May 25, 2011
As it turns out, Swype isn’t the only way to trace out words on a software keyboard; there exists another option for doing this, in the FlexT9 keyboard. The ‘flex’ in FlexT9 comes from the flexibility that the keyboard provides; not only can letters be traced on the keyboard, they can be typed in, there’s speech-to-text support, and a handwriting recognition feature for single letters at a time. I initially only downloaded FlexT9 because it was temporarily free on the Amazon Appstore; I might not like the idea of devaluing apps by giving them away for free, but I will take advantage of them when offered! I started using it, just to test it out, and suddenly, I found that it was my regular keyboard.
There are two things that make FlexT9 a great keyboard, and superior to Swype. The first is the correction menu; Swype’s only pops up at certain times, even when set to appear more often, and it often appears in situations where the word is correct, so all it does is obscure already entered text. FlexT9 uses a facsimile of the default Android keyboard’s autocorrect, meaning that there’s a list that can be scrolled through for alternate entries. Words can also easily be added to the FlexT9 dictionary, and can be traced out as well. Tracing also handles duplicate letters better than Swype does, allowing users to just trace a letter in a word once if it appears consecutively in the word, and the helpful autocorrect makes this helpful. The ability to select a word, backspace, and have it call up the word’s autocorrect entries makes it even easier to use prop Second, FlexT9 as a standard typing keyboard works better than Swype does, especially because of the first reason – the autocorrect is just that much superior to Swype, and makes using FlexT9 a dream. I generally do just regular typing, but will occasionally trace more difficult words when necessary. Swype’s manual typing interface also often lead to typing looking weird and the wonky autocorrect made it just difficult to use; FlexT9’s adherence to the more traditional Android keyboard design makes it work just that much better.
Sometimes, FlexT9’s autocorrect’s list of alternate entries miss other, seemingly obvious spellings, making it tricky to type in some words. As well, it’s not possible to enter a word not in the dictionary and not have it added to it, like the default Android keyboard can do. Users who are familiar with Swype’s advanced features, like tracing upwards off of the keyboard to manually input an uppercase letter will find FlexT9’s lack of similar advanced gestures difficult to grasp at first. The handwriting recognition is largely just a waste of time. There’s no way to access the settings from the keyboard, or to change the input method from the keyboard itself.
FlexT9’s autocorrect feature, and the ability to use trace typing without sacrificing usability of traditional typing is what makes it great. However, if there’s no need for trace typing at all, then it may be hard to recommend that users spend $4.99 on a mildly superior autocorrect. However, for fans of trace typing that find Swype lacking, FlexT9 is a great choice, and it has become my regular keyboard of choice.