A lot of attention has been paid to Swype, a soft-keyboard app currently in an invite-only closed beta. Many have applied, but few have been approved. If you don’t want to wait to try out this new class of finger-dragging keyboard, there’s an equally impressive free app in the Market called ShapeWriter that works much the same way.
ShapeWriter works by dragging your finger between letters to build words, then lifting your finger off the screen to create a space between words. It uses an algorithm to figure out the most likely word and also displays a few other choices just in case.
For new words not in the dictionary, you can tap the keys just like a standard on-screen keyboard. With one additional tap, it saves the word so it will be recognized when you draw its shape again.
My primary complaint with the stock Android soft-keyboard is having to switch to a new screen for symbols. ShapeWriter solves this by displaying symbols on the keys. To type the symbol instead of the word, just hold the key for a moment and it will change to the symbol.
ShapeWriter also includes a “command stroke” feature that lets you copy, paste, access keyboard settings and more. Just start your press on the command button (the squiggly one next to the space bar) and spell a word to execute the command. A list of commands can be obtained by tapping the command button.
- Fastest on-screen keyboard I’ve tested
- Easy to add new words to the dictionary
- If your phone is low on resources, the keyboard can lag and unintentionally break a shape into two words
- No voice input
- Does not support themes
This new class of on-screen keyboard seems to be the most efficient way to input text when a physical keyboard just isn’t an option. With the onslaught of keyboard-less Android tablets predicted for later this year, ShapeWriter’s speed improvements over the default soft-keyboard are a welcome addition to the Android experience.
Note: This review was submitted by Lane Montgomery as part of our app review contest.