left side of the Settings screen. On the right side of this screen, ensure that the electronic switch for Multitasking Gestures is switched to ON. You may now return to the previous home screen in one of two ways—either by pushing the home button as described above or by using the Multitasking Gestures feature as follows: Spread three or four fingers and your thumb on the face of the iPad screen and squeeze together. This action takes the place of pressing the home button once. Squeezing your fingers and thumb permits you to minimize the open app and retreat to its folder (if that app is in a folder) or the home screen. Also, pushing up with four fingers on your iPad screen performs the same function as pushing the home button twice and reveals all of your open apps at the bottom of the screen. Lastly, if you are in an open app, sweeping four fingers left or right on the screen will allow you to travel or switch to each open app.

Does My iPad Have “Smileys”?

Yes, if you are the type of person who inserts smileys into e-mails and other documents, you are in luck. They are called “Emoji characters” and they’re found on the built-in Emoji keyboard, which may take some effort to find. Look for a globe symbol next to the .?123 key. If you do not see a globe symbol, tap the Settings app, then tap General, and next tap Add New Keyboard. Finally, scroll the list of international keyboards and tap Emoji. This will activate the Emoji keyboard feature. Now go back to the document you were typing, press and hold the globe symbol, and select Emoji. Instantly you will have a host of smileys and other figures at your disposal. 

Screenshot: Creating a Picture of the iPad Screen

Often with photos, touching and holding your finger on the photo will yield the option of Save to Camera Roll. However, that option is not always available. The final small bit of beginner wizardry for this column is preserving a screenshot. First, I must remind you of the home button and describe another button, the power button. The power button is located on one edge of the iPad near the outward facing camera lens. To save as a photo whatever appears on your iPad screen, simultaneously touch and hold the home button and power button until you hear the mechanical sound of a camera clicking or see the image on your screen blink. You have now captured a screenshot photo of whatever was showing on your iPad screen. To access this screenshot, look for the Photos app on your home screen and touch the icon (a big yellow sunflower). When the app opens, you will find the photo of your screenshot added to your Camera Roll. I will leave it up to the user to find some use for this new photo.


Hopefully, these narrative descriptions have assisted a true beginner to unlock some of the initial mysteries of the iPad, and have emboldened and inspired you to undertake an exploration of the features and capabilities of this unique device. The good news is that you have learned a few new things about the operation of an iPad that you did not know. The bad news, unfortunately, is that you’ve barely scratched the surface. And there is much more I need to tell you.

I would appreciate getting feedback from anyone regarding this effort to teach iPad basics. One thing for sure is that there will not be a shortage of iPad beginners any time soon because millions of new iPad beginners are created every month. There were 22.9 million iPads sold during the last quarter of 2012.2


1. Plus a space or any punctuation mark.

2. Press Release, Apple, Apple Reports Record Results (Jan. 23, 2013),