Apr 19 AT 11:40 PM Guest Blogger 20 Comments

SlideIt: Typing thanks to the power of magic.


Samsung recently started up an ad campaign for their “Omnia II with Swype technology” which shows a man beating the world record for texting on a mobile phone. Well, I saw this and wanted to see if I had what it took to beat the world record and get my lifetime supply of Guinness (that is the prize, right?) from the fine folks at the Guinness Book of World Records. Unfortunately, the Swype beta on Android is closed and isn’t accepting any more people at this time. Thankfully, I wasn’t completely out of luck. A very similar program was already available on the app store named SlideIt and it seems to work just as good.

The idea of sliding a finger over a touchscreen keyboard in order to input text is a hard one to grasp without actually trying it. It seems like such a chaotic and messy way to type, but it isn’t. Thanks to the power of magic (or incredibly adept software) waving your finger like a wand almost always results in the correct word appearing on the screen. When the word you intended doesn’t appear on the screen, either due to incorrect input or a more popular word existing on that same slide-route, a list of other guesses appears and chances are the intended word can be tapped and will wholly replace the incorrect word. I hated the touchscreen keyboard on the MyTouch 3G before SlideIt, but now I am actually excited to type out messages on my phone.

However, SlideIt is not without a huge setback for a certain group of people. Poor spellers. I am a fairly good speller, but I could immediately see a problem when words I struggle with would result in a “???” from the best-guess list. SlideIt handles this in two ways. First, you can still tap each letter just as you do with any touchscreen keyboard. Second, there are endless shortcuts and the user can set up as many shortcuts as they like.

For example, slide over the letters “AFK” and the word “ask” will pop up, but highlighted in green and in all caps will be “AFK.” If you tap “AFK” the words “Away From Keyboard” will pop up. Another great feature is the ability to add proper names and specialized words to SlideIt’s dictionary by simply tapping it in and hitting a plus sign that appears to the left of the best-guess list.

My biggest issue came with typing in passwords. I’m not sure I want to add my passwords to the dictionary list, but I’m not sure I can since they may or may not contain special characters. For example, let’s say my password is “h$7FF3#.” SlideIt would not allow me to start the password with a lowercase letter. I would have to start it by typing “H” and then “h” and scrolling back to delete the uppercase “H.” It also wanted to create a space after almost every character. All of this on top of the fact that getting between the letters and the symbols requires switching menus. You can try a neat “Graffiti mode” which allows you to type in special characters by drawing them, but this is far from perfect and still suffers from a lot of the same issues.

The Good

  • Typing has never been faster or easier on a touchscreen
  • Inputting text is fun and feels futuristic
  • Great shortcut and add-to-dictionary options

The Bad

  • Passwords can be a pain
  • Hope you are a good speller

Final Verdict

Getting over some of the quirks of typing in passwords is totally worth it. There is a demo version and if you are scared that you may not be a good enough speller, then give it a try. Otherwise, I never see myself returning to any other way of inputing text on a touchscreen. The full version is approximately $8.00.

Note: This review was submitted by Jeff Grubb as part of our app review contest.

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  • JeffersonFreely

    see, the way I understand it, you can get Swype, you just have to google for it, instead of getting it directly from the makers.

  • http://twitter.com/thelonetraveler Yatima

    Oh gawd I’m a bad speller. I’ve tried it and yes I’m left thinking, “Ok what is the next letter?” So I end up typing most of the time.

  • http://Website mihaelb

    This program’s great. Been using it for 3 weeks, and even got a Nexus One sold (well, tipped the scales with it), by showing it as an input method.

    It’s funny to see skeptical people’s criticism get cut mid-sentence after about 30 seconds of using this. Even people who have a physical keyboard!

    My gripe with the app, though, is its appearance. the keyboard looks low-res, and there are no skins.

  • http://Website permafrost91

    Tried it, but personally, I prefer Swype. There are several alternative “swipe”-type keyboards out in the wild. I would recommend to anyone to try them all and see which one works best for them.

    @Yatima: any “swipe”-type keyboard will work best if you know the qwerty layout blind-folded. Otherwise, like you say, you’ll just be figuring out where to find the next letter which is counterproductive. Many keyboards are also error-tolerant so as long as you travel your finger in the general direction of the next letter, your word can still be typed correctly.

    @mihaelb: I agree with the low-res look. This is why I prefer Swype. Swype also has a neat blue glow when typing the old way which (at least to me) is aesthetically pleasing.

  • http://Website jokercpp

    i love SlideIT over swype but it would be nice for some different skins. Also the password problem has been fixed in the newest version. You can’t SlideIT on password fields anymore you must tap them in manually which is a great update.

    • http://Website jokercpp

      edit* you still can SlideIT on password fields you just have to activate it but normally its on abc mode in password fields.

  • http://Website Kurt

    I’m using ShapeWriter. It’s free and it sounds like it addresses a lot of the issues that you had with SlideIt

  • http://Website Dennis

    I’m using ShapeWriter as well & like it a lot. I’m really curious to see what these Swype type keyboards are like on a larger Android tablets when larger Android tablets become available. I’m guessing that “swyping” would be like “greased lightning” on a touch screen keyboard big enough that your finger doesn’t hide several keys.

  • Lane

    I prefer ShapeWriter as well, but I am probably a little biased since I submitted a review of it, but never got a response.

    This is a great review, so don’t think I’m hating. The special character drawing is a feature ShapeWriter doesn’t have. Even if buggy, it is a great idea.

  • http://Website ms. matrix

    I tried using the swype but for me I found it slowed me down. I just feel better typing, its faster for me.

  • http://Website sean

    Great app review, but the actual writing leaves a lot to be desired. The site is among the most professional Android sites available, so the absence of any meaningful copy editing is a little strange.

    • jjl84

      Agreed. It wouldn’t take much to edit out any major mistakes. For example:

      “…and the user can set up as many more shortcuts as they like.”

      Set up as many more shortcuts? Come on, someone’s reading over these before they get published, right? It seems in their hurried rush to publish “as many more” free app reviews as possible, they are missing a lot of easy mistakes.

      Also, I wish they would listen to my suggestion of using a rating system for apps/games so the apps/games pages could be easily sorted by rating. I think this would dramatically help this site in terms of user-friendliness. Right now it’s all just sorted by date and there is no objective comparison between two similar apps. A rating system would fix that.

    • http://Website Anthony

      I honestly think that Androidandme has been overwhelmed with the level of responses. They’re probably getting over 100 reviews per week, which is a lot for a staff of about 2 to go through. Hency why they are looking for 2 senior editors :).

      It will all get sorted out,a nd AAM will be back to the standard level of quality you’d expect.

  • http://Website harm

    User it on a htc tattoo of a friend of mineand was great installed it on my htc disere and it seemed to disable the pinch and zoom feature in my browser. Tried a few other side keyboards too but they all seem to do that. A shake case i thought it was really intuative and easy to learn

  • http://Website panib

    Wow. Much smarter than swype. Love it !

  • http://Website Andy Kirschetorte

    I’d like to try shapewriter but as I use the HTC Desire, many applications are not available to me on Android Market as google has yet to allow the desire!

  • http://jeffgrubb.com Jeff Grubb

    Hey guys, thanks for all the comments.

    I’ve since moved to ShapeWriter. It feels a fraction slower than SlideIt, but something about it works better for me. I like the way it does capitalization (with a button that scrolls through capitalizing the first letter or the whole word depending on how many times you press it). ShapeWriter is just less quirky over all.

    However, I would definitely suggest trying them all and seeing which one works for you.

  • http://Website Gadi Cohen

    The critical advantage of SlideIT is it’s extensive multi language support. ShapeWriter as far as I know officially supports only English. Swype has multi language support, but a smaller selection than SlideIT, which supports more ‘exotic’ languages like Hebrew, Arabic, etc, although Swype has promised these and more (such as Hindi and Thai) in “early 2010″.


  • http://Website Dan

    I have issues with 1 letter words such as “I”. Can anyone explain how to get these to flow while I am writing a message. Other than this I love the app bigging selling point among many others to switch to Android!

    • http://Website Chris

      In Swype you can swipe from the letter down to the spacebar to enter one letter words such as “I” or “a”. This flows much better than having to tap the letter. But, I’m afraid that doesn’t work in SlideIT, although they really should implement it.