In the past decade, phones have gone from gadgets we use to chat with family and friends to do-it-all communications powerhouses, and today you probably tap out messages on your smartphone screen way more often than you actually make calls. If you’ve been using the default keyboard this entire time, I’ve got an important wake-up call for you — there are so many better options, and they’re free!
Hate tapping repeatedly on your screen to compose a message? How about sliding your finger around the screen instead? Swype is one of the original swipe typing alternatives, and it’s still one of the best. As you slide your finger from letter to letter to, the keyboard’s super smart algorithm determines what word you want and auto-pastes in in place. You don’t even have to use the space bar, because it automatically adds spaces in between each word you enter. The only downside here is that once you get used to glide typing, being forced to tap letters one at a time is like stepping back into the stone age.
An easy recommendation, Google’s official keyboard replacement for iOS and Android is a great upgrade. You can tap type (one letter at a time) or glide your finger from letter in order to form words, just like Swype, but the real treat here is that it has Google search built right in. No more hopping between apps to search — just tap the Google icon on the keyboard and search right from the keyboard. You can easily paste links, text, and GIFs instantly without having to actually copy and paste them from elsewhere, and that’s an incredible time saver.
Word Flow (iOS)
How often do you try to type with one hand only to realize that you end up misspelling words left and right? Getting a quick tweet out or updating your Facebook status with a single thumb is challenging for anyone, but Microsoft’s iOS-exclusive Word Flow keyboard makes it a lot easier. Word Flow acts like a regular keyboard when you want it to, with optional swipe typing and a variety of cool color themes, but the “Arc” feature is really where it shines. When you tap the little Arc button in the corner, the layout of the entire keyboard changes. Instead of rows of letters in a line, the keys actually wrap around the edge of the screen, so you can hit any key you need with just one thumb. It’s a brilliant feature, and definitely a must-have for frantic typers.
How To Install
The process of actually installing a custom keyboard couldn’t be easier on iOS and Android. Here’s how to make it happen.
- Download the keyboard you want from the App Store
- Open the keyboard app
- Follow the directions, which usually includes going to your Settings app, then General > Keyboard, and selecting the newly installed keyboard on the list, then switching “Full Access” on.
- Once installed, you can switch to your new keyboard in any app you want by tapping and holding the little “globe” icon in the bottom left of the default keyboard. That’s it!
- Download the keyboard you want from the Google Play store
- Open the keyboard app
- Follow the directions, which will include going to your Settings app, then selecting “Language & Input” and picking the keyboard on the list to activate it. You’re done!