For a few years now I’ve been a happy user of the SwiftKey app. SwiftKey is a predictive keyboard for Android and iOS. I was very skeptical when I tried it the first time, but my mind was blown almost instantly. The app does not just make generic predictions T9 style, but learns from your SMS history, emails, social network posts, and even your blog’s RSS (obviously, only those channels that you allow it access to). With that, the predictions are so accurate that you rarely have to type more than a couple of characters for it to guess. In fact, sometimes it guesses the next word without you even typing anything.
Well, OK, so I wrote this all before. Why am I suddenly retyping this? Because I got an email from SwiftKey with some updates as to what’s happening there. And I think that it’s pretty cool how they’ve taken something so seemingly simple as a keyboard and turned into a … well, not industry yet, but something more and something exciting.
For all those touch-typing fans, they’ve released two keyboard themes Ninja Pro and Ninja Trainer. If you mastered your laptop’s keyboard, enhance and extend your skill to the mobile and tablet now.
SwiftKey 6 beta version is out with some cool features. Most notably – Double-Word Prediction, which should save you even more typing. SwiftKey has also reached 100 supported languages, so you can recommend it to your foreign friends much easier.
And if SwiftKey wasn’t awesome already, they are pushing the boundaries with some real high end computing – neural networks and machine learning. The blog post goes into detail of how this whole approach works and how it makes predictions better.
Wow! Talk about a simple keyboard app for the mobile now … The sky is truly the limit.
Jeff Atwood shares a few of his thoughts on keyboards:
Now, I’ve grown to begrudgingly accept the fact that touchscreen keyboards are here to stay, largely because the average person just doesn’t need to produce much written communication in a given day. So the on-screen keyboard, along with a generous dollop of autocomplete and autofix, suffices.
But I’m not an average person. You aren’t an average person. We aren’t average people. We know how to use the most powerful tool on the web –words. Strip away the images and gradients and vectors from even the fanciest web page, and you’ll find that the web is mostly words. If you believe, as I do, in the power of words, then keyboards have to be one of the most amazing tools mankind has ever created. Nothing lets you get your thoughts out of your brain and into words faster and more efficiently than a well made keyboard. It’s the most subversive thing we’ve invented since the pen and the printing press, and probably will remain so until we perfect direct brain interfaces.
I think this is pretty much spot on. It was hard for me to get around the wide acceptance of the touch keyboards, but then I too figured out that I’m just not average in this regard.
Synergy – just move your mouse from one screen to another
Synergy lets you easily share your mouse and keyboard between multiple computers on your desk, and it’s Free and Open Source. Just move your mouse off the edge of one computer’s screen on to another. You can even share all of your clipboards. All you need is a network connection. Synergy is cross-platform (works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux).
In a Facebook discussion about dirty keyboards, Michael shared a link to Logitech Washable Keyboard K310. I don’t know if this piece of hardware any good, but I absolutely love the promotional photograph.
Absolutely awesome, I think.
Following the recommendation of my brother, I’ve installed the SwiftKey3 keyboard on my Google Nexus. And I have to say that it’s worth every cent of its 0.85 EUR price tag (there is a special offer currently too). I’ve tried a few keyboards until now and, I’ll be honest, I was skeptical of its prediction powers. After all, each person’s language use is different, and I mostly use English when I write, and it’s not even my native language.
But all my worries and skepticism were for nothing. It does work and it works wonders. The secret, of course, is that SwiftKey 3 learns your language from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, SMS, and blog’s RSS feed. I first added Facebook and Twitter and didn’t see much of an improvement. But after it learned from my SMS messages and Gmail, it got much better. The moment I gave it this blog’s RSS feed, it became nearly perfect in predicting what I was about to say. So much so that it would suggest the next word I wanted to type before I would even type a single character. Like with visual arts, I can’t really find the words to describe how awesome that feels.
I am still getting used to it being so good – after all the other keyboards’ predictions it takes a bit of time. But even so it already saves me plenty of typing. Which is a good thing always, but on the mobile device – doubly so.
And before you ask, yes, there is something that I wish it did better. I wish it had a better layout for the Russian language keyboard. While it’s usable, the keys are smaller and harder to hit. However, it still compensates the inconvenience with a better Russian text prediction too.