SwiftKey Handily Unscrambles Sloppy Typing
May 25, 2012 5:00 AM PT
SwiftKey X Keyboard, an app from TouchType, is available for US$2.99 at Google Play. I've got fond memories of physical keyboards embedded in smartphones. My Palm Treos -- I had three -- were superb at composing email and SMS text responses. I even made notes for a book I was writing on one Treo.
I speculate that the hardware keyboard is the principal differentiator keeping BlackBerry's brand alive, along with its super-secure, cheapo messaging system that was used to organize riots in the UK last year, of course.
Time goes by, and I am now accustomed to, and resigned to, typos -- or even waiting until I get back to homebase to send long email replies. So, I was intrigued when I came across SwiftKey X Keyboard's pitch: "Very sloppy typing will magically make sense." It sounded right up my street. A review was in order.
SwiftKey X Keyboard supposedly understands how words function together. This provides more accurate corrections and predictions than competing software keyboards.
Having tried Swype -- the keyboard that lets you input by sliding a finger from character to character -- and others, I was keen to check out a new technology.
Tablet and Phone Versions
There are two paid SwiftKey versions, a tablet-optimized app and a phone app. Each is a separate Play store purchase at $2.99 each.
To be fair to the maker, I installed the SwiftKey Tablet X onto my tablet, and the SwiftKey X to the phone, although you may be able to get the base version to work on a tablet. I tried the phone version on tablet, but found the interface too small for my fingers.
Setup was well organized in steps, although I was stumped by a question that asked if I were a precise typist or a rapid typist. According to the explanation given, rapid typists rely on autocorrection, whereas precise typists use prediction.
I chose "rapid" based on recollection of comments from editors -- they're always correcting me, if not automatically.
Granting access to your Gmail, Facebook or other account provides the app with personalization, which enables the app to learn from your previous compositions.
Relying on Corrections
My first test was on the tablet, using the SwiftKey-specific keyboard. I typed "the quick brouwn," which was immediately caught and changed to "the quick brown." A score.
The app correctly did not add an apostrophe in "dogs" when I completed the entire typists' standard test sentence of "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs back."
Dogs are plural in that sentence in order to make use of all characters. However, disturbingly, SwiftKey also did not correct me when I purposefully added the apostrophe. Hmm.
Relying on Predictions
The second test involved prediction. Words that I typed, including "big" words like "superfluous," were predicted correctly and quickly.
However, the app did have trouble with trade names. A residential lighting control unit maker's name that I wanted to type, "Grafik Eye," was understandably not predicted.
Overall, SwiftKey prediction did save me a considerable number of keystrokes, and I was able to anticipate difficult words that it would not be able to predict, like the trade name.
Thus, looking for those impossible predictions in the on-screen prediction bar didn't slow me down -- I knew predicting would fail, so I didn't bother looking for the prediction.
SwiftKey provided for multiple languages and had various keyboard permutations to choose from, including an excellent split-keyboard that's designed for tablet-sized thumb typing, and different colors.
Other features include foreign characters typed through long key presses.
Overall, it was quicker typing with SwiftKey because of the predictions, although not as quick for me as the older hardware keyboards found on older phones.
However, SwiftKey does do what it says it does. I'm finding that I regularly use the special thumb typing keyboard on a tablet. I'll be keeping SwiftKey around for now.