The following guide has been inspired by this episode of the Apfel-Fleger Podcast, a podcast in German for blind users of Apple products. All credit goes to Jürgen Fleger and his friend for discovering and presenting this little trick.
One thing that Braille Screen Input apps for Android, the likes of Soft Braille Keyboard or Advanced Braille Keyboard, seem to have mastered very well is the ability to write text and then simultaneously navigate and edit it without leaving the keyboard's interface. Under iOS, it seems, it is necessary to leave the BSI mode in order to find the desired granularity using the rotor, spot the places where corrections are necessary only to return to BSI once again to type whatever we wanted to in the first place. This sounds pretty tedious and I personally resort to making the corrections using the standard on-screen keyboard. It turns out, however, that there are gestures that allow for direct navigation and editing of the text written using Braille Screen Input and this tutorial serves to demonstrate how to use them. I haven't found this being mentioned anywhere else so I hope I am not reopening the same door again.
I would like to preface the following instructions by saying that I use my BSI in the screen-away mode on an iPhone 13 mini running iOS 15.6.1. Your mileage may vary, especially in terms of gestures you might be performing to trigger the actions described below.
In order to enter the mode in which the gestures described below will be working, hold down any of the dots on the screen the same way when entering the exploration mode. Upon hearing the first beep, try performing one of the following gestures while still holding your finger on the screen:
- A vertical swipe up or down with two fingers - switches between navigation units: characters, words and lines;
- a horizontal swipe with two fingers - moves back or ahead in the written text;
- A horizontal swipe with three fingers - selects or removes the selection of the text while navigating through it.
Once we have reached a place where we want to make our edits, we can use the usual gestures to delete text by character or word, we can also start writing right where we are with the cursor or use actions such as copying, cutting or pasting for which we need to define the gestures ourselves in the Commands -- Braille Screen Input section of the VoiceOver settings. Four-finger swipes in all directions are unused by default and sound like a good starting point.
A couple of things of note:
- It might happen that the gestures will not start working the first time we try, even though we heard the first beep. They should work as expected on the next try.
- When writing in contracted Braille, it is necessary to finish writing the current word so that the back-translation buffer is freed up, otherwise the cursor will still remain at our current spot and the word being currently written will not count as one anyway.
- The direction of navigation and selection is opposite to what could be logically assumed i.e. moving to the right moves the cursor backwards, while moving to the left navigates ahead.
Again, I did not seem to find this method being widely discussed, perhaps it is undocumented or did not use to work reliably when it was first introduced. It does certainly seem to be working fine at the moment and I hope I could help you discover it through this tutorial. I believe it was also on this forum that somebody discovered a while ago that if you hold down a finger anywhere on the screen and start moving with two and three fingers, some text navigation and selection is taking place. It intrigued me back then and I would like to congratulate that person on their attentiveness - you were very close indeed! I'm not sure whether these gestures were also intended to work globally or just within the BSI but I'm glad to see they work flawlessly with the latter.