My favorite iOS usability feature – AssistiveTouch

As someone who takes a LOT of screenshots – we make a mobile app – I am a fan of a set of features in iOS known as AssistiveTouch. With AssistiveTouch, you can create a virtual button on your screen. Tap the floating virtual button on your screen to accomplish one of 25 actions. For example, you can set the menu to take a Screenshot, go to Home, Pinch to zoom, Mute, or Speak Screen.

Screenshot, Home, or 23 other actions

Let’s start with my favorite usage. To take a screenshot on an iOS device, at least for a klutz like me, takes two hands. You must press the Home and Power buttons simultaneously. I must pick up the device to get the angles right to press both buttons with both hands. But when I use the AssistiveTouch virtual button then I simply use one finger to tap the virtual button, then tap Screenshot. The screenshot is snapped, and I’m on to the next screen.

Here’s what the button looks like on the screen.

iPhone Home Screen with AssistiveTouch Button

Tap the white circle button.

iPhone Home Screen with AssistiveTouch Menu

Now tap a menu option.

(images from Apple.com)

To enable AssistiveTouch go to:

  • Settings
  • General
  • Accessibility
  • AssistiveTouch – toggle to on
  • Customize Top Level Menu
AssistiveTouch iOS Settings

iMore provides a brief tutorial on setting up AssistiveTouch with images here.

On your device screen, you can drag the virtual button to any location. You can set the opacity, either high contrast or dim. To make the virtual button disappear or appear, tap the Home button three times fast.

iPad Pro

I also use AssistiveTouch on my iPad Pro. On the latest iOS devices, there is no physical home button. When my iPad Pro is attached to the keyboard, there is limited room to swipe up from the bottom edge to swipe to Home of the App Switcher. Instead, I can tap the virtual button, select Home, App Switcher, Dock, or Screenshot, etc.

Apple Pencil

Also, when working with the Apple Pencil you cannot swipe up from the screen edge with the Pencil. You must use a finger, which can slow you down. Instead, tap on the virtual button with the Pencil to go to Home, App Switcher, etc.

Speak Screen

Now that you have dipped your toe in the Accessibility features, dive in. There are many visual aids, as well as gestures, and automatic VoiceOver.

That long article that you have been meaning to read? Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > set Speak Screen to On. Then add it to your AssistiveTouch Top Level Menu. Now you can go to the article, tap the virtual button, tap Speak Screen and listen to the article.

For fun, be sure to go to Voices in Speech and pick your favorite accent for Speech.

It’s like having an extra hand and a new Aussie narrator.

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