May 8, 2013
I’m a brave man. I believe a couple centuries ago, I would have been an explorer of sorts. I love a challenge, and few things scare me. Except spiders.
In any case, the prospect of switching from a device with a physical keyboard to one with a virtual one made me nervous. I was okay with switching from from one OS to another; I had done my research, liked the new ecosystem and liked the hardware available to me. The thing that really bothered me was the eventuality of having to peck on a touchscreen.
I’m here to tell folks: Swype made the switch possible.
Swype is an alternative keyboard from Nuance that changes the thumb/peck paradigm. Instead of (or, more accurately, in addition to) tapping with fingers, Swype allows for the user to input words by gliding a finger across letters without lifting a finger. The built-in predictive algorithm takes care of the rest.
In practice, it is quite nifty. It does a pretty good job of guessing words accurately, and the suggestion tab right above the keyboard came in hand. For words it could not decipher, it allowed to to force them in by tapping; after this, I could add it to my dictionary. The keyboard sported an optional virtual trace line to aid the swiping motion. The keyboard itself was compact, and worked well in both portrait and landscape orientations. The English version was set up in the standard QWERTY layout, with the option to switch to a numbered keypad or two pages of special characters
I really liked the personalization options. It was possible to pick from several color themes, spacing and capitalization tweaks, and more. The user dictionary was editable and cloud-compatible. The built-in gestures that enabled stuff like hiding the keyboard or invoking the number pad was fantastic, as was the Dragon Dictation voice entry.
With regards to mobile data entry, swiping is not so new anymore; during Swype’s legendarily long beta process, several keyboards have incorporated the feature. Thus, I do believe Swype’s prediction engine could be sharper. Also, being able to adjust the size of the keyboard couldn’t hurt.
Still, Swype remains a very compelling productivity tool that can boast at least one world record.