I mentioned earlier that the Swype keyboard had been replaced with a Samsung keyboard on the new Samsung Galaxy SIII. While it still had the concept of sliding your finger from one letter to another to make words, it wasn’t quite the same – and in fact annoyed me more than it helped me. Thus began a quest to find a keyboard replacement.
My first attempt was “SlideIT“. It looked a good replacement for Swype as most of the keys had secondary characters that could be accessed via a ‘long press’. It was also skinnable, which meant I could find a skin that was reasonably easy on my eyes. It also allowed you to highlight a previously entered word, and select a better word from a list, meaning I could knock out a sentence, then clean it up later – as I’ve got used to.
On the downsides: no skins really met my needs as the secondary characters were just a bit too small; and SlideIT’s algorithm for determining what word I meant didn’t seem to fit me very well. Often it would give me no word at all (with, I found later, a “??” where the word choices would go), which I didn’t notice while writing. When it did give me choices, they often weren’t close to what I wanted. I found that if I slowed down and was more careful about placement, it did a lot better. But that’s not how I work, so it failed for me.
I then found out that Swype has a beta program running. I signed up for it, and downloaded it to my phone. While they have changed a few of the secondary characters around, it immediately felt more like “home”, and I found that (once I’d switched off the “automatically correct mistakes while typing” option) I was pretty much back to the experience I was used to. Swype Beta seems much better than SlideIT at dealing with my somewhat lax method of sliding between letters, and it still allowed me to go back to correct previously entered words. Curiously, while the secondary characters seem about the same size as those on SlideIT, they seem just a bit clearer on Swype Beta. Of course, the one thing to note is that this still is Beta, and I have no idea what an upgrade will do to my user dictionary.
While I was in the mood for playing with new keyboards, I decided to try one I’d heard recommended: TouchPal. TouchPal made a poor first impression as it had no secondary characters on the middle row, and I had to toggle from letters to symbols to find some of my more well used characters. On the other hand, it was about equal with Swype Beta for how well it took my apparently random input and produced reasonable results. It even did it with a pretty sparkly trail as I slid from character to character. The major downside for TouchPal, however, came when selecting a previously entered word and it didn’t bring up a list of alternatives. Given how I work, this is a necessity, and so TouchPal is confined to the ‘uninstall’ bin.
So far, Swype Beta is winning on my SIII. Whether it will keep winning will depend on what happens as it moves through Beta to release. Assuming they make no major changes, then I think I’ll be back to using Swype as my main input method.
Having tried all these keyboards, one change that I’d like to see occurred to me: I would love the ability to define what secondary characters appear where on the keys. I’d love to be able to move those characters that I use most to places that make the most sense to me. That might ease the fact that I appear to have strange notions of what characters I want accessible.