by Chris Taylor
I was a
BlackBerry user for over 10 years at work and really
liked having a physical keyboard. When I retired 2 years
ago, Blackberry was already in decline, so I opted for a
Samsung Galaxy S3. I knew having an on-screen keyboard
was going to be a frustration for me, and Samsung
delivered that in spades.
I asked around for recommendations on replacement soft
keyboards and a friend recommended SwiftKey. It cost a
couple of bucks at the time, but I figured it was worth
it to see if it made it easier to type more than a few
Once installed from Google Play, it took me through some
configuration screens to set up various options. One
option I declined was to learn the words I use by
accessing my Gmail account. Felt a little too "Big
Brotherish" to me.
three main aspects to Swiftkey that make typing easier.
First, you can choose various layouts including ones with
split keys (very useful if you type on a larger device
such as a tablet and hold it by the sides), ones with
separate numeric keys, arrow keys for moving the cursor,
Second is flow. With flow, you just drag your
finger across the keys rather than lifting it and
pressing individual letters. It is pretty amazing when it
works and, if it works for you, it can speed up your
typing immensely. Unfortunately, I found it was a little
hit and miss. I found I spent more time verifying it
guessed right and correcting wrong guesses than it saved
me, so I very rarely use flow.
Third is what really works for me - word
prediction. It turns out most people have a fairly
limited vocabulary and use certain phrases frequently.
SwiftKey learns quickly about the words you tend to use.
As you type, SwiftKey tries to guess the word you are
typing and presents three options at the top of the
keyboard. As you type more letters, the list changes.
When you see the word you want, you can tap it. If it is
the centre word of the three, you can also just hit space
to select it.
SwiftKey then takes it a step further and, based on its
learning of the words and phrases you use, tries to
predict the word you will use next. For example, if you
frequently type Home late for dinner tonight,
within a few times of typing that phrase, when you type Ho,
you are very likely to see the words appear in the
predictions and with 5 taps, you can complete the phrase.
SwiftKey has other tricks up its sleeve, such as
auto-correcting typos, accessing accented letters by
holding down the letter in question, voice input, ending
a sentence by hitting space twice (which removes the
first space, then inserts a period and a space),
auto-capitalizing the first word of a sentence, and more.
SwiftKey has support for 81 languages, and you can have
three active at once.
SwiftKey keeps track of how effective it has been in
helping you. Right now, SwiftKey has saved me 162,465
keystrokes, completed 71,253 words, corrected 81,290
typos, flowed 972 words (remember, I rarely use this
feature), and made me 30% more efficient at typing.
I mentioned that SwiftKey used to cost a couple of bucks.
It is now free. They make their money by selling keyboard
themes. But not to worry; it doesn't nag you to buy
something while you are typing. You will occasionally
receive a notification of an available theme. That's
I still miss my BlackBerry physical keyboard, but
SwiftKey has probably kept me from throwing my phone
against the wall more than once. Highly recommended.
SwiftKey Keyboard (Freeware)
Available through Google Play for Android and iTunes for Apple iOS
Originally published: June, 2015
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.