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How to use text editing gestures on iPhone

In iOS 13, Apple has introduced some new text editing gestures that are designed to make your life even easier. We've all done it—picking out some text to copy and paste somewhere else can be a bit cumbersome in previous iOS versions, but it has gotten much more streamlined in the latest version of iOS 13. Let's take a look.

How to move the cursor when typing

  1. Start typing some text in any app where you are able to type in.
  2. Touch and hold the blue cursor until it appears larger than it was originally.
  3. Drag the cursor to where you want to place it.
    • To make things easier, the cursor will automatically snap to lines and between words when it detects them.

  1. Release your finger from the screen.

How to quickly select text

Previously, selecting text could be a pain, as you had to select one word and then drag the text selection handles to get a full sentence or paragraph. Now it's all been simplified.

  1. While editing text, quickly double tap on the word that you want to select to highlight it.

  1. Swipe left or right along that line, near the beginning or end of the highlighted text, to select more text to the left or right.
    • You no longer need to be super precise about grabbing the handles to change the selected text.
    • Just make sure that you start swiping close to the start or end of the original selected text.

  1. If you want to select a sentence, perform a triple tap on a word.
    • The sentence that the word is in should become highlighted.
  2. If you want to select an entire paragraph, perform a quadruple tap anywhere in the paragraph.

How to use intelligent selection

Intelligent selection is a new feature that lets you quickly select a phone number, address, or email while editing text. Remember, this doesn't work when you're viewing text that contains a phone number, address, or email, as tapping on them takes you to the appropriate app.

  1. While editing text, input one of the following: a phone number, an address, or an email.
  2. While still in editing mode, double tap anywhere on the lines containing that information to quickly select it.
    • The intelligent selection only works on one item at a time, so if you have two lines with different phone numbers or emails, it will only select the one on the line you're tapping on.
    • If an address is using two lines, the intelligent selection will only work on the line that you are tapping on.

How to use the new cut, copy, and paste gestures

Oftentimes, we need to copy some text and paste it into another app. iOS 13 brings some new gestures to help make the process faster than ever.

  1. Select the text you want using the quick select or intelligent selection methods above.
  2. To copy, pinch in with three fingers until the Copy icon at the top of the screen flashes.
    • I find it easier to do this by starting out with three fingers slightly spaced out from each other, and then moving them inwards towards each other at the same time.
  3. To cut, perform the copy gesture twice until the text disappears because it has been Cut and stored on your clipboard.
  4. To paste, pinch out with three fingers until it the Paste button at the top of the screen flashes and your text is pasted in.
    • I find it is easier to do this by having your three fingers close together on top of the text, and then moving them outward at the same time.

How to use the new undo and redo gestures

  1. Make sure you're in text editing mode in any app.
  2. To undo, perform a three finger swipe to the left.
  3. To redo, perform a three finger swipe to the right.

Optionally, you can also double tap with three fingers to do undo/redo.

How to use Multiselect

If you often deal with multiple items, such as emails, files, or folders, you can now make use of the new Multiselect gesture to quickly select multiple items in a batch. This feature only works where it is supported, such as Mail or Files at the moment.

  1. Launch Mail or Files on your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Use two fingers to tap and hold on the screen.
  2. Drag your two fingers around to begin selecting multiple email messages or files and folders.

  1. Perform the action you want to take with those messages or files and folders.

Questions?

These new gestures are designed to make it easier to deal with text editing and more in iOS 13. Some of them are pretty easy, but others need a bit more practice to master.

Have any questions? Let us know in the comments.

September 2019: Updated for iOS 13.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.

9 Comments
  • Please tell me how to use 3 finger gestures with long nail that was $ 85.00 my wife like to know in iOS 13 Tx. Tibor.
  • Once was Copy in Note how to Paste to a Mail it work OK in iOS 12 huh. Tibor.
  • These gestures are wonderful (if one can remember them!), but one undesirable change with iOS 13 seems to be that it has become even more difficult when typing to insert the cursor into the middle of a word in order to correct just one letter. Is there a clever way of doing that?
  • Hold your finger on the flashing blue line and move it to the middle of the word
  • This new text editing is B-S!! Where is the CONVENIENT “Select All” option???!??
  • The text cursor insertion point gestures are buggy. Either overly sensitive or non-responsive or overly responsive. Seems virtually impossible to control on my new iPhone 11Pro max. I’ve wasted more time trying to get cursor in the right spot when editing that I’m now looking for ways to avoid typing on the iPhone. What’s the point of buying this beautiful expensive piece of technology if it functions like a piece of?
  • Unlike what's pictured here between the first 3 & 4 above, tap-and-hold to get a magnified cursor does not seem to work for me in 13.1.1, and its elimination seems to be confirmed on Gadget Hacks. https://ios.gadgethacks.com/how-to/ios-13-changes-way-you-navigate-edit-... This sucks! Were these screenshots done with a beta version or is there some way to turn this back on.
  • Triple tap a word does not select sentence on my iPhone 11 Pro in iOS 13.1.2. Double tap selects the word and triple tap selects the paragraph. No way to get a sentence. Three finger zoom is utterly absurd. Hard to imagine a more awkward gesture, except perhaps if they required it to be performed while standing on one foot. Someone should be fired over that one. Thanks for the tutorial. Have been trying to muddle my way through all these changes, both subtle and not, and the overview helped immensely.
  • I’m thinking of some “finger gestures” I’d like to direct at whoever thought these were upgrades OR a good idea. Editing a text has become horrendous. Making a comment and correcting a spelling or change by damnautocorrect is a joke. This is NOT a step forward.