SLIDESHOW

Android's On-Screen Keyboard Alternatives

There are many ways to get text into your Android device; here are the best.

Alternative On-Screen Keyboards for Your Android Smartphone

Android users often believe that their smartphone's on-screen keyboard is their only input option, but in fact they have plenty of good choices. Plus, it's easy to switch from one input option to another as needed. To remedy that situation, InfoWorld.com has put together a guide to Android on-screen keyboards.

After you install the ones you want (all are available at the Android Market unless otherwise noted), enable it in the Settings app's Language and Keyboard Settings controls. To switch from one on-screen keyboard to another, long-press in a text field, choose Input Method from the Edit Text pop-up menu, and then choose the desired keyboard from the list that appears.

Graffiti for Android

If you're a die-hard Palm user who has switched to Android, your Graffiti skills need not go to waste. This input method has English and Japanese layouts.

Graffiti for Android
Price: Free
Developer: Access

MessagEase

If you were a Windows Mobile user who embraced MessagEase, you can now run it on Android. Its key arrangement requires you to swipe your finger for the less-frequent characters; for example, swipe up from "r" for caps, and then left from "r" for "M."

MessagEase
Price: Free
Developer: Exideas

Swype

Swype lets you drag your finger across the on-screen keyboard to spell out words, rather than tap each letter separately. It comes pre-installed on some Android smartphones, and the 2.0 version is available as a beta from the Swype site, not the Android market. Swype 2.0 has a dictation key, so you can freely mix key presses, Swype paths, and voice input. Swype handles capitalization with the Shift key, as well as by making your selection path travel above the top row of keys after the letter to be capitalized. The current Swype beta supports seven languages.

Swype
Price: Free
Developer: Swype

ShapeWriter

Another swipe-oriented keyboard is ShapeWriter, which had been available on the Android Market until the app was bought by Nuance. We expect its return at some point.

ShapeWriter
Price: Free
Developer: Nuance Communications

Vlingo Virtual Assist

Vlingo is a free voice input package that works a little bit better than Google dictation. Its keyboard layout is standard Android except for the dictation key.

Vlingo Virtual Assist
Price: Free
Developer: Vlingo

WiFi KeyBoard

If you're at your PC, you can type into a browser on the PC and enter text on your Android phone with WiFi KeyBoard, which takes input from your PC's keyboard via a browser window (your PC and Android device must be on the same Wi-Fi network).

WiFi KeyBoard
Price: Free
Developer: Ivan Volosyuk

Google Pinyin IME

The free Google Pinyin IME on-screen keyboard has the standard Android look and feel. It's easy to mix Chinese with English on this keyboard; you can enter roman keystrokes and Pinyin codes (such as "ni" to get the ideogram for "you"), as well as create Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

Google Pinyin IME
Price: Free
Developer: Google

Smart Keyboard Pro

Smart Keyboard Pro boasts 55 input methods, dictionaries for 25 languages, skins for the common Android keyboards and others (the iPhone skin is shown here), and advanced configurations and features that may appear small but can be surprisingly helpful, such as supporting multitouch, switching the space and punctuation after a punctuation key has been entered, and enlarging the hit radius of the most probable next keys.

Smart Keyboard Pro
Price: €1.99
Developer: Dexilog

Smart Keyboard Pro (Russian)

When used for Russian text entry, Smart Keyboard Pro has voice input and type-ahead prediction. Smart Keyboard Pro provides dictation for some, but not all, of its supported languages. Note that you must download the dictionary for each language separately to get word prediction.

Smart Keyboard Pro
Price: €1.99
Developer: Dexilog

Smart Keyboard Pro (portrait layouts)

Smart Keyboard Pro, like stock Android keyboards, supports three layouts in portrait mode. Shown here are the T9 layout (akin to a feature phone) at left and the compact QWERTY layout (a la the BlackBerry Pearl) at right. The full QWERTY portrait layout (not shown) is basically a squished version of the landscape layout seen in a previous slide.

Smart Keyboard Pro
Price: €1.99
Developer: Dexilog