One of the advantages of using an Android device is having the ability to change the default browser, keyboard, and messaging apps, among other things. Google's operating system gives the user complete control of their device.
The Google Play store is home to thousands of different apps, but there is one that stands out from the pack and ranks among the very best. SwiftKey, a popular third-party keyboard, is arguably the best Android keyboard available today. While Google has made strides to improve the stock Android keyboard, SwiftKey's customization features and prediction engine are unmatched.
Here's how you can become a SwiftKey master:
Installing the app
SwiftKey is available in the Google Play store for $3.99, a rather steep price for a keyboard; however a trial version is available for free for 30 days, which should be more than enough time to get you hooked.
The first time you open the application you will be prompted to choose your language, make SwiftKey your default keyboard, and enable SwiftKey Cloud and SwiftKey Flow.
Switching between devices used to be a hassle when using SwiftKey. After listening to its users, however, the company recently updated the app to now save your settings in the cloud. That isn't all it can do, though. SwiftKey Cloud can also add trending phrases to your dictionary and learn about your typing habits from other applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail.
Assuming you didn't already enable the cloud feature during the SwiftKey setup. The app can be configured by going to your phone's Settings and selecting the Language & Input option under the Personal settings. Next, ensure SwiftKey is enabled and set as your default keyboard, click on the settings icon, and open the SwiftKey Cloud option.
Here you will be able to enable, disable, and manage SwiftKey's syncing behavior, check other devices you have connected to the cloud, access the Facebook and Twitter personalization settings, enable or disable Trending Phases, and delete your cloud account.
Making it your own
The customization tools included in SwiftKey are nearly endless. There is support for 60 different languages, six keyboards, and 11 themes. Other options include the ability to change the vibration duration on keystrokes, add accented characters to letters, customize long-press speed, enabling arrows for navigating the interface, and changing the functionality of the spacebar.
Changing your keyboard
The traditional QWERTY keyboard is enabled by default, but if you are feeling adventurous you can choose from AZERTY, Colemak, Dvorak, QWERTZ, and QZERTY keyboards. To do this, open the SwiftKey settings and select Languages. Under your selected language will be the name of your current keyboard and a small keyboard icon, click the icon, and choose your new keyboard. You can also change your language from this screen, SwiftKey allows for up to three languages to be installed at one time.
Choosing a theme
Now it's time to customize your keyboard to make it more appealing and personal. Open the Theme & Layout option in the SwiftKey settings, here you will be able to change your theme and add special features to your keyboard. The 12 themes to choose from are Cobalt, Pitch, Dusk, Regal, Berry, Sky, Fuchsia, Holo, Dark, Light, Neon, and Pumpkin.
These settings will also give you the opportunity to add another row at the bottom of the keyboard with arrow keys to help when you have to go back and delete a word. Other options included the ability to enable accented characters when long-pressing keys, splitting the keyboard while in landscape, and adjusting the keyboard's height.
Adjusting sounds and vibrations
Typing on a virtual keyboard can be a difficult adjustment for some. Luckily, SwiftKey, like many other keyboards, has an option to enable sounds or vibrations when you press a key. The app takes it one step further, however, giving users the ability to customize the volume of a keypress and duration of the vibration.
Adjusting the sounds can be done inside of the SwiftKey settings by entering the Sounds & Vibration option.
Setting up the spacebar
Venturing into the Advanced settings will reveal even more options to customize SwiftKey, including changing the functionality of the spacebar, enabling quick periods, and more.
The SwiftKey spacebar can be configured to do one of three things: inserting a space, completing the current word, or inserting a prediction.
Other options that can be enabled include inserting a period with a double tab of the spacebar, or automatically capitalizing sentences.
The Advanced settings will also allow you to adjust the duration of long-presses on keys, enable or disable notifications that contain tips and achievements, and wipe SwiftKey data from the device.
Choosing your Input method
There are quite a few input methods in SwiftKey. You can choose between traditional typing on the keyboard, using your voice, or a gesture method known as Swiftkey Flow. The method, which debuted in the keyboard this past February, is similar to the gesture-based typing feature found in Google's keyboard and third-party competitor Swype. Without lifting a finger, users can swipe over letters to complete a word.
The gesture and voice methods can both be enabled in the Input Method option in the SwiftKey settings.
Getting to know gestures
Outside of the keyboard's Flow feature, SwiftKey also supports various gestures to speed up the typing process. You may have not been aware that you can swipe back on the keyboard to quickly delete the last word you typed, and also swipe down to hide the keyboard. Both of these gestures are enabled by default, but they can only be used when SwiftKey Flow is disabled.
Using the SwiftKey dictionary
SwiftKey's built-in dictionary will learn words from your social networks, e-mail, and text messages. It can also pull names from these accounts, along with information from your smartphone's contacts list.
Words can be manually added to the dictionary in the prediction be at the top of the keyboard. Simply type the word you would like to add and select it in the prediction bar, or press the spacebar. Deleting a word from the dictionary can be done by tapping and holding the word as it appears at the top of the keyboard and choosing the "Remove" option.
Check your efficiency
Swiftkey keeps track of everything you do and will report back to you with detailed information that shows how it has made you a more efficient typist. You can check your typing efficiency, distanced flowed, keystrokes saved, typos corrected, words flowed, words predicted, and words completed.
One of the coolest features is the typing heat map, which shows which letters you use the most.
Swiftkey is constantly updating its app and pushing out new features, such as support for more languages, improved predictions, and added capabilities. The one-time app purchase will take you a long way and improve typing on your Android device for years to come.
For even more screenshots, click on the slideshow below.