Android Soft Keyboard Alternatives: Comparing 51 different (free) input methods from ABC Keyboard to ZetaType for Droid
One of the objections I have with my Motorola Droid was the hardware keyboard, and I didn't quite like the software keyboard either. So, I went on a quest to search for the best soft keyboard replacements, and there were plenty. For comparison, I chose only free versions of the soft keyboard available in the Android market. (I will mention some highly rated pay soft keyboards at the end, plus a hack or two)
For organization, I have divided the field among five categories:
- conventional (similar to QWERTY) tap keyboard
- alternative layout tap keyboard (multiple keys or symbols per key)
- tap-slider keyboard (tap and slide to pick key)
- swiper keyboard (tap to pick key, swipe to get multiple keys)
- other (everything else)
Please note that I reviewed all these on a phone. Not all soft keyboards are suitable for tablet use. I will note those with tablet compatibility.
REVIEW PLATFORM: Motorola Droid, running Android OS 2.3.4 (Cyanogen Mod 7.1 final) and Motorola Droid Bionic, running Android OS 4 rooted.
NOTE: Most of these keyboards *should* run on other Android devices as well.
UPDATE: 14-JAN-2013, I upgraded to Android 4, so there will be a lot of updates!
Added Adaptxt Keyboard Beta
Added Agile Keyboard
Added Fat Fingers keyboard
Updated Little Big Keyboard
Updated QWERTY4 keyboard (was Portrait keyboard)
Q: Why do I count more than 48 keyboards here?
A: The "defunct" entries are not counted in the total, but are counted in the individual categories. Suffice to say, there are a LOT of keyboards tested.
Android Soft Keyboard Tips
It is recommended that you reboot your device after adding or removing a keyboard. Sometimes the system loses some settings that is only reloaded when you reboot.
Once you have installed the keyboard, go into settings / input methods, and enable the keyboard. You can have multiple keyboards active at the same time. Once you have the keyboard active, you need to switch to it.
To switch keyboards, the methods are slightly different depending on which Android version you have.
In Android 2.x: get to any input field (say, for the "search" field), then press and hold the field. After a moment the context pop-up should appear, and you should see "Choose Input Method".
In Android 4.x: get to any input field (say, for the "search" field), there should be a notification that you can pull down and touch to bring up a dialog box that allows you to pick any of the active keyboards.
Conventional Tap Keyboard
Conventional Tap Keyboards are easily recognizable as a QWERTY (or similar variants, such as AZERTY, DVORAK, etc.) keyboard. They usually improve on customizability such as theme, skin, or wallpaper (background), support for multiple languages, and word prediction accuracy. On the other hand, they still rely on you tapping one letter at a time.
Some may have alternative layouts such as T9 and SureType as well.
There are 25 keyboards in this category (plus 3 defunct). In alphabetical order:
Adaptxt Keyboard (free)
Adaptxt Keyboard is a very conventional looking keyboard, but has some very unusual customizations under plain exterior.
Latest version allow you to set ANY color you want as the keypad background. Don't like the keys being too dark, too right, too red, whatever? Set it to the EXACT color and hue you want.
It also has text expansion, i.e. type in an abbreviation and have the keyboard expand it into the full expression, and you can easily customize the dictionary to do that.
The key height is also adjustable, so you can have it take up a bit more, or less space on screen.
Finally, certain gestures on the keyboard area would enable clipboard functions like cut, paste, and so on.
Other than that, it's pretty standard with stuff like multiple language support, text prediction, and so on.
Agile Keyboard (free, $1.29)
Agile Keyboard is a light weight keyboard with support for several alternate layouts. They have layouts optimized for Spanish and Portuguese, minor variations like QWERTZ or AZERTY, as well as alternate "big" layouts that took up twice as much space, but the keys are larger (only 5 keys across per row). It has prediction dictionary and support for a few languages (no additional download needed, unlike many other keyboards), but overall, it's just not that different.
A.I.Type Keyboard (free, $4.99)
A.I. Type is a very low footprint conventional keyboard that claims to have a new text prediction engine that is able to predict next word(s) almost without any input. It does this by sending your input text to their server and gets result back. Other than the prediction, it has nothing special about the keyboard. For normal text entry, this engine is actually pretty good. Give it a try. (revised upward a bit, the prediction engine IS quite good, but you *do* need to be online) Latest version added ability to add wallpaper behind the keyboard and some keyboard themes.
Some people may get nervous about how much bandwidth this takes, and how much privacy protection this keyboard has. Full version is out.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
AnySoftKeyboard is a multi-language conventional keyboard that really seems to have nothing special other than a wide range of compatibility (it can be used as far back as Android 1.5) and wide variety of languages through downloadable language packs. However, initial appearance is deceiving, as its config screen shows high degree of customizations possible, such as changing the lower-left hand corner key to show ".com" instead of emoticons, add extra row of keys on top, and a lot of other small options.
Worth a try, if you need a keyboard for a lot of different languages.
Auto Text Keyboard (free, $9.95)
Auto Text Keyboard, formerly known as Firekeys, is a "macro" keyboard that allows you to define macros that will type out small shortcuts that gets expanded into longer text. You can import macros from other people, and export your macros to other people.
The "lite" version is limited to 10 macros,
In practice, it doesn't really help that much, as it really is just a normal keyboard, nothing more, except it will expand macros.
NOTE: Full version is $9.95 (!?)
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Download Auto Text Keyboard Lite from Appbrain (free)
Better Keyboard 8 Soft Keyboard (Free, $2.99)
UPDATE: Better Android was "delisted" by Google from Android Marketplace for some sort of copyright violations, which includes ALL of their apps. See end for Amazon link.
UPDATE2 / WARNING: some fakers put up a fake "Better Keyboard Pro". It is NOT Better Keyboard, but a fake app. DO NOT DOWNLOAD from Android Market.
Better Keyboard 8, now looking like Gingerbread keyboard, entered "public beta" in December 2010. As of June 2011 it is at version 8.8.2.
It has alternate layouts, skins, dictionary management, smilies key, additional languages, and more. If you want a lot of alternatives, such as T9 style (phone number pad) input and SureType (2 letters per key similar to some Blackberries) style input and lots of different themes this is a good choice to try. On the other hand, most of the options and features (like skins) are not available unless you pay $2.99 for the unlock key, so it is not a true demo.
Due to Better Android being de-listed from Android Market, a link to Amazon Appstore is provided to the right. Free version appears to be no longer available.
Crocodile Keyboard ($3.25 / Dead?)
Other than having trapezoidal shaped keys, I see nothing special about this soft keyboard. Also, its home website seem to be gone.
Go keyboard (free)
Go Keyboard is from the Go Dev Team that brought you Go SMS, Go Weather, Go Contacts, and so on. The keyboard itself is pretty plain with decent predictions and such. Its main draw seem to be the ability to set a background as your "theme" (one for portrait and one for landscape), and its compatibility with Chinese input and other languages with multiple layouts (such as T9, SureType, and so on).
NOTE: There's a CNWriting plug-in for Go Keyboard that allow the user to handwrite the Chinese character on the screen to be recognized.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Hacker's Keyboard (free)
Do you miss having the number keys on screen just above the QWERTY row? This keyboard will fix that for you. This is like a full PC keyboard shrunk to screen size. There are arrow keys, Ctrl / Esc / Alt and so on. IWhile the keys are smaller individually, having all the keys you are familiar with on screen helps you in programming, terminal emulation, and other "hacking activities", thus the term, Hacker's Keyboard.
HexBoard Hexagonal Keyboard (defunct)
Landscape mode only, the keys are hexagonal so the keys slightly offset, similar in concept to "TopKeyboard" mentioned in "conventional". As this is only landscape mode.
No Longer Available
HTC_IME Soft Keyboard (free)
A keyboard that derived from the HTC build of the Android keyboard, HTC_IME has since been improved for again and again with supports for a ton of features. You can do T9 style, double-key (two letters per button, similar to SureType), and full keyboard. It also does voice input!
It should run on all Android devices, but there are now three versions due to "Android fragmentation". So get the right one for your device. It is an unofficial app, NOT in Android Market, so not guaranteed to run on your phone.
In actual use, the IME is pretty large, so it takes a second or two to load, even on a Moto Droid, but the voice input works, and the alternate keyboards are helpful. (Rated: 7.5 out of 10)
NOTE: You can often find "skinned" versions of HTC_IME to fit specific themes.
You need XDA Developer membership (free) to download this APK, and know how to do third-party app installs. Latest version is V27, which seem to be the final final version.
Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard
Someone ported the keyboard from Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich and made it available for earlier versions of Android.
InterWrite Keyboard (free)
InterWrite keyboard claims to have layouts for 26 different languages. In practice, this keyboard is about as plain as they come... other than the extra characters
iPhone Keyboard Emulator (free)
For those of you who came over from the other side, but miss the iPhone virtual keyboard, this is the closest thing to it. And really, that's it.
There is a paid version that enables word completion and prediction. The free version does not have those features.
Personally, many of the better keyboards offer iPhone-ish skin for the keyboard, so there is really no reason to download this one.
MaxiKeys (free during beta)
MaxiKeys is an interesting concept: tilt the screen to see more of the keyboard. instead of squashing the keyboard horizontally to fit it onto the screen, keys are normal sized, but you only see a portion of the keyboard. Tilt the phone slightly left or right to access the keys that you can't see.
It's an interesting idea. I haven't quite gotten it to work on my OG Droid yet, and it is NOT available from Android Market, but rather, must be downloaded directly from the creator. So, your mileage will vary.
Download MaxiKeys from its home website (free during beta)
MultiLing Keyboard (free)
Another multi-language keyboard, this one features plugins that allow you to enter variety of languages, including pen-stroke input for Chinese, Hangul input (Korean), Thai, and other input tricks. It has multiple key layouts as well.
Strangely, this app looks virtually identical to the following app: Perfect Keyboard, when it comes to keyboard layout.
There seems to be nothing special about this particular keyboard other than International support, but then plenty of other keyboards do that.
Perfect Keyboard (free, $2.75)
Perfect Keyboard has 8 themes, and language packs for many other languages around the world, but otherwise, seem to have nothing really different about it. What's even stranger, it has the exactly same layout as the Multi-Ling keyboard above. One wonders if they are related somehow?
Demo (free) is limited to 7 days.
QQInput Soft Keyboard (free)
QQInput Soft Keyboard is from China, and it is optimized for Chinese. In fact, the entire app is in Chinese. However, it is a pretty decent English keyboard as well. It has alternate input modes that allows insertion of various symbols, smilies, and much more. It also penstroke input mode for Chinese input, and even a swipe mode for the English keyboard that is a fair approximation of Swype, albeit a bit laggy. It now accepts its own "skin packs" (themes), and even has a "fortune" mode that randomly gives you some quotes.
If you do a bit of hybrid Chinese and English input, this, along with TouchPal, should be worth a try.It's a bit laggy even on my overclocked phone. It's a 7.
Siine Keyboard is basically a "macro keyboard" that comes with "packs" of pre-composed responses, and you can download more. It also has a couple very interesting "shortcuts" for entering time and other custom texts. Other packs include "Aussie", "Street", "Flirt", and so on.
Easy pack comes with standard reply, like yes, no, see you later, how are you, and so on. However, each pack has its specific "theme", like "Sherlock Holmes" would have mostly Victorian expressions, like "Good day to you" instead of "Hello", while "Street" would have "Wazzup! Bro?" You can enter those with just a few taps instead of spending time writing full sentences.
It also has a "dial" for entering dates and times with just a few taps, among other goodies.
It is interesting, and deserves your download to at least try it. My only complaint: you can't DELETE a pack once you download it (at least I haven't found a way).
Smart Keyboard (free, $2.84)
As readers tell me, it appears I have severely underestimated this keyboard, as its initial impression was not too good. However, it seems all the goodies are hidden under the hood.
Smart Keyboard claims all the standard features, like multiple languages, multi-touch, blah blah blah. However, it also comes with a full of keyboard skins (at least 7 styles, like Android, Gingerbread, Black, iPhone-ish, HTC, Samsung, and so on. ) Furthermore, it has a lot of little options, like remove the comma and voice buttons (to make the space bar bigger), display a top row, add some "padding" along the bottom if you are hitting the bottom edge... even the keyboard 'sound' have 3 options. And of course, it has T9 and Suretype layouts.
The trial version have a nag screen that pops up every once in a while, but otherwise the app is fully functional.
If you want a conventional keyboard, but works the way you do, Smart Keyboard is worth a look.
SwiftKey Soft Keyboard ($1.99)
SwiftKey uses a very advanced text and word prediction engine that uses previous words you typed as well as your contacts data to help it pick the most likely word you'll type next, with resulting faster input speed. The result is pretty amazing. Check out the video comparison. I've used it, and it IS pretty good. You can also trigger the speech-to-text and do voice input instead of key tapping.
It's so good, I bought the full version.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Download Swiftkey from Appbrain (paid app, $1.99)
See also: SwiftKey X Beta (Free)
Swiftkey X Phone (free beta, full is $2.42)
Swiftkey X is the next generation of Swiftkey. It now recognizes which app you are in and tailors word prediction based on that. For example, it will predict differently on SMS than on Facebook. It also claims to have fuzzy logic in sensing how you tap the keys based on the word corrections, and adjust its key sensing logic to suit your particular style of tapping.
NOTE: Free only during public beta, which will disappear soon, as the full version just came out.
Download it and see for yourself.
NOTE: This version is for phone only. A version specifically designed for tablets is now available.
Scrybe Soft Keyboard (defunct)
Scrybe for Android taps into the Google experimental Scrybe API, which is basically the new "Google Instant" feature turned into an input method. On Google search, as you type in each letter the list of possible choices are updated. Imagine that turned into Android input, as the possibilities appear as a list above the keyboard. That is Scrybe.
In practice, this keyboard is WAY too sensitive. I tap a key gently and I get double or triple letters. It's just too difficult to use.
Rating: 6 out of 10
No longer available for download
ThickButtons Soft Keyboard (free)
ThickButtons looks just like the default Android soft keyboard... Until you start using it. THEN you realize the button sizes change as it predicts your next key, so you have less chance of hitting the wrong keys. And you can still use the dictionary on top so you don't have to type the whole word.
In practice, I found this only helped somewhat. Latest version has better landscape support and has voice input button for Froyo and later. However, it has no special ability other than the dynamically resizing keys.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Download ThickButtons from AppBrain (Free)
Thumb Keyboard (Free, $2.77)
Thumb Keyboard gives you larger keys by splitting the keyboard into two halves, one higher than the other, so you can fit bigger keys on screens without taking up too much space. It works quite well. Latest version added all the tricks like word prediction, voice input trigger back, plus more customization options.
If you use this on a tablet, it takes advantage of tablet's greater screen size and give you keyboards split in half on either side, with the number pad and cursor keys and whatnot in between. You can configure a variety of factors such as color scheme, different keyboard layout for portrait vs. landscape modes, and much more.
Definitely worth your while to download and try. This is probably the best keyboard for tablets thus far, and it is STILL a very good keyboard for phones.
So good, I paid for it myself.
TopKeyboard (Free / Dead)
TopKeyboard tries to make the keys wider by making them trapezoidal. Instead of 4 rows, keys are slightly staggered so you end up with 7 semi-rows. Unfortunately, I can't find a picture. Also does not seem to maintain a dictionary.
In practice, I did not find this layout to improve my tap-typing. You may have better luck.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Download TopKeyboard from Appbrain (Free)
NOTE: This keyboard had not received any update since 2009 release. It appears to be defunct.
TouchPal Input V5 (free)
TouchPal is from Cootek of China, and this conventional keyboard has three layouts: normal QWERTY, double-letter QWERTY (two-letters-per key), and T9-style. You swap among them by doing a simple side-swipe (like you swap between home 'screens').
It is optimized for Chinese input (pen stroke, Pinyin, and other methods supported), but its English input is actually pretty good, and may be worth a look. A hidden feature: tap-swipe-down to access the alternate characters (instead of long-press on most keyboard).
This latest version SmartInput 5, actually released in 2011, includes what it calls "TouchPal Curve" technology, which actually is sort of a clone of Swype, where you slide across different letters and it will GUESS the word you've "swiped" so far (Swype and FlexType only gives you the word AFTER you finished the word).
Definitely worth a try if you like Swype but found it somewhat limited / not fast enough.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
TuxKeyboard is just the regular keyboard, but modified so if you swipe left / right / up / down across the keyboard, you generate "cursor movements". This solves one of the most often heard gripes about Android... No cursor keys on the keyboard, so if you need to move the cursor you have to keep tapping and hope you hit the right spot (or open the physical keyboard and do it via cursor pad / D-stick / cursor key). This eliminates that.
On the other hand, it really has no other tricks.
Vlingo Keyboard (free)
Vlingo Keyboard is part of the free Vlingo package, which includes SafeReader (reads eMail and SMS out loud) as well as voice commands similar to Google Voice Commands. The Vlingo keyboard allows one to use the Vlingo speech-to-text engine to allow one to use voice on all text fields. However, the keyboard has no other use, and many other keyboards also have this feature, leaving this keyboard a bit... underwhelming. No rating.
Zeta Type Soft Keyboard (defunct)
Repackaged QWERTY keyboard into aligned rows, sort of like the Moto Droid hard keyboard that I hate. Argh! Still, it is more compact and may be up your alley. In practice, it did not feel that different from the Android soft keyboard.
Rating: 6 out of 10
NOTE: Zeta Type was removed from the Android Market. Their homepage is at zetatype.com, but their blog had not been updated since late 2009. It appears to be a dead project.
What are T9 and SureType keyboards?
T9 is a keypad layout using only 12 keys and word prediction to allow full alphabetical input. It is usually found on regular cell phones with numeric keyboard only.
SureType is an input method that added another 8 keys (4 to each side) to for a grid of 20 keys. Each key has two letters, so prediction is more accurate and also allows some cursor and punctuation keys in the grid as well. It is usually found on Blackberries.
Alternative Layout Keyboard
There are many soft keyboard layouts beyond QWERTY and DVORAK. We are talking something really radical, that no longer use the 26 letters and 10 numbers as keys. We are talking about full simplification such as the T9 keypad used on cellphones, or the two-letter per key SureType used by Blackberries, and other even stranger keyboards. However, they still rely on tapping individual keys.
Please note that many of the conventional keyboards (see above) may have T9 and Suretype keyboard layouts as options that you can enable under its preferences.
Below we include the truly odd entries. 7 different contenders here:
ABC Soft Keyboard (free / DEAD)
ABC Keyboard is for people new to keyboards in general, and uses ABC layout instead of QWERTY or even DVORAK.
Not for experts. It is rather cute though. For people not used to keyboards, this makes just as much sense as any other layout.
UPDATE: The URL shows the app is gone and dead.
Rating: 5 out of 10
(NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
Big Buttons Keyboard (Free, $2.99)
By making the keyboard taking up 75% of the screen instead of just 50%, the individual keys are much larger and easier to type on. However, you also lose that much screen real-estate.
In practice, I found this just taking up too much space on screen. While my tap typing has improved, I found myself missing the extra screen space.
Also, the lack of word prediction in the free version is a bit disappointing.
Deluxe Version adds back word prediction
Rating: 6 out of 10
Download Big Buttons Keyboard through Appbrain (free)
Handcent Keyboard (free)
Handcent keyboard implements the T9 input method (like the cellphones with no alpha keyboards), keys are huge, but unless you like the T9 method (includes a lot of predictive texts) you may not like the result.
Rating: 7 out of 10, 8 if you like T9 input
(Keep in mind that a lot of conventional keyboards above have T9 and Suretype modes)
Download Handcent Keyboard from Appbrain
Small QWERTY keyboard (free)
SmallQWERTY crams multiple letters into a key layout similar to a T9 keyboard. By using text pattern analysis, it can guess your word based on the input thus far. learning curve is involved. it is not as radical as Handcent T9 or Tap Tap, so it may be a better fit. Unlike T9, you do not need to tap the same key multiple times to get different letters.
Watch the video to see how they came up with the idea. You can buy a tiny Bluetooth smallQWERTY keyboard to do the input if you find your phone's keyboard to be inadequate, so the company stands behind this input method.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Download SmallQwerty from Appbrain
TIO Keyboard is a condensed keyboard that puts 26 letters and a few punctuations into just 10 keys, thus, giving you additional cursor control keys. Bigger keys also means more accurate placement of your fingers, and supposedly, by putting keys near the center your typing speed also improves.
In practice learning the layout can be a problem, but it's not bad if you enjoy learning new layouts. It can be a decent keyboard.
Tap Tap Butterfly (free)
Tap Tap used to be a completely different layout in grid layout, but they recently revamped the product and it's now also known as Tap Tap Butterfly. The keys are in a butterfly-shaped layout.
I honestly can't tell if this layout is any better than the traditional QWERTY layout, after trying it for a while.
Rating: 7 out of 10
W10 Keyboard (free , $2.99)
Double U 10 Keyboard is a weird duck... There are only 10 keys, so how do you make the rest of the letters? Make combinations. d is made from c and l, m is made from 2 n's, w is from 2 u's, and so on.
A weird duck indeed, but may make more sense than a plain T9 keyboard. Worth a try, at least. Watch the video to see how it is supposed to work.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Tap Slider Soft Keyboards still have keys, but instead of having one button per letter, it has up to 9 letters per button, and you pick one by your swiping direction (tap / up / down / left / right / combination). You touch the button, then swipe down to pick the down letter, for example.
This differs from alternate layout keyboards. In those keyboards, you still just tap the key (once, or multiple times), but you don't slide or swipe the key. In Tap-sliders, you touch / tap the key, then slide in the direction you choose. The additional motion chooses letters in the key.
NOTE: I named these "tap-slider keyboards" because I don't want to call them 'swipe keyboards'. That will be confused with the "Swype" type keyboards later.
We have 13 contenders for this category:
CompassKeyboard is designed to enter Latin-, Cyrillic-, and Greek- character sets using the tap-slide method. it also has punctuation and cursor key buttons.
Interesting, but not that useful if you don't use Cyrillic or Greek character sets. Swipe left/right to change layouts. it is VERY compact, which is a strange design decision.
ETAOI Keyboard (demo / $3.20)
ETAOI Keyboard is one of more original tap-slide keyboards available. It has ONLY FIVE KEYS, and hides along the bottom, taking up very little space overall. By tapping a single key, and/or sliding across one or more keys, you select the different letters. Slide up / down gives you access to more options like shift, numbers, punctuations, backspace, and so on.
It is a bit hard to describe, so watch this video to the right to get a better idea.
The demo is free, and has a few functions like arrow keys disabled, but seem to be otherwise fully functional. They also have a speed typing test and a game to help you practice using the TAOI keyboard.
If you value screen real estate and have no problem learning another keyboard, ETAOI keyboard may be worth a look.
Fat Fingers Keyboard (free)
Fat Fingers is a "9 key" tap-slider keyboard where you make the letters by tapping one of the 9 keys, or by sliding among the 9 keys in different combinations.
Typing comes fairly naturally. You'll find a 3x3 grid of keys, with characters in the center of the keys and on their edges.
To type a character in the center of a key, tap that key
To type a character in between two keys, slide from one key to the next, in either direction.
To type a character on the edge of the grid, slide from the key it's touching to the key on the opposite side of the grid.
Takes a little while to get used to the layout, I imagine, but interesting nonetheless.
Flit Keyboard Soft Keyboard (free)
A brand new tap-slider on the market (released on 3-JAN-2011), Flit Keyboard uses 8-way slider instead of just 4-way slider to produce keys (i.e. each button can generation 9 different keys, instead of 5. This reduces the number of buttons to just 8 (plus space and other misc. buttons) and virtually all punctuations, numbers, AND letters are now onscreen instead of requiring another keyboard layout. That is pretty impressive. The individual letters do look a little small, but that's not that bad. Alternatively, you can use the smaller QWERTY-only keyboard, which only has letters, but shows more screen space.
It does take a little getting used to, and the letters are a bit small, but if you get used to the keyboard it's actually pretty good. There are plug-ins and skin packs to give you more choices now.
Rating: 8 out of 10
NOTE: After install you may have to force it to "clear data" (under manage applications) before it can be activated.
JetKeys Soft Keyboard (free)
Claims to be an "engine" that accepts dictionaries, skins, and alternative layouts, comes with slider that has better layout, in my opinion, than other tap-sliders. You can also get other layouts and skins from their website that are more conventional looking.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Little Big Keyboard
Little Big Keyboard is a tap-slider that is designed with only 3 rows of keys, but each key has multiple keys depending on how you 'slide' the key. Thus far, I haven't found anything really special about this keyboard vs. other tap-sliders.
Keypurr Soft Keyboard ($2.01)
Keypurr, with its rather cutesy name, is a combination conventional / tap-slide keyboard. There are some keys with two letters. To get the higher letter, you slide up on the key. To get the lower letter, just tap. To get the symbol, slide down on the key. So it's a hybrid of tap-slide and regular layout.
You may need to try it a few times to make sure you like it. There's also a word prediction engine along with some "function keys" to insert frequently used words / macros. It allows expanding "macros".
The developer gives you 30 day money back guarantee, even if the Android Marketplace does not. So you should try it.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
MessagEase Soft Keyboard (free)
MessagEase has been around for a while, and in December 2010 it launched version 2.0. It is designed for one thumb operation. Similar to Flit keyboard, it is based on 8-way slider metaphor. (Tap for one letter, slide any of 8 ways to 8 more letters) However, instead of having a LOT of keys and standard QWERTY layout, it abandoned all that and went to an all new layout that puts the most used letters in a 9-key pattern, with huge buttons for backspace, return, and so on. The R key (just to right of center O key) can be slid up to engage shift and symbol keyboards. You can also find the cut / copy / paste / voice inputs keys just to the right of that.
The key labels are quite large and the keys, while in a rather "odd" layout, are quite logically set, and mostly used characters are right on screen. If you are willing try a new keyboard layout for one finger operation, this may be the one to try.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Formerly known as "Portrait Keyboard", this seems to be a variant of the Keypurr keyboard (see above). In practice it feels much like any other Tap-Slider keyboards... not really that fast.
Slide Keyboard (free)
Slide Keyboard 2 Beta (free)
Slide Keyboard offers multiple layouts: ABC, QWERTY, AZERTY, DVORAK, and so on. This helps people understand this keyboard style.
Slide Keyboard 2, the successor, operates the same, but with better skins, more alternate layouts, and gives you ability to design your custom keyboard skins with SK Skin Creator.
Rating: 5 out of 10
SlideType Keyboard (free)
SlideType is more ABC, so you don't really have to memorize any special layouts. Hiowever it is not very stable. I've had it FC on me several times. It also lacks word prediction / correction, and has no button to bring up voice recognition.
Overall, this is low on my choice on Tap-Slider keyboard choices.
SlideType Rating: 6 out of 10
SlydeBoard: Fast Full Keyboard ($1.99)
SlydeBoard is yet another attempt to fit 26 letters, symbols, and numbers into only 9 or so keys. This one crams 5 letters or symbols per key using swipe/slide motion from each key to pick which letter you want from that key. As this one still uses QWERTY layout (somewhat) it is a rather interesting idea.
SmartInput (Free, $2.13)
Smart Input is another tap-slider similar to MessagEase or Flit Keyboard, except this one one has even stranger layout. I personally find the layout very distracting as I was hunting for the letter which seem to be hard to read AND not in any particular pattern at all.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Tap'n'Swipe beta (free)
Tap'n'Swipe is yet another tap-slider, using 16 different 4-way slider buttons. It doesn't look like it has any special abilities at all, other than a slightly different layout for the buttons. The letters are alphabetical, and numbers are in numeric pad pattern.
This has nothing special to it. It may or may not help you at all.
Swiper Soft Keyboards
Swiper Soft Keyboard combine the regular "tap" keyboard with swiping action to form words with a "single stroke". Basically, you put your finger down on the starting letter, and without releasing, continuing moving the finger from letter to letter, forming the word. When you finish the word, the keyboard will pop up the word you "swiped". You can then choose from the commonly misspelled words. With a good dictionary, the results are surprisingly fast and accurate. And if you are spelling an exotic word, you can always fall back to "tap" keyboarding.
Four different entries here (technically three, as one's defunct)
Flex T9 Speak-Trace-Write-Tap ($4.99)
Nuance bought ShapeWriter, a Swype competitor, and tacked on their DragonDictate voice recognition technology. The result is FlexT9.
The keyboard has no less than four modes: regular "tap" keyboard, "trace" (i.e. swipe mode, arguable better than Swype), "write" (a writing area where you write out the individual letters), and finally, "speak", where you get an arguably better voice recognition than Google.
I was a user for ShapeWriter for a long while, before they were bought out by Nuance. Thus, I was somewhat disappointed at FlexT9. However, after prolonged use, my opinion on FlexT9 has improved. The trace is pretty good, and speak is pretty good too. Write is pretty useless. Somehow the text prediction isn't quite up to par upon install. Once you've used it a while, the dictionary seem to get better at predicting your next words.
All in all, FlexT9 is a good alternative to Swype or Slide-It, but its $4.99 price may turn some people off. The "write" mode is pretty useless though.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Shapewriter was bought out by Nuance, and became FlexT9 (see above)
No longer available
SlideIT Keyboard (free, $6.43)
SlideIT is a swipe/trace style keyboard that has multiple language support. You can download a variety of language packs for it, and load any two of them as active modules, and switch between them easily. Multiple layouts and over 30 language dictionary modules are available. It will even to right-to-left languages.
The free version is a 15-day trial and nags rather incessantly, but it is full featured.
If you need multiple language support, SlideIT is a good choice.
Swype 3.0 (free during beta)
Swype 3.0 with better word prediction is now available. Swype is almost the same as the other "swiper keyboards", but is the most heavily marketed app as the beta version was preloaded on many devices include devices from Motorola, Kyocera, and more.
Swype has a quirk in that instead when entering a word containing repeated letters, such as "deep", you need to "circle" the repeated letter. In FlexT9 or SlideIT, you simply ignore the repeated letter (just trace "e" once) and let the keyboard suggest the proper spelling. I admit I started on ShapeWriter which doesn't do this and this quirk drove me crazy. However, it is something you can train yourself out of.
Swype 3.0 has also been optimized for tablets. You can move the virtual keyboard on the screen, as well as having better tap predictions.
There is only one problem: you can't get it in Android market. Instead, you have to go to their website, http://beta.swype.com, and register for the beta, then you will be given instructions on how to download the installer, which will download the keyboard for you.
The app is free during test. So give it a try, or watch the video for a preview of Swype 3.0 features.
Other Soft Keyboards and Input Methods
So far we've covered tap, swipe/slide/trace, and tap-slide, but there are a few input methods that are really weird, as they don't have keys at all or have strange keys, like "chorded" input (multi-touch).
8Pen is a radically different input method... Letters are arranged in a spiral pattern out of the central dot. You "swipe" from the center, out to the letter, and so on. So all you do is circles, and from the center out and back in. It's all about loops, and more loops.
Watch the video review. Keep in mind the app is free now (it wasn't during PocketNow's review).
Chorded Keyboard -- GKOS (free)
Chorded Keyboard works by multi-touch... By holding down one key and touch another key, you can generate 26 letters by using only 12 keys. (plus space bar and backspace). It takes a little practice, but you can do true eyes-free text input with this method (i.e. no looking at the keyboard), esp. if you use the horizontal option (with the two halves of keyboard on either side), great for tablets.
Give it a try, you may like it.
Dasher is hard to describe. Basically it is a radically different input method where you don't have to touch the screen at all! (or just use one finger, ever). It's a little slow, but for physically challenged people it is amazingly useful.
Basically, you are presented with all letters of the alphabet on the right hand. You tilt or touch the screen to the right to "scroll" that way. As you get closer you can go up and down to pick a particular letter. Then the dictionary will know which letters would follow that, so you can choose the next letter faster, and the next letter... and so on. See the video for demonstration. I know it's on an iPhone. Android's the same, albeit it takes up only HALF of the screen.
In practice, this method is just too slow, but it is VERY very interesting for people with limited mobility.
G-Board / G-Board Lite (free, $2.86)
G-Board can be thought of as improved Grafiti (see below), albeit done in a non-infringing way.
Graffiti was designed as a "single-stroke to form any letter" type input method, and it has separate areas for letters and numbers. You basically draw your letters in the input area, and it is recognized as input.
However, Graffiti has a few conventions (such as up for "caps") that isn't always optimal. G-Board improves upon that by taking advantage of larger screen sizes now available and better sensitivity / resolution and multi-touch. For example, there's now a horizontal line near the top of input area. If the "top" of your gesture goes above the line, it is considered "capitalized". If your gesture stayed below the line, it's lowercase. There are a few other neat features
In practice, the input isn't quite as fast as swipe or tap keyboards as drawing the individual characters and such takes a little time. However, it is possible to input without looking at the keyboard area at all.
Being a former Graffiti user, I was annoyed when I realized the Graffiti stroke inputs cannot be used, but I guess they don't want to be sued, so that's understandable. Give it a try: you may like it!
Go Touch IME (defunct)
No longer available, it has been turned into "CNWriting" plug-in for GO Keyboard (see Go Keyboard above)
No longer available
Graffiti for Android (free, $2.99)
Graffiti is the same input method as found on the older Palm devices... single stroke characters that is easily recognized by the machine in dedicated input areas. Even for people who have never used it before, Graffiti is easy to learn (at least the normal characters and numbers are easy... punctuations are something else) It is not that fast, as it takes time to make the strokes, but it is familiar, and it is quite usable.
The free version is ad-supported. Pay $2.99 to turn off the ads.
Depends on your style of input, one of these soft keyboards should be good for you.
I personally use SwiftKey, though it is occasionally frustrating as it may not take your direct input as intended but you must press the "left" choice instead of hitting space and get the auto-corrected one.
On the other hand, soft keyboard is an acquired taste. Most people do fine with the standard Android keyboard (soft). Still, try something, you may like it.
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