Type and swipe using this fast and free alternative keyboard app for Android smartphones
By Enrique Serrano
I’m obsessed with productivity and speed. I’ve found that my smartphone is an extremely useful tool to read my email on the go. But when I want to write a reply to an important message, I end up struggling with the tiny on-screen keyboard of my phone.
Recently, I decided to try out an alternative keyboard app for my Android smartphone. I reviewed the TouchPal app and I’m glad I did. This keyboard app really sped up my writing.
About the TouchPal keyboard app
TouchPal runs on smartphones using Android version 1.5 or higher. On my htc Wildfire, the keyboard ran smoothly. I configured it to replace my default Android keyboard so I could use it whether I was writing text messages, emails or website addresses.
TouchPal is still in beta version, but I found the current build quite stable. The keyboard app is offered free for early adopters with full lifetime functionality — but the offer only lasts until Oct. 31.
Slide on the screen of your phone instead of tapping your keyboard
The most effective way to type using TouchPal is by using TouchPal Curve. Users slide their fingers on the keyboard to type instead of tapping each on-screen key.
Sliding instead of tapping is a subtle difference but the sliding technique is much faster. You don’t need to lift your finger from the screen. You don’t need to slide twice across consecutively repeated letters. And this is probably the most important advantage: you don’t need to be precise. Swiping near the target key of your on-screen keyboard will suffice.
The developers of TouchPal claim that it is even possible to write without looking at your keyboard. I’m not that kind of power-user but I have to admit that the learning curve of this "writing by swiping" system is fast. I suggest sliding your finger quickly through the keyboard, without worrying about the results. You will be surprised by the keyboard app’s accuracy.
TouchPal allows you to write special characters by sliding down a key, or by holding a key press. Nevertheless, if you activate the TouchPal Curve system to write by swiping, only the last row will have selectable special characters. To open up the expanded character menu, press the bottom-right smiley icon.
Quickly editing and correcting your texts
TouchPal suggests words after you slide your finger across the keyboard. Tap a suggested word and it will be inserted into the text or just slide again and the suggested word will be automatically accepted.
If the desired word doesn’t appear, double-tap one of the word choices. All of the possible word choices recognized by the app will appear. Tap the right arrow and more suggestions will be displayed.
Anyone who has edited text while using a smartphone knows how difficult it is to accurately position the cursor. With TouchPal, press the central text Edit button (surrounded by the options button on the left, and the button to access the Android voice input features on the right) to access precise cursors and quick text selection features.
Multi-language support integrated on the Android keyboard
I usually need to write emails in different languages but switching the autocompletion language on the default keyboard of an Android smartphone is a slow process. You need to find and change the appropriate option on the related phone menu.
Nevertheless, the TouchPal keyboard provides great multi-language support features. Click the bottom-left language icon for quick language switching on the Android keyboard without leaving your text input screen. And you can even define a primary and a secondary language to recognize both simultaneously while writing on your keyboard. However, the swipe recognition features tend to focus on the primary language.
This keyboard app is still under development and support for additional languages will be added in the future. I tested the keyboard in English and Spanish and the results were satisfactory.
An Android keyboard that predicts, completes, corrects and learns from your keystrokes
At a Glance: TouchPal Keyboard App
- Works on Android smartphones with Android 1.5 or higher
- Sliding is much faster than tapping – up to 50 percent faster
- Auto-correction of inaccurate keystrokes
- Text prediction and auto-completion with adaptive learning
- Multi-language support with fast language switching
Another time-saving feature on TouchPal is the text prediction function. Once you write a word, TouchPal will promptly suggest possible words that might follow. Tap your chosen word to immediately insert it.
If you want to write a long word, you don’t need to slide your finger through all letters: stop in the middle of writing and TouchPal will predict and auto-complete the text. According to app’s developers, this is one of the main TouchPal advantages.
TouchPal does not only have advanced auto-completion and text prediction features, but it is also able to learn words in a context-sensitive way, suggesting related words that are usually written together.
Writing by tapping is also improved in this keyboard
It is also worth mentioning that even if you don’t like to write by swiping and prefer to tap, the TouchPal keyboard will also speed up your writing. There are good reasons to tap-write while using TouchPal:
- Tapping is more accurate than sliding the first time that you write an unrecognized word.
- The auto-completion and next word suggestion features save many keystrokes.
- You don’t need to hit the right key precisely as TouchPal guesses the desired target key relying on the nearby candidates.
Conclusions about the TouchPal keyboard app
The developer of TouchPal claims that the keyboard app can speed up your writing a 50 percent. Personally, I found the statement was accurate using both the sliding and tapping methods. Of course, nothing replaces my desktop computer’s big keyboard but the TouchPal keyboard has helped me write faster on my smartphone, turning it into the time-saving tool I expected.
After a few weeks of testing this alternative keyboard, I don’t think I could go back to my default Android keyboard. If you are reading this before Oct. 31, take advantage of the limited time offer and download the TouchPal keyboard from the Android Market for free. And if you’re late for that deal, consider the small expense a good investment: the productivity boost that this keyboard app provides will quickly pay for itself.