I’ve been happily using Swype as the default keyboard on my HTC Droid Incredible since it was first released. But, a few days ago, I was introduced to SwiftKey, and now I’m torn between two incredibly different, but incredibly powerful typing tools. Truth be told, I have only been using SwiftKey for a couple of days. So, I’m giving it a thorough workout by writing this entire post on my Incredible. So far, I’m very impressed. But will it be good enough for me to give up Swype?
The list of things that Swype does exceptionally well is impressive. The learning curve is very low, making it easily adopted by even the most novice of users. It’s a naturally fast typing solution. But, my favorite feature would have to be the ability to add any “word” to the dictionary. I’ve used this feature to add full email addresses, phone numbers, and website URLs that I frequently need to type.
However, Swype is not without its downsides. Most annoying of all is the dreaded “hidden word” message. To understand this issue, you first need to know how Swype works. By dragging your finger around the screen, the software detects which keys have been crossed. The software then prints the word, if only one exists, or shows you a list of possibilities. But, sometimes, one word is hidden by another. For example, let’s say you had a friend named Ropat. The word “today” would be hidden behind Ropat. Every time you typed today, you would get a message reminding you that today was hidden by Ropat. The only way to stop the messages from popping up is to remove Ropat from the dictionary. Many find this constant reminder to be quite annoying.
- Low learning curve
- Simple concept
- Can program complex “strings” into the dictionary
- Easily learns new words
- Very fast
- Error correction – simply double-tap the word that needs correcting and re-Swype it.
- Hidden words
- If you aren’t quite sure where that next key is, you have to find it without lifting your finger
- You have to be a fairly good speller – you can be off by one letter and the software will give you an entirely different word than what you were going for
How can it be improved?
- Shortcuts – I’d love to be able to program my own patterns for frequently used words. It would make typing long words, like Jonamerica, much easier
- Punctuation is also a mixed bag. I too often end up with spaces around my punctuation marks, especially the “, ‘, and !
SwiftKey is entirely different from other keyboards in that, besides predicting words, it also predicts sentences. And while I haven’t been using it long enough to see this myself, many SwiftKey users report being able to type full sentences using only the suggested words. We’ll give that a shot at the end.
So far I’ve been very impressed. I’m especially impressed by the punctuation suggestions – yes, SwiftKey does suggest commas, periods, and even questions marks – and does so and quite well. SwiftKey’s ability to predict your next word is also (increasingly) impressive. In fact, as I’ve been writing this post, I’ve noticed more and more that I typically only have to type two letters before seeing the word I’m looking for.
That said, it is also not without its downsides. When you need to type that obscure word, you’re going to be typing the whole thing – with Swype, if it’s in the dictionary, you can type it just as quickly as any other word. However, if it’s a word you use frequently, it won’t remain obscure. Long words and plurality can also result in additional typing. And, like Swype, punctuation can be a pain, especially with “”s – lots of back spacing.
My biggest gripe, though, is that it doesn’t predict urls or email addresses (in applications). This means that you will need to type the full address, every time. Or use bookmarks.
- Very fast, once trained
- Punctuation prediction
- Sentence predictions
- Easy to correct mistakes
- Sometimes the predicted words are better than what you were planning on typing (improving your vocabulary is cool!)
- Can take a little getting used to
- If you use lots of long words, or have a large vocabulary, it can be slow at first
- Does not predict urls or email addresses
How can it be improved?
- Come on SwiftKey, let’s put that great prediction engine to use everywhere.
Ultimately, both Swype and SwiftKey are powerful solutions providing a better typing experience and incredible speed. Both are equally good at what they do. In the end, all I can recommend is trying both and seeing which floats your boat. (SwiftKey predicted “floats your finger,” who says thst?) From the little I’ve tried SwiftKey I can see that it could become quite fast with continued use and, in my book, is giving Swype a run for its money.
Give both a try, and let me know what you think.
Our of curiosity, I’m wondering what sentence SwiftKey’s prediction engine gives me after writing this post.
“I am a beautiful person, but incredibly powerful typing tools.”