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Mobile

Add handwriting recognition to your iOS device

Free app MyScript Stylus replaces the onscreen keyboard with a scribble-friendly input area and supports a wide range of languages.

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If you prefer handwriting to tap-typing, MyScript Stylus makes it possible on iOS. MyScript

For geeks of a certain age, the first smartphones weren't phones at all, but rather PDAs. And although these devices offered tiny onscreen keyboards similar to what we use today, the preferred data-entry option was stylus-powered handwriting recognition.

Whether you long for those days or just find your iPhone's tiny onscreen keyboard cumbersome, there's now a throwback alternative: MyScript Stylus, an iOS app that replaces the keyboard with a handwriting-recognition area. It's free, and it works quite well. Here's how to get started:

Step 1: Install MyScript Stylus on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Step 2: Tap the Settings app, then choose General, Keyboard, Keyboards. Now tap Add New Keyboard and choose Stylus from the list of available third-party keyboards. (Incidentally, this is also how you install all third-party iOS keyboards.)

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Now switch to any app that accepts text input. By default, the standard iOS keyboard will appear. To switch to MyScript Stylus, tap and hold the globe icon near the lower-left corner of the keyboard, then slide your finger over MyScript.

Step 4: Now you can write in block letters or script, using your fingertip or a compatible stylus. After you write a word, pause briefly until it's recognized and slides to the left, then write the next one.

And that's it in a nutshell. There are a few gestures you'll want to learn, starting with using two fingers to scroll left and right along your sentence -- helpful if, say, you need to insert a space between two words (done simply by drawing a vertical line between them) or want to delete a word (which you can do just by drawing a line through it).

MyScript Stylus supports a wide assortment of languages other than English. To select one of them, tap and hold the aforementioned globe icon, tap "More languages" and then choose the one you want.

Want to return to the primary keyboard? A quick, single tap of the globe icon will toggle it.

Looking for other iOS keyboard options? Sarah Mitroff rounds up several of them in "The new keyboards you'll love for iOS 8." But before you go, hit the comments and share your thoughts on MyScript Stylus. Is it the answer to your iPhone data-entry prayers?