Swype vs. SwiftKey vs. Google Android Keyboards

One of the cool things about Android is all the things you can customize. And lately there have been a few keyboards coming out or receiving major updates. I took a look at three of them: SwiftKey, Swype by Nuance, and Android 4.2’s keyboard (available for 4.0 and up).

There are a lot of keyboards to choose from, but these are among the most popular and most often cited in the media.

All these keyboards feature gesture typing, multiple languages, and user dictionaries. The aspects I compared include: ease of use, accuracy and prediction, speed, and unique features.

Ease of Use

SwiftKey’s number one feature is that it supports multiple languages simultaneously – no need to switch manually before typing. This is pretty cool for someone who regularly writes in two languages. The keyboard also features arrow keys that are convenient when your fingers are too fat to position the cursor correctly with a stab.

Swype’s number one feature is the Swype short-cuts that enable everything from editing (copy, cut, paste, selection) to changing modes (alphabetic versus numeric). In fact there are enough short-cuts that mastering them would make you a Swype-ninja!

Both SwiftKey and Swype feature alternate characters on each key that are accessed by long-pressing, so it’s much easier to insert symbol characters and numbers.

Android’s keyboard is straight forward and simple to use, and although some of the more advanced features exposed by SwiftKey and Swype are longer to reach the un-cluttered interface is very appealing. One thing that is sorely lacking is the alternates for each key, usually available via long-press, that are found only via symbol mode.

Accuracy and Prediction

Swype is the most accurate keyboard of the three, but SwiftKey is working in two languages (English and French) without missing too many words so that’s quite impressive. The Android keyboard does a pretty good job too.

Speed

The fastest of the keyboards for me is Swype. The slowest is the Android keyboard, but only when the hovering prediction is activated. The SwiftKey keyborad is just as responsive as Swype.

Unique Features

Each keyboard has some thing it does a little differently than the rest.

In the case of the SwiftKey it also featured more skins or styles than Swype and has pretty cool looking gesture-trail.

What made Swype stand-out to me was Swype’s crowd-sourced dictionary if you choose to participate in their Borg collective.

Of course the Android keyboard features pure Android goodness! But most interestingly it hovers the predicted word along the gesture trail so you can keep your eyes focussed, no need to keep looking above the keyboard to see which word is being inserted.

In the end I always come back to the Swype keyboard. I really appreciate the accuracy, the short-cuts, and clean interface.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

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Waxing nostalgic about keyboards

When I first learned to type it was on a type writer! A manual, slam-the-keys type writer. After writing a paper on one of these things your finger muscles positively bulged and your wrists were sweating. It was a cardio work-out!

Then came computers and the venerable IBM keyboards. You know the ones, that were more likely to break the floor than break themselves if they fell off the desk. The clack-clacking (no dainty clicking on those keyboards) was the soundtrack to a generation of programmers.

Of course there were other keyboards but the standard was the off-white, weighed-a-ton IBM keyboard.

I’ve gone through lots of keyboards in my time since I got into computers. Whether I was programming or writing a paper, there was always the keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, the swype-style keyboard on my smartphone is amazing – when it’s not censoring what I type – and I can’t believe I once thought I had to have a hardware keyboard on my phone to be productive.

But as walked around a local electronics retailer recently I noticed all the laptops on display had horrible keyboards! And for that I blame Apple! If there’s one thing I hold against them it’s how their popularity has driven competitors to copy their look even when the end-result is horrible functionality.

The laptop I type this on has a chiclet style keyboard (actually this was the type of keyboard first seen on cheap personal computers like the original Sinclair and Atari computers). It drives me nuts! It just doesn’t feel right. Of course it allows the keys to be smaller, which is fine if you have small fingers.

But my fingers are not dainty! I can’t hit the ESC key without hitting the F1 (and often F2) keys at the same time. And don’t get me started on that arrow pad that looks like it belongs on a game controller.

I have a Logitech wireless keyboard at home and full-sized keyboard at work. But by the very nature of laptop I’m not often sitting at a desk with it. Why can’t all the keys on my laptop have a decent size, that can comfortably hit with my finger while touch-typing. And not suddenly end-up in a help-page or refreshing the web page that contained my expertly crafted and witty oration on some else’s pathetic commentary.

So I challenge someone out there to defy Apple and make a laptop with keyboard that looks like a keyboard, sounds like a keyboard, and doesn’t jam three keys into the space where only one belongs!

Rant over. Carry-on. Nothing more to see here.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads