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A quick look at the new keyboard caret in Word Flow for Windows Phone 8.1

Caret in Windows Phone 8.1

The new Word Flow keyboard in Windows Phone 8.1 has a lot going for it, but there's a subtle change in how you edit words using the caret (aka cursor for some, 'blinking vertical line' for others) that you may have missed. In Windows Phone 8.0, you had to hold-n-press to bring up the caret, but now in 8.1 you can just tap in between words. What's more, the caret now has a little circle at the bottom where you can "grab it" with your finger and move it around.

Curious about how it works? Watch our short video after the break which will compare and contrast it with Windows Phone 8.0.

The revised caret in Windows Phone 8.1 has some of you enjoying it, while others are a little frustrated. In that regard, we're curious as to what you think. Is it easier now or did you like the old method? Let us know in comments!

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Reader comments

A quick look at the new keyboard caret in Word Flow for Windows Phone 8.1

311 Comments

If you touch the bubble and move the caret along, you can also move your finger down, so the caret and words are more visible.

As the caret stays put when first selected and moves as above, I really do prefer the updated version.

I like the updated version too. In the old one, once you let go the cursor and if you mis-placed it, you had to start all over again. This one is easier and quicker.

Try entering a comment in the FB app. Swipe left to move the caret and suddently you are in the chat window. WTF?

 

The old caret was great because it had everything that the new one does (including the ability to keep the finger away from the point where the caret really is, thereby not obscuring the screen)

 

The inability to invoke the caret with ease (the old one had a guaranteed method - long press anywhere) is one my biggest annoyances with WP8.1

I agree. Even in the video, you see Daniel has a dificult time envoking it. The old way (once you knew about it) it was great for precise movement. I could move it up and down, left or right, though paragraphs and see exactly where it was going.

Now... not so. You need to envoke it on line of the paragraph (trying desperately not to select the entire word) and basicly just move it left or right. Try moving it up a line or two and my finger covers it up, and I can't tell where the frak it is!!!!!

I will concede that the old way took a bit longer because of the long press to envoke it. But how about combining the two ways? A quick tap and you get the new caret method, a long press and you get the old caret method??????

For me, old method was why I like WP over iOS, or Android. I could move around to edit text so much easier with my fat fingers. Sadly now I'm back to wanting to smash the phone on the ground when I have to edit text. :(

Daniel had no clue have to invoke it, this video is so wrong in so many ways that it makes me angry. There are two methods to invoke caret in 8.1 -
1) press and hold where you want caret to appear, similar way of 8.0, but slightly different as it will appear right under your finger rather than above your finger.
2) tap on the word and it will highlight the word, with slight delay tap second time on the same word and you will have your caret.
This has been pointed out about two dozen times in comments, but in typical fashion of WPC, they have ignored to acknowledge that they have made a boo-boo or update the article with correct information.

Discovery... That's why they changed it.  I remember just a few months ago they were doing something and this was shown in a video.  Tons of people were like "OMG, you can do that!?".  I've seen it on other mobile blogs too, where the reviewer would complain about no easy way to move the caret and someone in the comments would point it out.  They wouldn't always update the article.

I get that if you knew about the old method it was great.  But considering they're trying to get more people to buy into the OS these types of changes are important.  Say what you will but the new way makes a lot more sense if you didn't know about the old.  And discovering the old way wasn't exactly intuitive.

I found the new one better..... Mainly because now it allows you to correct a mistake in the middle of a word without having to delete the whole word. Earlier it was not possible and it used to frustrate me a lot......

I just watched the video and agree with you it was possible. But i'd had my 920 for over a year and had no idea it was. I always felt it was one of the few areas where WP really needed to catch up with Android and iOS, little did I know it had, but it was not obvious. So that as much as anything is a good reason they have changed it.

Lol it was possible, but you had to tap and hold exactly where you wanted the cursor to land..

I agree with most here! The new one is better; especially because you can hold the bottom and move it while keeping the words visible

This is the single most annoying thing of Windows phone. Drove me completely insane. Awesome that they finally fixed it...

Eh I personally think Apple is a bit better in the whole text selection grand scheme of things. Especially when selecting a group of text from a web page, like a whole paragraph or some thing like that.

What's hard with 8.1? Select the first word in the paragraph and then drag the circle down. I just tried it and found it very easy. How is IOS better?

I agree. Text selection is just as easy on my 920 as it is on my daughters 4S. They are just slightly different. Not really a big deal.

Same here. Once you learn the hang of it, the new one is way easier and more accurate to use compared to the hit-and-miss of the old one.

Same. My thumb always covers the cursor despite the fact I grab it from the little circle. The old one was better because it would float above my finger. 

All you have to do is to tap the little circle and then drag your finger below the cursor
It will behave exactly the same as before. You will be able to move your finger around and still see the cursor clearly.

Actually you can tap and drag you finger away from the cursor and the cursor will still moving ;)

Personally I found myself a little bit odd for the first time but now getting used to it. It's more faster to make any correction. A nice feature imo because it get you sync in experience between using touch screen keyboard in your Windows 8.1 and using keyboard for Windows Phone 8.1 :)

This one too, don't grab it right on the top of the circle, grab it slightly below the circle and it has more or less the same effect.

Same here. The old one was perfect. I don't like the new one. An option to switch between the old and the new behavior would very nice.

Me too. The new one is more like how it works at Windows 8.1, but I prefer the windows phone 8.0 cursor by far!

They should implement the WP 8.0 cursor style to Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 instead of the other way around!

Problem with the new cursor is that:
1) the bubble is too small to select it easily and 
2) when touching a word it is in 'selection mode' automatically and it is almost impossible to go back to the 'cursor moving mode'

Hi Mayur,

your asnwer is not quite correct thugh. It does not checge to cursor mode but shows the carot and only changes back to the blinking cursor when you start typing.

So correct asnweres to WPJansens problems would be:

  1. Ignore the bubble under the carot since you can easyly move it with tap 'n hold as follows:
    • If you see the blinking cursor: Tap 'n Hold anywhere you would like the carot to apear and then release your finger. The carot will be at the postition your finger was. To move it simply Tap 'n Hold again anywhere and move your finger; the carot will follow. No need to aim for that bubble thingy.
    • If you the carot is already visible in your text field: Tap 'n Hold anywhere you want to move the carot to and move your finger ever so slightly and the carot wil jump to your finger's postition.
  2. As Mayur already explained, if you tap the selected word again the carot will apear either at the beginning or end of the word; depending on whether you tapped the word mor left or right of its center. From here you can move it as described above

I hope that cleared out your problem you have with the repositioning of the cursor/carot. By the way, this behavior is almost the same as it was with the old implementation, only that the selecting braket is now no longer popping up a row above, so I personaly do not understand why people are now so confused. (ó.Ò)a
It is much more precise now.

Thats sounds well thought out. Have to try it out. I am still concerned that it is again not very intuitive. And it is a very important issue to perceive a device as productive. 

Main problem with the new caret is that your finger always blocks your sight.

That's why the old WP8.0 caret worked that well! You could move your finger no matter where on the screen and the caret moved at a nice distance above your finger.

Suggestion to Microsoft is make the bubble bigger or to place it a bit lower underneath the caret.

I hate this new method. The old way was more intuitive. Glad this video exists because I have up. The old way was easily more "discoverable" since other phone systems were similar.

So you knew intuitively that you had to hold you finger on the screen for a few seconds to appear? The other phone systems are more like this. Tapping to select the word and then draging to select more items is more intuitive. Most people are used to tapping to select items. Tap and hold isn't really that intuitive.

+820 on 4.3 es too tiny to select the circle. the old one appears "over" the finger, war the best cursor like iOS cursor.

So let's say I've written like 2000 words of an essay and decide to do some quick touch ups on my phone and notice a mistake mid way through it, are you seriously suggesting I rewrite like one thousand words of my essay on my phone?

TBH, not too sure. I think i like the new one a bit, but the difference isn't big enough for me to have a strong opinion on the matter (unlike others).

Daniel, it is not that difficult, first tap highlights the whole word and second tap on the same word changes to caret and puts it at the end or the beginning of the word (depending on where you tapped). You don't specifically need to aim for the space between words.

Yes there is. When you let go on the new one it still stays there and can be re-adjusted till you start editing. The old one would not let you reposition without restarting the whole process of hold and wait.

Exactly, the old one was one shot deal, once you let go you could not reposition it and if you made a mistake then you had to start the whole tap and hold routine all over again.

^this

Plus, if you tap 'n hold, the caret jumps to your fingertip as soon as you move you finger a bit & the carot can be moved without actually taping on the caret. If you have the cursor and then tap 'n hold anywhere the caret apears at your fingertip which you then only can move if you release and tap 'n hold again (I think it is kind of because switching into repositioning mode).

This also shows that Daniels' video in the article could use a little refinement; it is just only displaying half of the full functionallity.

I personally really like the new style; it is sooooo much easier to use.

You are a lifesaver... Just could not figure it out. But now I'm sold, the new method is phenomenal... There just weren't any instructions on how to use it.

Omg!!! Thank you for this tip!!! I hated the wp8 cursor method as I used Office a ton on my phone and editing was horrible with that wp8 cursor design. Wp8.1 was a step on the right direction though it was better in windows 8/8.1 in Office. But your tip totally made me love wp8.1 method

thank you SO much! i didn't know the thing about the second tap!

amazing. now i can work with the new cursor even faster and better than with the old one. before it was kind of frustrating to find the free space where the cursor could arrive.

(y)

I'm on the fence. It's nice not holding down and having to wait, but it does seem trickier to grab/place it. There are some times though where the new one has been better, like posting within forum fields.

From my experience, it didn't really change, it added another method. You can still long press to get the caret... or just double tap between the words. It doesn't work for me from the first tap. Always 2 taps.

So it's a double tap, plus the traditional long press.

There is no long press in the new version. Or rather, the long press would start the cursor grab. Now it places the cursor, but that's ultimately useless because you cannot possibly use your fat thumb to pin point where you want the cursor to go...

I like the circle, but i don't like that it appears at the end of whatever I've typed and I have to move it to the error I want to correct. It's not easier to edit after typing a couple of paragraphs.

It was confusing at first. But once you get used to it, this one is faster actually. While dragging the cursor, you can put your finger slightly below the line, and the cursor will not jump to the next line and still stay on the first line. I have a fat finger myself, and find the new one quite comfortable.

From the video, it's quite evident that Daniel was struggling hard with the tiny stupid caret of 8.1. The old one was perfect and quite user friendly.. New caret is quite tedious to use..

I don't think the speed of the tap matters. I just did quick (I mean very quick) double tap, it still works. The cursor will end up either at the beginning or the end of the tapped word.

I tried again with my normal speed of double tap, still can't make it work :( strangely enough I always need little pause in between. Maybe I am not tapping it right ;)

Actually, you were right. On some apps, you have to have a bit of delay. I was using the email app to test it on, where no delay was needed. When I tried on TextNow, that delay was needed for sure.

I thought the old way worked better. I accidentally swipe into another screen now, and have a harder time seeing the caret under my finger.

While dragging the caret around, you can place your finger on the next line, and the caret will still stay on the line above it. That will put your finger slightly below the caret too, making it easier to see the cursor and even the little dot.

Love it, but wish they'd have kept the tap and hold as well.. doesn't make sense to remove an old feature that wouldn't affect usability with a newer feature.

It is still there.

If you have nothing selected in your text and the cursor is blinking: Tap 'n hold and the carot will apear where your finger tip is.

If you already have the carot: Tap 'n hold anywhere and then slightly move your finger and the carot will jump to whereever your finger is.

Daniel's video is sadly not showing the full functionallity. I would wish a little more research would be done before posting these articles nowadays. It is quite annoying having quadrillions of articles popping up for WP 8.1, each only covering one single feature, and then the facts are not 100% complete. :/

I swear I had tried it at one point and it didn't work.. but you're right it is still there. In any case, I'll make no use of it with the new way to move it around. I find it to be way more convenient.

My sentiments exactly, they should have done little more research before making this half arsed video. One of the best new feature of 8.1 has been completely misrepresented.

LG Quantum with WP 7.x did it very well with arrow keys on the keyboard. All WM devices did it even better with arrow keys AND a proper stylus. Capacitive touch is shit for anything that requires accuracy and the big fat styluses available kinda blow. It's like using a magic marker for everything and makes me feel like I'm in Kindergarten again.

I am partial towards it. On one hand it makes moving the cursor around a little easier, on the other hand it scrolls a lot slower when you've typed out a huge paragraph. It takes time to get used to and I get that, but the word flow shit I find to be much slower, and interferes with my insanely fast typing skills. Can we have an option to disable it?

I'm not a big fan. Maybe I have big fingers or something, but I seem to tap on a place that I want to edit, and it almost always highlights the word instead of moving the cursor to the spot I want. I'll tap again and it highlights a different word. Often it takes 3 or 4 attempts before I get it to where I want it. I liked the old way better.

The old implementation had the exact same behavior as you described.

To make your life easier: If you tap and a whole word gets selected instead of getting the carot at the end or beginning, than tap the word selected word again and depending on wheter you taped it more to the left the carot will apear at the beginning of the word, or you taped it mor on the right and the carot will apear on the end of the word. It is pretty simple, really.

To make your life even easier: To avoid getting a whole word selected where you tap, just tap 'n hold and the carot will apear whereever you placed your finger at (if the carot was already somewhere showing you would need to move your finger ever so slightly to have it jump to your finger)

You're welcome.

Interesting. Discoverability was definitely a problem, but once it was discovered it worked pretty well. Im sure I will get used to it. I'm glad it's not gone altogether! Arrow keys on the Quantum was still the best method for moving the cursor. RIP WP keyboards.

You're right. The old way wasn't all the obvious to begin with, and the new way is even less so! Articles like this help, but think of all the people who will never see this article and will just settle for being frustrated with windows phone keyboard forever...

I absolutely HATED the old method and much prefer the new way. Anyone who disagrees is just plain wrong! :) :P Why, you ask? Because before the cursor would inevitably shift when lifting my finger, so being precise was a pain in the ass. Now, although it takes practice to learn how to grab it properly (WATCH THE VIDEO instead of just commenting), it's incredibly precise.

I sooooo agree with you. The old one sucked .. 100000.....times!!! I don't understand all this hate.. The New one is super easy to use!!! It's not even necessary to have to grab the circle. Once you get the cursor between words, you can just drag in any direction and it's sooooooo FAST!! (dragging it shamelessly now..up down right left... diagonally lmao) ..

Maybe the accuracy of the old system was dependent to some extent on the screen. I never once had a problem placing the cursor.

Both are irritating to use, but for different reasons.  The old one had an irritating delay before you could use it; the new one has too small of a grab region, and it is too close to the actual beam so your finger gets in the way.  The best touchscreen cursor is the one on Blackberry OS 10.  Its cursor has a ring around it that you can tap to move the cursor in that direction, like an (unobtrusive) on-screen d-pad.

I like it EXCEPT my finger gets in the way more. The double tap is fine, but liked when the caret was a couple milimiters above my thumb in 8.0

The ball at the bottom of it should be a bit larger to make it easier to grab. Yes, that's what she said too.

The other problem is I keep highlighting a whole word when trying to place it.

I like the old cursor better. It was more accurate & easier to place. Once you had the cursor you could move your finger all over the screen, the new one you can't.

The old way was perfect. With the new i find myself losing the cursor. Let's have a choice between old
And new.

"In computing, a cursor is an indicator used to show the position on a computer monitor or other display device that will respond to input from a text input or pointing device. The flashing text cursor may be called a caret, as in caret browsing.[1] The mouse cursor is also called a pointer,[2] owing to its arrow shape on some systems"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursor_(computers)

Yes, I can't find any use of the term caret where the term cursor is to be used. The term cursor has been used since before electronic computers and represents a marker for position indication and is what the vertical slider on a slide rule is called. Caret has been around since the late 1600's and is the '^' character.

Daniel, are you trying to change the definitions or something?

I hate the new version. Especially toward the bottom of text boxes, since it's almost as likely that I'll hit the miniscule dot at the bottom as I will select a suggested word from Word Flow... Boo.

At the end of the day, though, it's a pretty minor issue to me...

It takes getting used to. I'm so used to the tap and hold method that the trap anywhere method is a little weird...

You video is misleading... You are placing the caret on the last line of text on 8.1 and on the second to last on 8. Actually in 8.1 if you're not on the last line you have to place your finger almost right over the text to place the caret, it's horrible!!

There one more thing to the new cursor. When it is just beside a word you get suggestions so if you got to change a word you dont necessarily need to select the entire word. It was very tough during the old days to go to the top after you have written a lot and need to change a word you can now easily scroll and get to the word you want to change ..rather than holding for the cartel moving upwards and waiting for the little arrow to reach the exact line you wanted to edit

Preferred the old one. With ie11 have had issues where I meant to move the cursor but ended up going back a page.... That is so annoying. Wish I could disable that silly swiping thing, that's something I do have a strong opinion of!

The biggest thing I like about it is it lets you select only portions of a word instead of only full words.

You still can with the new one. While dragging the cursor, put your fingertip below the cursor, and the cursor will still stay on the same line. That way, you can see the cursor and even the little dot.

The new one is way easier to use than old curser. Very intuitive and clear for me, old one was a mess, jumpy and never accurate - new one is perfect.

I hate it. Sine apps like Facebook messenger hide it with their crappy UI on their text box and BAM no handle to move it. You're stuck

I think the old way was much better. I can't see the cursor now when I try to place it. My finger gets in the way. I can understand why they changed it though. A long press would probably mess with the word flow logic. I would be fine with it if only they put the cursor slightly above my finger instead of under it. They just need to tweak it.

It already worked fine. Why did they change it. My thumb covers it up when I try to move the cursor and sometimes it's hard to grab.

What i don't like is the position of the cursor that will cause my thumb covering the word, so i should see the screen more thoroughly (I should tilt my phone a bit to see from above my thumb).

Actually, what the video failed to show was that if you just long press then drag your finger, the cursor them moves with you. You may not get a popup cursor, but it works the same way. Until I literally just found that, i thought the new cursor was crap as well.

That being said, the video did an amazing job at exaggerating the supposed "difficulty" of using the old cursor to try to fanboy the new one in. #wp81doesnowrong

Its funny how people hate change, no matter if its for the better ;)

The new one is awesome when you know how to use it correctly

I also liked the old one better. It was easier to see since it was a bit above my thumb instead of under my thumb.

The circle to move the "Caret" is Just to small, that i would change. a Little bit bigger would be just fine.

#1: I've decided I love the word 'caret'

#2: At first I struggled with the updated keyboard and caret. Now that I'm more familiar with the changes, it makes sense and I love it

That's not a caret. This character, '^' is a caret. You correctly pointed out that it's called a cursor, but that is its only name (minus "blinky thing" for those who don't know what to call it).

Anyway, I like the new cursor overall, as it feels more precise to move around your text and doesn't skip drastically when you move it over muliple lines of text. However, I wish there was more of a response when you long press. The cursor just disappears under your finger.

"In computing, a cursor is an indicator used to show the position on a computer monitor or other display device that will respond to input from a text input or pointing device. The flashing text cursor may be called a caret, as in caret browsing.[1] The mouse cursor is also called a pointer,[2] owing to its arrow shape on some systems"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursor_(computers)

The old one was fantastic. I think MS is trying to make WP more accessible for switchers, but by doing that the OS is loosing its particularities and its SOUL

So far I haven't liked the new cursor, but that could be because I've been somewhat unclear on how it functions. I'll have to give it more time, but I will say I had no problems with the old one...

I actually find the updated version much better!! I hated pressing down and waiting for the cursor to pop up. The updated version is better cause its right there. However it could be better.

I preferred the old way, but I'm getting used to the new one. I do wish the line was longer so I could see more above my finger where the location of the cursor is.

At first I hate the new one, specially when you have 3 lines and if you are on third line and want to go to first line because the finger blocks the caret and can't see if already moves up. If want to see the caret, you need to move little down your finger and somethimes you go to second line instead of first. Need practice

I didn't hate anymore, but prefer the old caret

This is my problem too, moving up through text I can't see the caret under my finger for positioning. It should stay floating above the finger while moving and at times it seems slow to respond to movement.

I think my main problem with the new caret is that it isn't too obvious how it works. I didn't know I could tap and drag the circle to move it around until I read this article.

While I liked the look of the old one, the behavior of the new one is less frustrating, so I like the new one better

If you do it right or if the cursor its self was positioned better.. Its works fine if you can see where you putting it. Its not the user this time, its the cursor for sure..

I hate the new one, the old one allowed you to see where you are putting your cursor. The new one is right under your finger making it tougher to position the cursor in the correct location. The cursor needs to be positioned above the finger like the old one. Even in the video demo you can see the person having a bit of a hard time. Its clear that the positioning needs to be corrected.

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