|Column: Android keyboard customisation|
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 12:00
One of my favourite things about Android is that it is highly customisable, allowing you to create anything from live wallpapers, to messing with root components to get a completely different experience from what the manufacturer has created.
I also appreciate that I can replace the usually boring, less effective, stock on-screen keyboard on my Android phones and tablets with a completely new one that suits my needs.
Installing a new keyboard might sound complicated, but it is actually incredibly simple: download the app, activate it in Settings under Language & Keyboard and it's ready to go. It is even easier to switch between different keyboards. All you do is simply hold your finger in the input field and choosing one that is suitable at the time. As a beginner Mandarin student, I truly appreciate this feature when drafting mixed language messages to forgiving friends in China. I don't know of any other OS that has this functionality.
There are plenty of keyboards available for Android. Swype has arguably been the most recognised in the past few years, with some of the big manufacturers including it in stock versions. To input text in Swype, you use a sliding motion, only lifting your finger between words. That is just one of the nifty tricks you can perform when using it. There are many similar keyboards, such as SlideIT and TouchPal beta, each with its own enhancements.
Things have become much funkier in the keyboard world with Siine Writer. This icon-based keyboard app makes use of emoticons and other fun visual elements for keyboard input. If, for example, you want to type “09:45”, you would click on a picture of a clock and choose the time on the clock image. I have not used it all that much yet, as it has a bit of a learning curve, but it may ultimately be worth learning. I’m impressed that someone is exploring keyboards beyond the standard QWERTY set up. Touch devices have less physical constraints than their predecessors, so why not change things up a bit? Coupled with bright colors and all sorts of other goodies, Siine Writer is probably the most fun keyboard currently on Market. Even more mind boggling is the 8pen app with its unique arrangement of keys.
The Swiftkey X Keyboard is very good at predicting the next word you may want to type, thereby cutting down on key strokes. If you try out the demo version, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find yourself shelling out the cash to buy the premium app. It also has a version that has been optimised for tablets.
As a word of caution: keyboard apps are capable of recording key strokes and as such, can be used maliciously, so rather stick to apps from trusted developers, read reviews and apply common sense.
Palesa Sibeko is a mobile technology enthusiast with a keen interest in Android and was recently selected as a Samsung Mob!ler, Samsung's official global ambassador program. The web is both her work and playground. Music is her first love and she isn't too shabby at gaming. Follow Palesa on Twitter here: @palesa08.