The makers of the popular Android keyboard SwiftKey have just announced a public beta of their latest release, SwiftKey 4.3. This update brings with it some pretty significant improvements to the overall user experience of the app. Here at Land of Droid we’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the latest build.
When you use it for the first time, you’ll be prompted to go through all the usual setup stuff. Once you’ve chosen your language and enabled SwiftKey Cloud and Flow, you’ll be ready to go. At first, you won’t see anything different. The default settings are the same as always so you’ll see a familiar sight when pressing a text box. It’s not until you long press that SwiftKey icon on the bottom left of the keyboard that you notice the differences.
Opening this menu gives us a list of options which weren’t there before. ‘Settings’ is in the same place it was, but the ‘Share’, ‘Voice input’ and ‘Support’ buttons of old have made way for snazzy new ‘Themes’ (not a new feature but certainly easier to find now), ‘Undock’ and ‘Resize’ icons as well as three different keyboard style choices at the bottom: ‘Full’, ‘Thumb’ and ‘Compact’. SwiftKey are dubbing this ‘Layouts for Living’.
First we’ll take a look at the new ‘Undock’ option. It’s a neat addition to the app which does exactly what you’d expect it to, given the name. It moves the keyboard up the screen and places a small icon at the bottom of it to let you drag it up and down to wherever you want it. Docking the keyboard again is as simple as dragging it all the way back down to the bottom of the screen.
Next up is the ‘Resize’ option. Ever thought the keys on your keyboard were too small for your stubby fingers? Or maybe you think that the keys take up too much room on the screen and you’d like more space to see what’s on the screen? Either way, you’ll be glad at this addition. Again, it does exactly what you’d expect. Pressing the icon gives you an option of 5 different keyboard sizes, allowing you to adjust the size of the keyboard to your needs. The option is easy to use with a range of sizes should cover the needs of pretty much every user.
Both of these options are even better when combined with the new layout choices. As you’d expect, ‘Full’ is the standard SwiftKey experience as seen in previous releases. ‘Thumb’ isn’t a new concept, it’s been done before, and will be relatively familiar to anyone who’s ever used SwiftKey Tablet. It splits the keyboard in two, with half of it on each side of the screen, allowing for much easier typing on large screened devices such as the Galaxy Note 3, HTC One Max or the Xperia Z Ultra. If you still insist on typing one-handed on one of these behemoths, then ‘Compact’ has you covered. This shrinks the keyboard and moves it over to one side of the screen. Long pressing the arrow which appears next to it allows you to easily move it across to the other side of the screen.
Overall, these changes contribute to a huge improvement to what was already one of the best third-party keyboard apps available for Android. There’s not much more to say about it than that really. If you’re still curious, have a look at the screenshots in this post.